Is the Romance with Tiny Houses More Than a Fling?

Tiny house

Tiny house (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tiny house movement, which is often credited as having gained popularity thanks to Sarah Susanka’s 1997 book, The Not So Big House, has captivated architects, designers, city planners, and increasingly eco-conscious homebuyers on either end of the buying market. There are millennials who, faced with uncertain economic growth and unwilling to tie to the long-term mortgages of their parents’ generation, are considering tiny houses. Architects and designers are intrigued with the challenges of making 1,000 square feet and smaller feel like living large. City planners appreciate the economic possibilities, and even Boomers are willing to engage if downsizing to tiny can work with a lifestyle they can enjoy.

Not everyone is a fan, of course. As NPQ reported in an earlier article on possible use of tiny homes for the homeless, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino expressed his concern about tiny homes, on average “the size of a garden shed,” and which are “built on wheels so that [they] can be moved frequently enough to skirt laws against loitering or trespassing.” Buscaino felt “each home would require reflective markings” and that this idea overall might not be the best of solutions.

But many others, as the Star Tribune piece showcased this week, would argue tiny houses are a game-changer and feel they offer exciting alternatives to traditional notions of housing in addition to posing the question of “how much space one really needs—and encourages living in a sustainable way.”

Among the architecture community, there has sprouted “a competition of sorts to design appealing, cost-effective, environmentally friendly tiny homes. […] One of the movement’s pioneers, Geoff Warner of St. Paul-based Alchemy Architects, has teamed with the Robert Engstrom Cos., the city of St. Paul, and an East Side nonprofit developer to propose a tiny house cluster as a demonstration of how such homes could spur development of affordable for-sale housing.”

A cluster of Alchemy Architecture’s “Weehouse” prefabricated tiny homes has been proposed for St. Paul’s East Side, an area that connects downtown St. Paul “with an “emerging business and entertainment corridor.” The Weehouses are described as “modular boxes prefabricated in factories and designed by Warner to vary in size from 300 to 850 square feet. They can be set up side-by-side to create stand-alone neighborhood clusters, or stacked on top of each other to build bigger single-family or multifamily dwellings.” The Star Tribune article also said “their real innovation is that they’re hardly Spartan: They include modern aesthetic features such as floor-to-ceiling glass and open kitchens, while also emphasizing energy efficiency with passive solar design, reflective roofs and geothermal heating.”

The hope of planners there is that the “units will market for around $100,000,” putting it at “a price that can appeal to a wide range of people, including first-time home buyers of all racial backgrounds.” According to a report issued by tech company SmartAsset, “in over half of the biggest U.S. cities, the typical millennial can’t afford a 1,000 square-foot home.” Warner’s hope, which is shared by many enthusiasts of the growing trend, is that more and more people will realize “you don’t need to have huge spaces to have really nice spaces.”

In the city of St. Paul’s case, the municipality “will need to craft a new zoning overlay designation governing such clusters of tiny housing.” But this is being “envisioned as a possible template for other cities across the state and country seeking to encourage the tiny living phenomenon.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Herb Gardens, Goats & Real Estate Developers: Considerations in Community Development

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Urban farms and community gardens have been popular for a number of years, particularly as the farm-to-table movement took off. In cities across the country, many vacant, often blighted lots were adopted and converted to bring “healthy food, commerce and eye-pleasing greenery to dreary neighborhoods” and to supply restaurants and farm markets with locally grown produce. But now, according to the Associated Press, “as more people look to live and work in central cities, growers say it’s harder to find and remain on land now sought by developers.” At risk, farm advocates say, is not only the ability to grow food nearby and cultivate nature in more parts of the city, but the community spirit that often grew up around these projects.

Community gardens have often provided neighborhoods, local schools, and programs that work with at-risk youth with the chance to bring diverse people together to work toward a shared goal. But with big money at stake, local officials are often unwilling to champion these projects in opposition to housing development. St. Paul City Council Member Amy Brendmoen is quoted as saying that she saw the decision there to support building projects instead as “sad but inevitable.”

At the same time, ABC News reported this past week on a contradictory trend taking place in some suburban subdivisions and various communities wherein housing developers are responding to the farm-to-table movement themselves by “adding farms to neighborhoods to give people what they want…old fashioned roots to grow.”

Some urban farm promoters are “pushing local officials to begin setting aside plots for urban agriculture because of the health and community benefits.” In the Seattle area, “officials have designated portions of parks and other public land. In Los Angeles, community groups are encouraging developers to have farming and green space designed into housing, including on rooftops.”

At The Cannery in Davis, California, which presents itself as “the first farm-to-table new home community,” ABC News reported that “nearly 540 homes will be walking distance of a 7.5-acre farm” with housing styles ranging from affordable apartments to million-dollar estate homes. Given that when it opened to potential buyers in August, 5,000 people came through the Cannery on the first day—and that buyers have ranged from millennials to retirees and empty-nesters—the developers seem to be onto something.

Ed McMahon, senior fellow at the nonprofit Urban Land Institute, a real estate research group in Washington, D.C., told ABC “agrihoods” are hot. “Almost every week I get a call from a different country about a new development,” McMahon said. “What people are finding is that it is an amenity that can really actually create some value in a community.”

Across the U.S., these communities take different forms. “At Agritopia, outside of Phoenix, residents take pride in growing on their own plots, whereas, “people who buy in the Davis development won’t work the farm.” In Serenbe, a community within an hour of downtown Atlanta, “homes are scattered throughout a 25-acre organic farm, where professional farmers tend the land and sell fruits and vegetables to local residents.”

There’s even a movement afoot in some places to push the concept even further to include livestock. The Detroit Free Press just reported that, where “city laws technically don’t allow for the raising of livestock,” city councilman James Tate is looking to sponsor an ordinance that would change that to “allow homeowners and urban farmers to raise their own livestock safely while also making sure that neighbors aren’t upset.”

Not everyone is a fan, of course, but a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute that looked at emerging trends in real estate for 2016 suggests, according to the Christian Science Monitor, that “more urban farms will sprout up across the U.S., especially in areas where vacant land sits unused and unwanted.” The report also said, “What is important—and trending—is the new vision that has urban land as the most precious and flexible of resources.”

Mikkel Kjaer and Ronnie Markussen, who run a Danish urban design lab and who were written up in September by UK firm Collectively, are among those hoping this is true. They are designing a type of urban farm in a box intended to “increase food security in cities, lower the ecological footprint of food production” and “easily adapt to changes in the urban landscape.” Eyeing the U.S. as their primary target market, their “Impact Farm” kit is designed to be built with “an assembly-kit of ready-made components” which when put together, is a two-story vertical hydroponic (or soil-free) farm…designed to be self-sufficient in water, heat and electricity.” Once installed, their farm’s production area “stretches to 538 square feet. Crops include greens, herbs and fruiting plants.”

Kjaer foresees it being used by “catering companies, housing cooperatives, schools, municipalities, restaurants, and local communities.”

NPQ would love to hear from advocates of community development about the importance of such projects to development in poor urban communities and whether you have had to protect them from other development plans.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Exploring with Fiber, Images and Mixed Media: Artist Wen Redmond

"Touch the Soul" - mixed media

“Touch the Soul” – mixed media

"Landlocked" - digital fiber

“Landlocked” – digital fiber

"Shine" - holographic images

“Shine” – holographic images

Inspiration: images, the outdoors, feelings, evolving techniques – and getting into flow during the art process. Rules: not many, but two are — Stop listening to other people. Try new things.

While many artists enjoy working with specific steps and structure, Artist Wen Redmond prefers the and alchemy of mixing original images, mixed media materials, substrates and mediums and responding to what evolves. Not someone to create the same thing over and over, she constantly changes her work and processes. One of her variety of workshops is called Serendipity Collage, and it includes painting, dying, stamping screen-printing, mono printing, stitching and other means of surface design. The emphasis is to catch the muse, go with the flow and allowing the materials to inspire art making.

Materials: fiber, fabric, paper, foil, photographs, scotch tape, paint, fabric dye, photocopies, thread, lace, leaves, coffee grinds, tea leaves, seeds, molding paste, wire mesh – and whatever inspires and seems to fit a piece.

During her career, she’s made art-to-wear-clothing, wall art, jewelry, art books and several signature digital imagery works. She uses a wide range of materials and particularly likes working with non-precious material – you’d be surprised what coffee grounds can do to add interest and texture — and she’s constantly exploring and expanding the boundaries of what can be done.

In describing her work, Redmond has said, “Fiber art has sustained my creative impulses since 1973. It’s a fluid and expanding art form.” Early on in her career, she moved from making art for personal gifts to making art to sell, including pieced wearable clothing and jewelry and wall art. “You have to be a business person to be an artist,” she explains. “It’s easier to find a market today because of the Internet, since you don’t have to run to each brick and mortar store and gallery to try to find the right venues to sell your work. I’ve done that, and I’ve also done the art and craft fair route, and it’s a lot of work and folks don’t realize that when they start out. Now, you can promote your artwork and programs you teach online. I have an art blog, a blog about my workshops and a website. That said, I also have placed my work in galleries. More recently, I’ve been doing more teaching, which I’ve found very rewarding.”

She will be leading workshops in Quilt Surface Design Symposium, Columbus, OH from May 26-June 8; the Abrusso School of Creative Art, Italy from Sept 2-8, 2014, and the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, New York from December 4-7.

Early on, Redmond found the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, an art guild in the state where she lives, was very helpful in finding opportunities. Initially, she was juried into one of their shows and then began selling her work at numerous galleries in New Hampshire and then branched outside the state. Her work can be found nationally.

Wen’s work lately has been creating larger scale wall art and abstract collage, which is a form she gravitates toward. “I like the effect you can get with transparency when working in layers because when you view collaged art from a distance you see the overall picture, and as you get closer, you find there’s a lot to discover hidden underneath. She often uses watercolor paper as a base. She has learned how to use different mediums and materials to get desired textures, effects and images into her Media Mix work.”

Redmond has created several signature techniques, including the Serendipity Collage Technique published in Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine; and her Digital Fiber Techniques. Holographic Images, using printed photographs on silk organza to create a unique 3-D effect, published in Quilting Arts Magazine and featured on Quilting Arts TV. Textured Photographs is her most recent publication both in magazine and now a DVD workshop. Her workshops are available on Interweave.

Her work has been exhibited nationally including at Fiber Philadelphia, Art Quilt Elements, Columbia University, Craft Boston, and the Museum of AQS in Kentucky.

She’s represented by galleries including the League of New Hampshire Galleries; the Tappan Zee Gallery, NY; the Textile Center, MN; the Visions Gallery Shop, CA and the York Art Association, ME.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Art Quilting Growing Global: SAQA

An Interview with SAQA Executive Director, Martha Sielman

13 SAQA

How did you first get involved with SAQA?

I got involved with the organization around 1999/2000 because I was making my own quilts and moving more toward developing my own designs making art quilts. At that time, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), which was founded in 1989, had about 800 members. They needed a volunteer to run the Connecticut region, so I volunteered.

We only had six members in Connecticut at the time, but when I heard about a local art show, I asked SAQA if we could exhibit, and they said yes. Sharon Heidingsfelder, SAQA’s executive director at that time, suggested I invite other members from the East Coast to participate. To my surprise, 50 people entered. I realized then that there was a need to find exhibit venues. Art quilters wanted to share what they had created.

That led to starting the “Fiber Revolution” group, made up of SAQA members in the northeastern U.S., which quickly began doing ten exhibits a year. I loved doing the organizing work for “Fiber Revolution” and found that I was spending more and more time on it and less time in my studio.

So when Sharon retired in 2004, I applied to be SAQA’s executive director. Since then the organization has quadrupled in size to over 3,200 members. We’re now international in more than thirty-one countries, and we see continued growth, including in Korea, Taiwan, Eastern Europe and Africa.

I’ve also been writing about the field in a number of books for Lark Publishing–Masters: Art Quilts, volumes 1 and 2; Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World, and Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, which was just published this past Spring.

What do you see as SAQA’s role as compared with other organizations in the field?

A number of organizations focus more on professional development. There are regional organizations around the country, like the Contemporary Quilt Association in Washington State, the Professional Art Quilt Alliance in the Chicago area, and Front Range Contemporary Quilters in Colorado.

There’s also the Surface Design Association, which has close to five thousand members and is also international. The difference is that they cover all types of surface design, while SAQA focuses just on art quilts.

How do you define an art quilt?

Definitions are tough, but I think the best is: A work of art created with fabric and thread. SAQA’s official definition is “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”

Is there a divide between this and traditional quilting?

I see it all on a continuum. I think of traditional quilting as using designs and patterns that have been used for hundreds of years; contemporary quilting as using similar patterns while playing with color and form; and art quilting as completely original in design. But, as I said, trying to set a particular definition is a slippery slope and there are many, many counter-examples.

What important strides have been made in establishing quilts in the art world – as compared with the past?

There has been a lot more interest from the art world – at museums, at galleries, and from collectors. There’s a lot of cross-over happening between the fine art and craft worlds.

Have you seen increased interest in art quilting?

Yes, there continues to be very strong growth, including internationally. We’re finding that people, especially women, around the world are interested in working in fiber arts, in part as a reaction to the electronic world. Art quilting offers a different, wonderfully tactile way to express oneself.

What new developments, products, and techniques are you most excited about?

The biggest development that I’ve seen is the increased interest in long arm quilting machines being owned privately. The machines are quite expensive and take up a lot of space, so they were originally designed for industrial use – where people who bought them intended to do quilting for others. Now, individuals and small groups are buying them for their own use. I often talk with people who say they’ve been thinking about the purchase for a while and are willing to devote a room in their house – sometimes even the living room – to set up a machine. I think that reflects a change in our society to being less formal, and using space in the house differently.

There have also been changes in sewing machines, where some are more of a hybrid that can offer more speed and cover a larger surface area than a standard machine, but which are less expensive than a traditional long-arm.

Other trends I’ve noticed are the use of recyclable material, use of sheer fabrics, and working in three dimensions. On the color side, there’s a lot of use of neutrals now, rather than jewel tones and saturated colors.

I see growing interest in quilting because people have a desire to make things, to express themselves creatively, and to connect. Art quilting offers a great way to immerse oneself in doing all of that.

Martha Sielman has been Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) since 2004. Her career in art quilts began in 1988, when she learned to quilt, and has included more than 20 years of work as a professional artist, author, lecturer, curator, juror, and arts administrator.  She is the author of Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits; Masters: Art QuiltsMasters: Art Quilts, Volume 2, and Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World.

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Designs on the Fashion World

 By Harleen Kaur Chhabra, Fashion Designer

Harleen Chhabra designs

One of the biggest misconceptions about achieving success in the fashion industry is that creativity is everything. The competition in the industry has become so intense over the years that having talent just isn’t enough anymore. A very big part of succeeding in the business is networking and knowing people who can recommend you to someone who is hiring. The industry is so saturated that there are hundreds of unemployed designers all applying for the same jobs which leads to stacks of resumes for employers to go through. If you know someone who can recommend you and attest to your innovation, creativity or motivation as a designer, you’ll have a very strong advantage over the stack of resumes that are sitting on a recruiter’s or manager’s desk. In order to get that advantage, many young designers start out working for temp agencies that specialize in the fashion industry that will assign them short-term jobs where they can meet different people and build up a solid network of references. This is one of the best ways to get experience and network as a young designer and some of the leading agencies include fourthFLOOR fashion, 6The Solomon-Page Fashion, and 24|Seven.

Now, this isn’t to say that creativity and talent account for nothing because creativity is ultimately what allows a company to grow–and this can be applied to any business, even outside the fashion world. Marketing can only go as far as the product will allow, and fashion evolves so quickly that you have to either perfect something that’s already out there or create something that’s not. The problem is that almost everything has already been done. The last century has been filled with almost every style of apparel and accessories you can imagine, which has led to the last 10 or so years simply turning into a recycling of trends rather than the innovation of new ones. There’s not much left to do which is why a lot of designers focus their brands on perfecting certain trends or adding more value and function to their designs for consumers who are more concerned with the value and functionality of clothing rather than the aesthetics. I think it’s important for designers to really think about which of these markets they want to cater to–the value-driven consumer, the trend-driven consumer, or the traditional consumer.

Determining your consumer base is especially essential to those designers who want to own their own label someday because fashion is a consumer-driven industry. One of the biggest challenges a company can face is selling their goods, but this part comes easy when you design with your consumer in mind. Try sketching some stuff for a type of market you haven’t really focused on before–men’s apparel, outerwear, handbags, and shoes are some commonly overlooked fields that may be good to try. Not only will you gain confidence designing outside of your comfort zone, but you may also discover that you like designing for an unfamiliar consumer base better! This type of challenge helps develop designers in many ways and can really help foster creativity. Buyers hate to see–what I like to call–“stale” collections with trends that have been overplayed or overdone, which is why it’s always important to stay creative. A fun way to get some ideas for which other consumers to design for, look on fashion blogs and websites. Two of my personal favorites are Fashion Copious and Refinery 29.

Before beginning to sketch ideas for a collection, it is important gather all of your inspiration and post it on a board that you can look at while sketching. This helps to keep a cohesive look and mood throughout the beginning stages of a collection, and it’s actually my favorite part of designing because it’s where all of my ideas come from. I like to do small thumbnails of the designs first and then choose which ones I’d like to sketch and render since not every idea comes to fruition

Harleen Kaur Chhabra was born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended the University of Connecticut where she received a BFA in Art with a concentration in Illustration and Costume Design. She began her career as an intern for fashion designer Laura Dahl and has recently worked at the Thuy Atelier in New York City as well and the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. She is currently working for Nine West and does freelance fashion design work as well.

Readers with questions are invited to contact Harleen at HarleenKChhabra@gmail.com and to visit her website.

 

 

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