Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The End of The Property Owner As We Know It

I haven't swapped in YEARS. More than ten years, I believe.

But if you haven't visited the swap forum on Splitcoast, you really haven't lived a good papercrafty life yet.

Thankfully it's my job to see all the new stuff there. So when one of our amazing swap moderators, Joyce, posted a Downton Abbey character ATC swap just after the end of the last season, how was I to resist soothing my aching heart from the last episode without participating??

Clearly it was a mandate, so I signed up. And I was early enough to get.... Bates. My beloved, beloved John Bates. *sigh*

Now normally in a character swap you'd use an image of the person, but I remembered the scene with Bates holding an umbrella in the rain at the front of the house in his beautiful, perfectly felted bowler, and I realized I had the perfect stamp for my trade.

It nearly broke my heart to even make it, truly. I misted my watercolor crayons on my Union Jack stamp with my tears for sweet cousin Matthew and that lonely prison cell for John. Or I used my mister. Whatever. Don't trifle with my details.

I found the perfect Bates quote to span my image.

When will we see you again John Bates??? WHEN??

Splotchy asks this question every day, while dreamily looking off into the distance. Maddie? Maddie could care less about John Bates and she's sleeping. Please be quiet. 

Now. On to my rant.

This weekend, I took a tour of Casa Neverlandia.

Casa Neverlandia is owned by a local artist - James Talbot.

Prior to 1979, Talbot lived in a neighborhood in Austin known as the Clarksville area. This became a sort of artists' neighborhood in the late 70's, and became too expensive for him. Sad to leave his hilltop view in Clarksville, he found a house off South Congress in 1979, for $13,000. At that time, that was extremely expensive for a working artist, but he managed.

The neighborhood was made up of board on board houses on teeny lots - his lot is 50 x 150.

He began to improve the house with his incredible mosaic work, stucco and lighting designed by his wife, also an artist. He rebuilt the house slowly and by hand, and built straight up, all the way to three stories, since expanding the footprint wasn't an option.

Long after the house was paid off, his taxes continued to climb. As the address became more trendy, his own home, which he thought he owned, became a source of anxiety and stress, as his property taxes climbed to their current level of $500 a month.

He will never truly OWN this home. None of us will own our homes.

In order to afford to live there, he has to conduct public tours of his little national treasure just to pay the "rent" on the house he's already paid for long ago, and try to use his art income to survive in his other earthly needs. This time steals the time he needs to create his amazingly detailed artwork, which is the sole source of his income.

This is a crime.

What if you bought a package of Jelly Bellies in 1984 and you paid 10 cents sales tax on them. Then you ate them. But long after you ate them, you continued to be assessed an ever-growing sales tax on them. A tax that would haunt you for the rest of your life and grow by 25% a year?

You would wish you had never had those Jelly Bellies. They would haunt you like the ghost of Jelly Belly past.

Property ownership used to be the pinnacle of achievement in our culture. Now it's just rent.

This makes me angry.

This man is incredibly talented and hard working. And he paid for his house in the 90s. And now he can't afford to live in it.

Soon I won't be able to afford to live in mine, either. My taxes are about the same.

Is this what we want?

I'd think about that before entering the voting booth next time. Just sayin'.

In the meantime, please enjoy this incredible journey through his home. And if you are in Austin and would like to take a tour, let me know.

Here's his mosaic work on the front of the house. 

Everywhere you look, there's whimsy. This is a tiny gathering in the front garden, with St. Francis and a few of his friends.
This is the peak of his roof. Wow.
The front door features a variety of ways guests can announce themselves.
My favorite art piece of his is behind him while he explains the living room. It's called "The Longing Behind Mirrors" and it's a stunning 3D broken mirror mosaic. It's very hard to photograph so I'm sorry, but I like this picture of Talbot.
Here I'm on the stairs up to his loft bedroom which features a stunning A frame and skylight, a loft, leaning walls and a beautiful balcony.
INCREDIBLE work in progress in his studio. He's a little older than me so I have no idea how he sees these tiny beads. This is so beautiful in real life.

His entire house and studio have no central air or heat. His electricity bill is $15 a month.
 His studio has 5,000 jars of beads in ROYGBIV order. It was heaven.

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I hope you have a good week. :)



  1. Oh, my word, this is so wrong. You should start a Kickstarter for him to raise money to pay for his taxes so he can work instead of giving tours of his home all the time. I'd contribute.

  2. Beautiful home. I understand how he feels. My in-laws are in the same boat.

    They bought their house years ago, like when my hubby was in elementary school. It was before the neighborhood built up around it. And now because of the neighborhood their property taxes are sky high.

    Mary Ellen

  3. Your card is beautiful. His home is beautiful. DH and I just had this conversation last week. It is a dark side effect of no state income tax but fixable at the voter booth. Go Lydia!

  4. Perfect card for the swap Lydia!

    My, that studio-home is absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing these Austin gems.

  5. Had to go check out the ATC thread... so sad I missed it! I haven't swapped through the mail in forever either. Funny how one often starts off that way and then gets much too busy with all the stamping we do EVERYWHERE. Your ATC is just fabulous!


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