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'What's in your shed?' competition - the winners

This issue we are summing up the entries received in E&T’s latest photo competition: 'What’s in your shed?'

Well, spring is here at last and it is now time to come out of the sheds and face the sunshine.Regular readers of E&T might have spotted two not very well hidden metaphors in the previous sentence, and they were right: by “coming out of the sheds” I imply the summing up of the ‘What’s in Your Shed?’ photo competition, announced in issue 9 of E&T last year; and by “sunshine” – a set of two shiny (well, glossy) books on sheds and shedworking awaiting each of the three winners. The best entries didn’t only supply quality photos of the insides of their sheds, lofts, walk-in closets, garages, attics etc (the shape did not matter), but also accompanied them with meaningful and often witty captions.

The denouement of the ‘What’s in Your Shed?’ competition reminded me of a Nordic saga: slow, to the point that we started having doubts as to whether it was a good idea to invite the readers to open up their private shelters, to which they “retire in search of solitude and quiet” or where they could safely pursue their creative – “engineering or other” – ambitions.

For several weeks we received absolutely nothing. Then came an email from Graham Denton (MIET), with a photo featuring himself relaxing in the forest, with lots of shadows, but no shed in sight. The caption went: “Which pub next, I wonder?”

“All right – I know this cannot be taken as a serious entry,” Mr Denton wrote in his email, “but, living on the very edge of the New Forest, I feel that I have a 15-square-mile ‘shed’.”

Although his lively, yet shed-less, entry could not qualify for the competition, it certainly helped to break the ice. The following day Tom Rose emailed us photos of his shed “still under construction, but inside is a good drainage and solid foundations. With solar power to keep me warm...”. On the photos there was nothing more than some impressive trenches, cables and carcasses of his future shed, but it was a definite step forward from the picture of a wild forest (even if “New”).

Then – as if on command – my email box came alive with a xylophone-like gamma of reassuring “bings” as entries started trickling in. It took the readers some time to come out of their sheds, but when they finally did – it was in force!

As usual, we (sadly) had to disqualify a number of entries that came by post (for, according to the competition rules, they had to be either emailed or tweeted). There were also some with low-resolution photos, and others with quality photos that resembled picture postcards of the exteriors but did not offer any insights either into the building’s interior or – more importantly – into their owner’s internal worlds. Some entries were overloaded with technological details and specifications, but lacking emotional input and/or engineering novelty (read creativity).

We were looking for what Phyllis Richardson, well-known author of a book on micro-architecture, called ‘Big Ideas. Small Buildings’, or, in this case, rather in reverse – ‘Small Buildings. Big Ideas’.

Although the photos accompanying some of the entries left much to be desired, we liked the ideas behind them: “I’ve fallen in love. Oh, the wonder of it...” – an email from Fiona Lean from Watford began mysteriously. “I am talking about E&T magazine, which I’ve just discovered,” she carried on (now you may have guessed why we liked her email, which also made us blush). She explained: “ … a thing about sheds. That really got to me. Sheds are the salvation of civilisation. Every man should have one (women don’t need them, they have houses)...”

“I am not lucky enough to have a shed of my own, as I live with my parents,” wrote Grace Munday, a trainee engineer from High Wycombe. “However, I thought I would send you a picture of the corner at the bottom of the stairs where I use my sewing machine as I think my hobby is a rare one among engineers...” And although we decided not to reproduce the accompanying photo, I can assure you, Grace’s sewing machine does look lovely.

My frequent correspondent Colette Gates from Australia described her shed as: “The Fortress of Solid Wood – a quiet haven from expectations, a place to read, write, think, embellish ideas, keep a journal or do nothing... When I come back inside from even a short stink out there, I feel restored. How lucky I am.”

Colette is lucky indeed, but, if I may say so, not quite as lucky as our three winners, each of whom will not only receive two great books, but will also become famous by having their photos and captions published in E&T magazine and on the website (we may also put a selection of the best non-winning entries on our website).

Now, over to the lucky winners. Let them speak for themselves (see above).

I want to finish with the words of my favourite Soviet bard Bulat Okudzhava, who once said, or rather sang: “A closed door costs a penny, and a lock on it costs even less!” Thanks to all the contestants for unlocking their doors to us!

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