It was 2012 when someone sent me a photo of this little cottage. And my heart nearly stopped when I saw it, because it felt like the twin sister of my mud home in Turkey. The living roof. The curling tree on the side wall. The funky, one-woman beauty of it. Over the next few years, the two mud homes went their own ways and evolved into different entities. But I always felt a connection to this house and to the artist who made it.
Heidi Vilkman lives mostly in the UK now, but she began this project in Finland. It was for the most part continued in summer holidays. The entire structure is a mud world of myth and fae. It brings a feminine creative magic into construction, and just to look at it reawakens something from our childhoods. Something incredibly precious that we have mostly lost. The right to imagine, and to believe.
How was it made?
But before I completely sink into rhapsody, here are the nuts and bolts of the construction: Heidi’s cottage is a masterpiece of natural building. Each wall uses a different technique: Cob, straw bale and cordwood. Sensibly the straw bale is on the north side for insulation. The living roof structure was made by Heidi and her dad. Her dad built the timber frame of the house too, and mum got her hands dirty with cobbing. A neighbour helped with a skylight and the front door. But most of the donkey work was completed by Heidi herself.
The plaster work (which is all natural clay plaster), beautiful pargeting, and original details such as the mezzanine for the bed, are what give this house its unique personality. Heidi also made her own clay paint and added natural pigments for colour. As you can see, the result is exquisite.
“My inspiration came from art and nature.” Heidi says. “The forest which the cottage stands next to is my childhood playground, and I spent a lot of time in it as a young child (and older one). When I stumbled on photos of cob cottages in 2011, I was ‘cobsmacked’ that one could build an actual building with clay, basically. And they were so beautiful too! Nothing like your 'usual houses'. Just full of organic, beautiful forms and textures. As I worked with ceramics, I instantly fell in love with that concept and had to do something about it.”
One of the beauties of this little cottage is the slowness of the build, and the way it draws on its surroundings for materials and form. When a structure takes time, it becomes an organic movement, rather than a lump of construction imposed abruptly upon a landscape. It morphs and evolves, balancing the needs of the humans it houses and the environment in which it stands. Truly one of my favourite mud homes.
Heidi Vilkman is a talented artist. You can learn more about her at www.heidivilkman.com. To browse her lovely creations, see her e-store www.heidivilkman.etsy.com.
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