For the ignorant amongst us, what is a horse-box house exactly?
Well I guess a horse-box house is pretty much what it says it is... A house (although I use the term quite loosely) build inside a horse-box. It has pretty much everything a normal house has: a lounge, a dining table, a kitchen, a toilet, a shower, a bedroom (even a spare bedroom), an office space and plenty of storage. I even have a log burning stove, french windows and a fold down patio. The only major difference is that all of these things fit inside a 3.5 ton horse lorry.
What inspired you to build your own home?
This is always a really difficult question to answer; the truth is lots of different circumstances prompted me to start the project and I am sure hundreds of different things inspired me. I had spent the most part of two years traveling around Europe on an old tricycle making street shows and running circus projects with children in places like Albania and Southern Turkey. For two long summers I had lived and worked carrying everything I needed with me on my tricycle and had gotten used to having very few belongings and living outside. When I finally got home the idea of living in a conventional house actually felt quite alien to me so I started thinking about other alternatives.
I had met lots of people on my travels who lived in unconventional spaces and I also had memories of long holidays on my parents' canal boat.Perhaps also films like Chocolat lurked in the back of my memory instilling a romantic idea about a more nomadic lifestyle.
The Idea to use a Horsebox was actually inspired by one of the projects on George Clark's Amazing Spaces. A lady had used a horsebox to create a mobile boutique clothing shop; when I saw it I thought to myself that it would make brilliant touring theatre... In the end the horse flap is used more as a patio than a stage but it gets the occasional outing to festivals where we run circus workshops, and one day I would love to use it as a stage for a theatre production.
Have you always been a hands-on, creative kind of person?
Growing up there was never much doubt in my mind that art and creativity would play a big part in my life. It was always the thing I excelled most at and felt happiest doing. I studied Fine Art at John Moores University and when I graduated I set up as a community artist in the South West. I enjoy all kinds of creative practice but have a natural leaning towards sculpture. When I started on the project though I had very little experience with carpentry (or plumbing or electrics for that matter!) so I had a lot of help from friends and family along the way. One of my best friends is a builder and helped me a lot to begin with, which really built my confidence. My dad helped me with my electrics and I even sweet-talked a friend into building me a bespoke hot water tank.
In an ever-changing world of new technology, digital universes and cyber space, why do you think people like yourself are going back to traditional ways of creating like this?
I think there is something incredibly satisfying about making things with your own hands. I get a huge amount of pleasure from my home knowing that I built almost every aspect of it myself. I think there is also something really quite beautiful and interesting about the processes of daily life that are sometimes lost in our technological and digital world. When I put my fire on it heats up my hot water tank and I can take a warm shower... When I use the loo I know that in a year's time I will have great compost for the garden. It might sound strange but I really like these processes, especially when the things I built actually work!
I am not against technology though, in fact I think technology and the accessibility of information through the internet has helped make it possible to live in a more simple way. Solar technology has enabled me to be completely off the grid, and mobile internet means I can work from anywhere. Last month I built a website for a new company I am setting up with my sister using only electricity from my solar panels and tethering internet from my phone.
What's next - now you've got the DIY bug do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
My sister Emily and I have just launched a Community Arts Company together up in the Lake District called Ragtag Arts. Our next big project is to build a mobile Scrapstore in a small caravan which we will tour around rural communities here in the Lakes, recycling clean waste materials to use for creative activities. One day we would like to build an outdoor art centre and I would love to build a second story to my home, perhaps in the trees!
Wow! Finally, which projects from Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing at FACT interest you most?
I love the project by Rachel Rayns and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. There is something really quite charming, yet clever, about a garden robot. What I find really interesting is the seemingly unlikely, yet completely logical connection between robotics and gardening. It is another example of the way technology can be a positive influence in our relationship with the environment. Perhaps I should look into building one for my garden next year!
Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing is open at FACT Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 6pm until 31 August.