Thinking outside (and inside) the box

Published 12:07 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bill Crowell-resizedWEB

Written and photographed by Michael O’Hearn

Bill Crowell, owner of the Saluda Forge on Ola Mae Way in Tryon, is thinking both outside and inside the box with his plan to use a shipping container as a space for an artist’s studio. After visiting a restaurant made out of 13 shipping containers in the River Arts District of Asheville, N.C. and a corporate headquarters made out of containers in Nashville, Tenn., his imagination began to run wild. His interest was piqued after seeing the design and he thought he could emulate the same concept in his front yard. His experiment is to take the shipping container and create a working artist studio.

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Q: You intend to create a studio out of this container. How is that going to work?

A: That’s the plan. I’m going to cut out a set of doors on the side and windows to let air in. Probably two or three windows so that has a lot of good light, but no direct light. I’ll add a bathroom and a commercial sink, insulate it and put some extra walls in. It will be like one of those tiny houses you see on HGTV.


Q: What kind of studio will this be once you make the renovations?

A: It could be any kind of studio for whatever artist wanted to rent it out. It can be anything from a jeweler to a pottery studio to a flatwork and its just kind of one these things where if an artist is ready to get out of the basement, they could come here and check this out.


Q: Are you going to rent or sell the space out then to the artist?

A: I’m going to try to put it up for sale. I don’t know yet how much I’m going to sell it for, but I’ll whittle it down to the minutes and how long it will take to do this project before I can offer it for a competitive price. I’ll probably work on it over the next couple of months. I’m just going to be learning about how to do it, and go slow, watching the YouTubes on how to build it.


Q: How did you obtain the container?

A: There’s a shipping container warehouse down in Charleston that sells these kinds of containers, and this is what is known as a “B” container and as you can see it’s starting to wrinkle at the top since it’s been used about three or four times on trips. A B container is guaranteed to be waterproof. The container was $2,400 and $600 to ship it up from Charleston.


Q: What kinds of things do you do here at the forge?

A: I do all kinds of things from metalworking to blacksmithing, contract work mainly. I like to recycle and repurpose things, finding new solutions and alternatives to situations. I’ve been doing it for 22 years and it was a midlife crisis, and I never saw an anvil except from “Bonanza” until I started doing this. My wife, Kathleen, wanted a table and so we started going to yard sales but we never found what we wanted. So, being a big ole’ man I said, ‘Yeah, I can make you one,’ and I had never been a welder in my life.


Q: If you had an artist come in and take a look at his/her requirements, could you add and remove pieces in the container to fit their needs?

A: Yes, because it’s all blurry and experimental at this point. You can add and subtract, and I’m going to try to do this as minimalist as I can get away with and if there’s a need to add to it I can.