When Audra Loyal first set up shop in her tiny backyard shed, she met with wasps and yellowjackets.
Loyal, a potter and book binder, uses mud and paper just like those creatures, so she named the little workshop "The Vespiary." She and her partner, Amy Capolupo, brought the falling down shed back to life, and they celebrated its grand opening this summer.
The shop's footprint is 12 feet by 12 feet, and the interior space is 10 feet by 10 feet. Even though the "Garden Office" behind their Alder Street home is small, Loyal said it's a much better place to restore books than the dining room table had been.
"I would lose an hour a day just setting up and cleaning up," said Loyal, technically a "conservation technician." "And I never felt really good about how I was storing things."
Despite it's miniature look, The Vespiary is roomy enough. It holds Loyal's books, the personal ones and the ones she's fixing for clients, as well as her tools of the trade.
"So what I've tried to do is have everything small," Loyal said.
The job of conserving books can mean huge presses, big paper cutters, and large tables, but The Vespiary holds diminutive versions of tools instead. Even the antique fan sitting on Loyal's desk looks like it's the baby in a family of fans.
Loyal makes use of every nook and cranny in the workshop. Under the desk, she keeps a sewing machine and other appliances to repair books. She makes books, too, and she's hung rolls of paper on dowels from the rafters.
"You have to be really creative as far as where things are stored," Loyal said.
Still, the shop has room for a couch, so clients who bring their books in person have a comfortable place to visit with her about a family photo album or an ancient volume of "Peanuts." A lamp near the couch adds a soft light to the room.
The workspace also has a loft, a space Loyal and Capolupo use as a guest cottage. Their own home isn't huge, so when they have friends come to visit, they camp out in the loft and leave the house to friends.
When the couple set out to restore the shed, they committed to being historically accurate. Montana sheep's wool is used as insulation, and the wooden floor boards were cut with a circular saw and look swept.
As they made decisions, Loyal said they asked themselves how well their choices matched the look of the surrounding downtown homes. In the end, Loyal said she's proud to have restored something in the neighborhood, especially as someone who works in conservation.
Loyal works in The Vespiary on Fridays, and sometimes, Moses the dog joins her for her morning commute down the backyard path. When she sets foot in the shop, she delights in the destination.