Tiny fabric houses… with updates at the end.

August 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm (art, culture, interesting, life, personal, sculpture, thoughts)

It’s really funny how this project’s gotten away from me a bit over the last few days, so I figured I’d better sit down and write about it!

One of my goals this summer was to get really, really good at sewing, so that I could use it more in my work. If you look at my two last entries, you’ll see I’m trying – and right now I’m in the middle of this huge project of sewing these panels with text on them… they take a long time, but I’m so happy with them.

But meanwhile, as a backdrop to that, I had to get emergency dental work and our new cat was sick. Major bummer. And a major, major hit over the head in terms of financial stuff goes, given that the art market has ground to the halt (summer on top of the recession) and I don’t get paid again til October for teaching. So between the two – learning to sew better, needing money desperately – I started an etsy store where I posted some of the things I designed and made, and just sort of hoped for whatever money might come my way.

Not a whole lot has, which is pretty understandable. A store on etsy is like anything else career-wise – you can’t just half-heartedly stick out there and wait for the money to start rolling back in; you have to promote it and try and make it really work for you. I didn’t do this, of course, because I was just looking to make a little money off stuff I had made and was practicing with.


I finally came up with a project I care about.

Meet: The Tiny Fabric Houses That Want to Take Over The World.

fabric housesThey’re little houses made out of felt and cotton; each one fits easily in the palm of your hand. The roofs come off and they can be used to store little things like paperclips or safetypins.

Basically, somehow – and I’m not even quite sure how this happened – I stumbled across a solution (maybe?) for a problem I had struggled with for years: How to make some sort of “spin-off” of my work that could be sold in quantity for very little money that didn’t make me feel like a complete sell-out. I’ve been totally fascinated by things like Marcel Dzama’s action figures and Takashi Murakami’s stickers, pins, toys, stuff – they’re so cool, they get people interested in the work who might not otherwise see it, they make money for the artist, and they’re just really awesome little objects. But they’re so not for me. The thought of having some company somewhere cram out 2500 plastic figures based on my work makes me… oh, let’s say, deeply uncomfortable. I want my work to be handmade; I want it to come from me; I want it to look like a human being had something to do with its making. But there’s there trap – as soon as you start making stuff yourself, it then becomes capital-A Art, and it’s not a cheap little thing just anyone can buy.

Unless… you design sewing pattern that can be duplicated one-by-one. And if you’re me, and you’re a sucker for repetitive tasks. And if you accept that ok, the scale of this project will never be Murakami-meets-Louis-Vuitton, but maybe you can still crank out these things that people will take and incorporate into their daily lives and have some sort of life outside of a gallery or traditional collection.

I became totally caught up in the idea of turning clutter into art – I have so much clutter in my space and I’m always looking for storage boxes, that I thought it would be really funny to make these sweet little containers to hold the stuff that could be collected to the point where your desk or shelves could look like a tiny village. So I set out to make a variety of them (houses, a farmhouse and silo, a church, a supermarket, and some others) and was experimenting with patterns, putting them up on flickr and etsy as I worked them through to get feedback. My plan was to get everything all lined up and perfectly figured out and do a big launch of the etsy site… but here’s where things got away from me.

My images that I put on flickr got chosen for some “best of flickr” pool, and suddenly I had a huge number of hits to the pictures. Then, one of the images got picked for the etsy front page:

Picture 1…that’s me on the lower right there, next to the beard… and suddenly my houses got 200 clicks in less than five minutes. Artist Chandler Pritchett, who I don’t know, happened to be watching when all this happened (technically, in the middle of the night last night) and made a series of drawings of the work featured on the front page at that moment. And I got an invitation to kickstarter.com to pitch my project there (I’m off to record my video explaining my “business concept” – they’re little houses! – as soon as I’m done writing this).

This is all kind of hilarious, especially considering I’m not even finished with the patterns for all the houses I want to make. But it looks like the project is here whether I’m ready or not, so here goes…!

  • The pattern is completed for the small houses pictured in the first picture above, and they are available in fuschia and blue or beige and grey (more colors soon). I love love love these guys – I am so happy with how they turned out.
  • The farmhouse with silo is still being worked out, but I have a test one listed that you can buy for a reduced price.
  • And I made several larger houses before deciding to go for the smaller pattern, but you can buy the larger ones I made while they’re still available. (There’s also other crafts available on that page but these are the ones that are awesome! :))

I’m kind of scrambling now to get the patterns done on the rest, so stay tuned! And buy! Amy needs a new set of teeth! My cats need drugs! You need a tiny fabric house to keep your paperclips in and a little bucolic village on your shelf! Everyone wins!!!!

***UPDATE!! 11:07pm… fushia/blue just sold out. Others still available and more coming soon!

***Monday, 9:40am… the large pink and the large blue just sold out. Crazy! Gotta do some sewing this afternoon.



  1. ducksrfriends said,

    Amy, this is awesome! The houses are just lovely.

  2. Chandler Pritchett said,

    The houses really are lovely–and thanks so much for the link! I’ll enjoy following your work:) Someday we’ll have to have a tea party so we can say we’re friends!

  3. Amy’s houses « running from marbles and piracies said,

    […] great little house storage boxes. And they’ve really taken off! She has a post about it over on her site, so I don’t really have to go into the details, but I highly recommend checking out her site […]

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