Home is Where the Mixed-Media Art Is

mixed media house
One of my house-themed pieces.

cate pratoBack in the ‘80s I had the pleasure of interviewing Raymond Waites, one of the designers who ushered in the American Country movement. Over coffee at a nice restaurant we discussed form and style for the American home. Finally, I asked, “Why do we care so much about decorating our homes?”

He responded by taking out a pen and, on a paper napkin, drawing a square with a triangle on top of it. He held it up to show me and said, “What is the first object we draw when we’re children? A house.”

‘Nuff said, especially for me. I’ve been drawing, painting, and printing houses in every art class since my school days. Three-story mansard townhouses, gingerbready Queen Anne Victorians, cozy cabins in the woods, simple block shapes like that one Mr. Waites drew on a napkin.

mixed-media house print
An intaglio print of a house that I 
made in high school.

It’s safe to say the house is my personal art symbol. But of course, I’m not the only one. Dwellings have been the subject of art since the beginning of time. Mixed-media artists particularly love the house shape because it can be used three-dimensionally as a shrine, a container, or a stage on which to tell a story. It can be a bird house or a doll house.

Cloth Paper Scissors Editor Jenn Mason, who frequently uses the house motif in her artwork, says, “I think a house is one of those icons that everybody can relate to, whether you grew up in the city or the suburbs, whether it had positive or negative connotations for you.”

mixed-media house art
'Creative Way' by Darcy Lanz-Sage,
mixed-media calendar art for March.

When we held the “Home Sweet Home” reader challenge, more than 150 miniature mixed-media houses came in, each tiny sculpture reflecting the personality of its creator, even though the basic template for each piece was the same.

Similarly, when we held the “Street Where You Live” Calendar Contest last year, readers responded with enthusiasm, rendering their creative “homes” with art techniques involving polymer clay, wool roving, acrylic paint, metal, collage, and fabric art.

“Home is where one starts from,” wrote T.S. Eliot. So at the start of the New Year when I hang my 2012 Cloth Paper Scissors calendar above my desk, I’m going to bring in some of my house-themed artwork and make a little gallery to enjoy.

Because, to me, home is where the art is.


P.S. What's your personal art symbol? A house, heart, bird, dragon? What does it mean to you? Leave a comment below.

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