Martina gave us a tour of their entire building–within which Swift Industries is one of many small hand-craft-related businesses–before showing us their space and answering our questions about the space. The conversation and some images from the tour follow. Click here for the interview.

Martina: The warehouse was bought about 2 years ago by two brothers who are both artists, but they also are interior designers. And, so they needed a space to do their work. They were working out of the box truck that’s out in front, and that just didn’t suffice completely.

Lori: Yeah.

Martina: Also, just so you guys know, my—one of our—sewers is on her way. She had a flat. She should have been here about an hour ago. So if she comes in, I just have to tell her what her work is for the morning.

Lori: Ok.

Martina: So they bought this space, and it’s actually the electrical building for Ballard. It was built around the turn of last century.

Lori: A long time ago!

Martina: Yes, and if you. It doesn’t look so impressive from the outside because someone did an awful paint job and just made it look really utilitarian and gross. But I think at some point this space was really, actually, beautiful. So if you look from the outside it’s very, very art deco influenced. The lobing.

Lori: Mmm, hmm.

Martina: And all of the cinder blocks are actually where they closed in the windows. So at some point this was all exposed lighting which, eventually, it will become. It will be restored. There are a lot of long-term projects for this space. But this is one of them.

Over here, is Fire Horse Forge. David Tuthill does his work here. He’s an incredible metal smith. He also manufactures all of our hooks. So, we wanted to have somebody local manufacturing our hooks. And then it worked out. [Lori giggles]

Lori: That’s awfully local to you. [laughs again]

Martina: We can hear it when he’s tumbling them in the tumbler.

Lori: Cool.

Martina: So that’s pretty exciting. We actually do—a lot of us—work for and with each other in this building, which has been amazing.

Lori: Whose bikes are those? Beautiful, old.

Martina: Those are all David’s. And here we have this shared outdoor area. Where we have access to things like sand blasters. And the glass artists upstairs—Armel, who you met, and her husband—they have their cold working equipment out here. They do a lot of work out here too.

And there’s a studio back here that is a carpentry studio. And it’s a lot of sculptural work that he does. But he also does interior finishing and stuff. Can’t see now because the door’s closed. Another artist and someone who’s here pretty much every day.

Lori: Very cool. A well-ventilated space.

Martina: Yeah. Pretty, kind of, industrial feeling. But then, it’s pretty incredible to have such a rugged, industrial space, but then the work that comes out of here is just so beautiful and fine-tuned. You know?

Lori: Mmm, hmm. [kind of like Colin’s space, I was thinking]

Martina: And over there’s another sculptural welder whose got a space and another fellow working for him in the space.

[loud table-saw noise, can’t hear Martina for a few seconds, then hear her yelling over the noise…]. It gets brutally cold in here during the winter! [We laugh together.]

Lori: I bet!

it’s pretty incredible to have such a rugged, industrial space, but then the work that comes out of here is just so beautiful and fine-tuned.

Martina: A huge refrigerator! [We laugh again. The noise dies as we move away from it.]

And then we’ve got a space—this is where the brothers, the owners of the building, keep all of their tools and stuff. But they’ve also been pretty incredible, letting us use all of their equipment, 

Lori: Wow. Nice!

Martina: So little things. Like I just bought that cargo bike that’s upstairs in the hallway, and wanted to paint a sign. And they just taught me all about how to prepare the paints and the metals and the finishes. They just take an incredible amount of time to help with projects.

Lori: Nice. And what did you say? The brothers who own the building, what do they do?

Martina: They are interior designers, basically. But they work with restaurant floors, do bar design, restaurant design, stuff like that. And a little bit of interior home stuff too.

Lori: Cool. What an incredibly neat and organized tools space!

Martina: Yeah. It’s really phenomenal to watch them work actually. And especially to watch them work as a duo. It’s pretty amazing.

I was hoping to wrangle them to do an interview with you just because I think it’s important to think of the people who provide space.

And their hope with this building has simply been to provide, um, a flexible space for people to do their work. And I was hoping to wrangle them to do an interview with you just because I think it’s important to think of the people who provide space.  

Lori: Mmm, hmm. [I am officially in love with Martina at this point. Women rock.]

Martina: So that we as artists and crafters and business people can determine how we do our work. But they’re a little shy.

Lori: Aww. [and now I’m in love with the brothers/building owners too]

Martina: So, we’ll see. Maybe.

Lori: Maybe once they see your story, they’ll be like “Oh, ok.” [smiling widely now because I love shy people, my people. Yay shy people!]

Martina: Yeah, maybe, yeah.

And here—there’s a lady who lives here, the building was zoned to have a groundskeeper.

Lori: Oh!

Martina: They got an apartment that wraps around a little bit. And here, this is actually the future home of Swift Industries.

Daniel and Lori: Oh!

Martina: This is a little mezzanine area here.

Lori: Can we walk back there?

Martina: Yeah, totally.

Lori: Aww.

Martina: They’re doing a whole lot of work in it right now but eventually this will actually be sliding doors that go out, and we’ll have access to the patio. In years past, this is where we’ve done beekeeping, actually, right out here. And I have to say it looks completely different from when we moved in. [Lori laughs] And so the brothers—aside from when they’re designing and implementing for their other contract work—they’re just working on this building.

Lori: Turning it into an office slowly but surely.

Martina: Yeah, totally. So one of the things that like really attracted us to this space is how new it is and it’s just an open slate at this point. And the brothers have always been incredibly communicative and looking for a lot of input.

Lori: It’s nice to hear you describe it as new because it’s so old looking. [laughs]

Martina: For us and our creative pursuits—ideas about what the space will be—it’s like so new, you know?

Lori: Yeah.

Martina: And this is a slightly rickety staircase but I think going up on the roof would be really great, because there’s garden up there.

Lori: Oh! Awesome.

Fisher: We should totally think about how the brothers here connect to the [Seattle] Collaborative Space Alliance.

Lori: Yeah. It is collaborative space. Yeah, hopefully, as I go I will get better at this, and I
will remember to tell people about that. [Fisher laughs.]

Martina: About what?

Lori: Oh, I’m part of the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance.

Martina: Uh, huh.

Lori: Which started as Seattle Coworking but they’ve reimagined themselves to be anybody who holds collaborative space.

Martina: Right.

Lori: So there’s maker’s spaces joining. Artist spaces. And I, ah, yeah. I’m so new at this particular project, last time, on Friday night, I forgot to tell Colin about my coworking space—I meant to give him a postcard. I can’t remember to tell people about myself, let alone.

Martina: Did you go to see Colin at Equinox?

Lori and Fisher: Yeah.

Martina: Ok, awesome. We do a lot of collaboration with him.

Lori: You do? Very cool.

Martina: Yes. In fact the trailer, that has the funny cover downstairs.

Lori: That was his.

Martina: That’s something we’re working on together.

Lori: I wondered as I saw that. Thought “That looks like Colin’s trailer!”

Martina: Yeah, totally. We do a whole lot of stuff together.

Lori: Daniel got some amazing photos of Colin. I’m just [momentarily speechless]. I’m like “You need to start doing environmental portraiture work, dude, because like. Not posed. Just completely Colin’s essence was in those photos and like, his joy, and how much he loves his space. And I was like “Wow, that is some damn good photography happening!”

Martina: Yeah? Awesome. He shares a passion for work. We actually come out of a sub-culture that hates work. And, like, feels very limited by work. And he and I are so dedicated to our work lives that it’s something that we actually really bond over. [We walk out onto the building rooftop.]

Lori: Oh! This roof up here! White washing or whatever this is they’ve done to the roof. It feels like Greece up here or something, with its silvery whiteness.

Martina: This is a really incredible thing. So again, the fellows here who own the building, and Arnel’s husband, the glass worker, have a company that makes these boxes, the raised beds. And they’re a little bit more elaborate than one might assume. They’re actually sub-irrigated. And so they’re starting, developing a company doing that. And so for me, it’s really reaffirmed. This has changed the landscape of this roof completely.

Lori: Mmm, hmm.

Martina: And then I start to look out over Ballard, and over this industrial space.

Lori: And you could imagine what it would look like.

And you can see the direction for the city is completely changed. It’s a different vision now.

Martina: And you can see the direction for the city is completely changed. It’s a different vision now.

Lori: Yep.

Martina: But how it is, to get people on board, that’s where the creative part comes in.

Lori: I just saw a photo, out of one of my Facebook groups the other day, that somebody had taken an above photo image of their city. And then they, like, photo-shopped in gardens on all the roofs and posted that. I was like “Oh!”

Martina: Pretty incredible.

Lori: Good idea!

Fisher: Alley Cat’ll come help build them! [Lori laughs]

Martina: Totally! We’ve been just trying to think of what kind of incentives. The load-bearing capacity on these industrial roofs is crazy. There’s like no concern. And there’s very little concern for the draining capacity because they’re all built to code on a slant.

Lori: Yep, you can feel it.

Martina: Yeah. So it’s really pretty incredible. And the eventual idea is to create a living fence along the top, something that can stand a lot of wind. Today it’s not so windy but we get a lot of wind. And then we’re going a pizza oven up here and a bocce court.

Lori: Nice!

Martina: That’s the future. We’ll have you guys over for pizza and bocce one day! [Lori laughs happily at the thought]

You had us at pizza.

Lori: Yay! You had us at pizza. [Fisher says something off mike]

Martina: What was it?

Fisher: Espalier. That’s the trees that.

Martina: Move outward?

Fisher: Yeah.

Martina: Can that be anything? Is it just a technique?

Lori and Fisher: Fruit trees.

Lori: Fruit trees of all sorts.

Martina: The other concern is something that could provide more evergreen cover, although we’re not up here that often during the winter, so. We can go back to Swift and start there. This is the space.

Lori: Thank you for the tour! I love this up here!

Fisher: Me too, yeah.

Martina: It’s pretty awesome.

Lori: Does this space ever make it difficult to work, does it draw you on the sunny days? Those rare, warm sunny days?

Martina: Um, I’m a ridiculously self-disciplined person, probably to a fault.

Lori: Yeah. I am too. I work at home, out of my home, turned my house into a coworking space, and I completely. If it wasn’t for my dog, I would never use our gorgeous backyard. He’s like “Dude, it’s time to go outside!”

Martina: Right. We worked from home for the first three years of this business, or 2 ½ years. And everyone always asked if I would get distracted by snacks, and this, that, and the other. And I, you know, didn’t really.

Lori: Yep, I’m the opposite too. I forget to eat. I’m so focused on my work.

[We laugh together as we head downstairs for the interview.]