The Magic Behind Ian Foote’s Tiny House Collection

In this blog post we asked Ian Foote, our Head Potter, five questions about his Tiny House Collection now on display in our Collection Room.

1. Where did the idea for making the Tiny Houses originate from?

The idea came from our Marketing Manager at the time, Jill Crossman. Jill was inspired by something similar that she had seen online and wanted Morris and James to try and create our version of these miniature homes. Jill and Sandy Stevenson one of our artists, made the first prototypes. These were glazed in our signature bright and glossy glazes. These were sold but the project stalled, and the last couple sat on the shelf for about a year, until I came across them and decided to resurrect them. I decorated them with some coloured clay slips that I had been working on for a range of large beaten pots (see photo, below), and was particularly happy with the second batch, so I made some more. I played around with different sizes also.

We decided to showcase the Tiny House collection at an exhibition at Depot Art Space in Devonport nearly two years ago now and they held the collection exclusively for about a year. The exhibition was well received and the feedback about the Tiny Houses was really positive so I was encouraged to make more and to try experimenting with adding other pieces to the range. Last year I travelled to Europe and was inspired by the architectural styles there, particularly on the island of Burano near Venice (pictured, below). The latest range of houses reflect that influence and are somewhat different to the earlier houses I made.

2. Can you briefly talk us through the process of making a single Tiny House?

The making and decorating process involve many small steps to produce the simple yet detailed surfaces I was looking for. Each piece is wire cut to shape and then indented with wooden tools to create the windows, doors and roof texture.

After drying for a couple of weeks the pieces are decorated with three layers of contrasting coloured slips, brushing on and rubbing back each layer to develop the complexity of the texture, with a kiln firing between each layer to fix the surface.

The roofs are coated in a layer of iron rich Matakana terra sigillata (a satiny glaze made from settled clay).

Finally a layer of manganese glaze is rubbed over the whole piece to highlight all the fine textures and details in the clay, and to provide some contrast and complexity.

3. Roughly on average how long does it take to make a house?

Because of the multiple layers and firings the houses take over a month to produce from start to finish.

4. Can we expect to see any new additions to the range soon?

I have recently made a flotilla of boats and am currently experimenting with steam locomotives.

5. Are you planning on doing an exhibition at Morris and James soon?

Watch this space! 

The process 

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