TINY HOUSES AT FULLER CRAFT
by Brian Goslow
Brockton, Mass. – For most of his life, Derek “Deek” Diedricksen has had an affinity for small structures. When he was 9 or 10, his father, at the time a high school woodworking teacher, gave him a copy of “Tiny Tiny Houses” by Lester Walker, an architect from Woodstock, New York. The 1987 book has become a guiding light not only for his life, but thousands of others around the world who have used it as inspiration for creating their own special miniature living spaces. More recently, they’ve become attractions at galleries and museums, including the Empty Spaces Project in Putnam, Conn., and this February, the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass.
“The art is shelter, but also art that you can walk into that’s around you, which is pretty darn cool, I think,” Diedricksen said. “People always have this affinity for being in these cozy spaces or being able to pry and check out small dwellings, so it ties all that together.”
Diedricksen has become one of the faces of the tiny house movement, frequently appearing on HGTV and The History Channel. He writes books to show others how to create their own small structures and celebrating similar creative works; his most recent book, “Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses and Other Small Structures” (Storey Publishing) came out last summer.
“There’s a bunch of different reasons why people go tiny, but control over one’s tiny affordable domain is part of it,” Diedricksen said. “You can own your own house; build it cheap, build it quick and design it for just you. You can control it to fill your needs.”
Each structure is created to fit a different need; some people construct their tiny house to include many of the necessities of everyday living, including a kitchen, stove and sleeping area, and use it as their full-time residence. Each town or city has different structural codes, causing many owners to have to live off-radar.
To help others follow him in his passion, Diedricksen regularly conducts hands-on workshops. Last May, he hosted a three-day Tiny House Building & Design Workshop at the Empty Spaces Project in Putnam, Conn. that included live demonstra- tions, discussion groups, talks by tiny house owners and the construction of a tiny house that was donated to the gallery. It also gave the town a small economic boost.
“It brought people from all over the United States, filling up the local hotels and guest houses, making our local restaurants packed and introducing the town of Putnam to a whole different group of individuals,” said Paul Toussaint, co-founder and execu- tive director of The Empty Spaces Project/Gallery on Main Street. “It fit in perfectly as an art installation inside our gallery.”
The cabin’s back wall was turned into a communal graffiti piece. “We painted it a flat color and just left out paint, an iron chisel, some sharpies and let everyone in the group go nuts and blast the wall,” Diedricksen said. It was then layered with 3-D wood cutout pieces. “When the cabin lights up, you have this bizarre art piece radiating from the back casting a lot of color.”
Toussaint intentionally didn’t have the tiny house built in his gallery’s front window so that people had to walk through the main gallery to see it. “People came from all over New England and we did get a lot of new people into the gallery,” he said.
Diedricksen hosts many of his tiny houses projects with the assistance of his brother, Dustin, under the relaxshacks.com moniker. “We did another one for an art gallery [The Ecce Gallery] in Fargo [North Dakota] that lit up, like a giant Frankenstein-like head, and doubled as a service bar. You could go in and use it like a meeting space. It was just bizarre.”
They also appear at home and garden shows, where many of their builds are “just artsy, funky light up displays.” Last March, they went to Sydney, Australia to host a workshop during which, with the help of 25 participants, they designed and collectively built a tiny house prototype (“The Rad Pad”) for a battered women’s shelter, making good use of salvaged cabin windows. “They’re trying to put together a village of these little eclectic tiny houses that women can seek shelter in to get away from an abusive relationship,” Diedricksen said.
For the past three summers, the Diedricksens have hosted a Tiny House Summer Camp on land with no electricity that Deek owns in Orleans, Vermont. “The first time we did it, we were, ‘Nobody’s going to come.’ We sold out instantly. We had people flying from California; we had someone from Switzerland attend,” Diedricksen