Turf— The blues and right angles

PENELOPE AUGɬ 61, has the dream loft. Perched above a gallery at the corner of Occidental Avenue and South Jackson in Pioneer Square, with sun pouring in from giant windows, Aug駳 space is filled with art—paintings, photography, and glass. She is a framer by trade, doing work for artists, collectors and corporations. Nearly everything in her place is black and white, with a few muted colors and wood tones—the wood floor is painted white; even her front door is wrapped in thick black paper. Obsessed with art and design (and grammar!), Aug頨as little patience for talking about herself, but she's always ready with a laugh. Mark D. Fefer

Seattle Weekly: How long have you lived here?

Penelope Aug麠Eleven years. I was the first person in this building when it was converted to artists' lofts. When I first moved in here there was just one bare light bulb, that was it.

How did you come by all this wonderful art?

I don't actually have any money. Ninety percent of the stuff in here is a trade. I live from paycheck to paycheck. But I have these absurd things because artists all want to trade instead of [pay]. A lot of people need frames. Artists, of course, need it and they don't have any money. I was [Dale] Chihuly's framer for years. I just am telling you I don't really have $40,000 bowls. After I did a lot for Dale, he sent everybody else. Most of them don't have any money. I lost about $60,000 of stuff in the earthquake—it was uninsured because I can't afford insurance.

Photography is my principal interest. The glass art is just incidental. I mean, I would never buy a piece of glass. I'm one of those people who drops the glass I drink out of. I have carpal tunnel from my framing. My relatives keep giving me glasses and when they come at Christmas there's nothing to drink out of. So they give me more.

So you traded framing for the artwork; what about the furnishings?

Well, actually I trade framing to [store name] for the furniture. I think I've bought about two things in here. 'Cause everybody needs framing. I frame for a lot of restaurants and I usually get part of it in food. There's a lot of framing in Fandango and Flying Fish, Queen City Grill . . .

What's this? [Pointing to the largest piece of art, a painting that dominates one wall.]

[Seattle painter] Randy Hayes. That, I did actually pay for. That's at a blues club in New Orleans. And I like the blues a lot.

How would you describe the way you've laid out this place?

I figured out once that it's all laid out in some kind of grid pattern. That's the way I think—geometrically. I'm not sure how much of it was on purpose. Obviously I like squares, right angles. I'm kind of a frustrated designer. Like, I designed these cubes in the '60s for the [LP] records.

Where did those lockers come from?

They're just Equipto lockers that I massed in order to make the walls [for the bedroom] and then I made that shade that goes up and down. I use them as closets. I always do things on kind of the cheap.

I keep my TV in here. I don't watch much TV except the Mariners. I can hear the roar when the roof is open. If I've fallen asleep watching the game and somebody hits a home run you can hear it.

[Pointing at a sleek black rowing machine.] This doesn't look like a piece of art.

No, it's a real machine.

You never know these days.

Well, it is sculpted.

Does the artwork rotate at all?

Yeah, I rotate a lot. And that's why I have these ledges. [Attached to one wall are three metal ledges, each supporting more than a dozen framed photos.] They're highly rotatable. You really move things around there. There's no holes or anything. So I do, I rotate them a lot.

No photos of you?

Oh, no. A mirror is bad enough.

Is it expensive to live here?

It's always been cheap. Because it's not a real apartment. It's just an artist's loft. They are commercial spaces and they have commercial leases. You don't have a landlord. So if a window breaks you fix it yourself. I'm not doing anything illegal. You can sleep here and everything. But you're supposed to have another principal address and I do. I spend a huge amount of time here. I like to read and think.

What's this giant cabinet?

That's the subwoofer.

Why such a powerful stereo?

A lot of people give parties in here. 'Cause it's a festive place to have a party and I don't mind. Sometimes I hardly know the person.

Is there anything you miss here?

I don't have a lot of the regular things people have, like a toilet seat cover, that kind of thing. My furnishings are books, records, and photographs— I don't have anything else. I have no storage. I don't have a car. I wouldn't mind a washer and dryer. I don't care about a dishwasher. Somebody told me I live like a teenage boy's fantasy. Maybe that was my teenage nephew.


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