Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Shedista! Shed Lovers of the World, Unite!

Author: Mark Mackintosh

Take it to the streets: a veritable shed revolution is brewing. And it won't be televised. Rory Day sheds some light on the matter.

Across the globe, shed lovers - aka sheddists or shedistas - are strengthening their efforts to promote global shedderdom: a shed for every person on the planet. Their starting point, as with so many lofty causes these days, is the Internet. One of the command centers in the worldwide sheddist web is shedheaven.com, run by Rory Day. We caught up with him to talk revolution (tell it to your mama).

So, Rory, who are you and what's up with this shed heaven thing?

I'm a wandering Scottish shed addict who landed in Amsterdam a few years ago but regularly takes the Easyjet home. When I was working in Russia a few years ago, I fell in love with the Russian home-made holiday house or dacha. I was lucky enough to have access to a bit of hillside in Argyll on the west coast of Scotland, where I bashed one together. It was a little self-built miracle. I haven't been the same since.

Please delight us with a concise history of sheds, the watersheds in shed history, if you will.
Ah, how pleased I am you asked! Well, let me see. I suppose that except for the cave, the shed was probably the first human dwelling. It was probably somewhere in Africa or maybe Mesopotamia - the plans will have started out as something ambitious in corrugated iron on overlapping planks with a 2 inch by 4 inch frame and maybe a transparent roof section to let the sunlight in. Heavy foundations, half doors, fancy things like that. But with the lack of Builder's Merchants in those days it is likely they ended up with a pile of leaves on some sticks leaning against a rock. That's the thing with shed building; you can start anywhere you want, and the likelihood is you're only going to get better. And the rest is history, so you should probably ask a historian.

What are the main shed art forms/building techniques around the world?
Well, unlike human evolution I believe sheds were born spontaneously all round the world, fully-formed out of what was locally available to build with. For instance, on the North American plains, with a shortage of wood and plenty of buffalo hide, the tipi sprang up - a top shed. And in Asia it simply had to be bamboo-based, probably with banana leaves on top. In the far north the first shed was an igloo; in Mongolia a ger or a yurt, using lots and lots of manky felt. In Britain everyone (including the animals of course) chilled out in big round thatched houses with fires in the middle.

There have been some big leaps since those days, of course. I think the roof of the Dutch Barn roof was one, and it influenced American architecture hugely. Corrugated iron, the main ingredient of the modern shanty town, was another. Ashphalt and rolled felt roofs revolutionised the garden shed. And bitumen, a lovely sheddy smell that they should bottle.

Is there an international sheddist conspiracy in the making?
I think conspiracy might be too strong a term; it's more like revelation leading to revolution. People, particularly hairy people, are increasingly remembering their shed pasts and yearning for the simplicity that comes with building your own place and hanging out in it. I believe it's in the genes (maybe it comes with the hair), which is why the bitumen BO spray would be such a winner in the shops, if a little tough on shirts. Also, it might attract the wrong sort of person, but then again...

People are getting sick of things like plasterboard, building regulations, net curtains, carpets. They want a wall you can nail things into without a care, and floors that can be hosed out if you make a mess. Somewhere to put old tins of screws where they feel important. A place for old windows. Sheds are very inclusive and very recycle-friendly. They occupy the middle ground between the modern home and the landfill site. And more and more people are tapping into the shed subculture, so it's just a matter of time before everyone will experience the zen of sheddism.

More on the Zen of Sheddism here

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