Small House Cottage and Small House Garage on tour in Northumberland!

Our April/May artist, Karen Melvin, lives in Northumberland

Since we had changed the format from hosting three shows every month across the three main Small House Galleries, to hosting one show per month (or 2 in exceptional circumstances) in one house (or more) depending on the exhibiting artist’s choice, there was suddenly more flexibility as to how long a show could go on for in a particular ‘house’.

We had to pause the schedule for January through March due to the double whammy of a bereavement (memorial planning) and art studio move, so we re-reshuffled the artists (having already reshuffled them with regards to point 2 above) and fit them in for more mutually convenient alternative dates further along in the calendar. This meant the Cottage was going to be empty for the months leading up to and following Karen’s show.

Large & Small  

Karen Melvin, Claudia Sacher, and Carl von Weiler

in association with Small House North East

at Slaley Commemoration Hall, Slaley Village, Northumberland, NE47 0BQ 

Friday 13th May 2022, 7-9pm Saturday/Sunday 14th-15th May, 11am-5pm

Karen Melvin’s OFFCUTS: HOMING IN is now LIVE >>>> HERE! <<<<<

Karen Melvin, Offcuts, awaiting the arrival of Small House Cottage in Northumberland, 2022

In researching Karen’s practice following her Small House Cottage-specific proposal nearly a year ago, I noted that she had a very spacious studio in a rather impressively rambling home garden – the kind where one easily imagines fairies frolicking. Since her proposed works for her show were all inspired by her garden, I envisioned photographing the show in the actual garden she is inspired by.

The Cottage, being double-sided, has a lounge that stretches across to both ‘fronts’ and you can look through to see what is beyond it if you don’t wall it off.

I wanted to be able to situate her nature inspired works, in the lounge especially, with actual living grass and flowers growing up and around the house and showing through it, from where you would normally expect the back wall to be.

Small House Cottage in Karen Melvin’s garden in Northumberland with her ‘Offcuts’ installed.

After I managed to clear my schedule for the memorial and studio move by negotiating with a couple of very understanding artists who were willing to push their shows back a bit, I offered Karen to option of having the Cottage a month early.

We bounced ideas back and forth about how we could co-curate her solo show, with me still in South London.

Karen was particularly keen to show her Cottage show within the context of a couple of other ‘life sized’ shows she was going to be participating in and around Northumberland during the same time, which was perfect, as I had been dying to get the houses back out there in real ‘in-person’ space now that restrictions had finally lifted pretty much universally.

The other shows she is participating in are celebrations of Nature, Spring, community, and fundraisers to save local cultural heritage buildings that are underfunded and in need of repairs, and on their way to becoming community arts hubs in Northumberland. (UPDATE: In light of current events, they are now raising funds for the Crisis in Ukraine fund and a new arts for mental health charity, as well.)

Karen and I discussed the possibility of bringing in other Northumberland-based artists, whose practices touch on scale or ‘play’, and offering them some time to develop something for Small House Cottage and/or Small House Garage while the houses are in the North East.

Very organically, we began to develop a programme we called Small House North East.

Participating Northumberland-based artists:

  • Karen Melvin
  • Claudia Sacher
  • Carl von Weiler

*(Grace Warde-Aldam sadly had to drop out due to a diary clash)

Claudia Sacher came on board straight away, as she had already been making site-specific works at contrasting scales so was a natural fit, and she is our >>>March artist<<<

See Claudia Sacher’s Yvette’s People show >>>> HERE! <<<<

Claudia Sacher, Yvette’s People for Small House Cottage in March 2022

Karen Melvin & Claudia Sacher had a two hander show on in Slaley called Breath of My Garden. Note the miniature maqette gallery at the beginning of the film…

Breath of my Garden is an ongoing artistic conversation between Melvin and Sacher.

Carl von Weiler was offered the Garage as a site for an intervention/installation in the Large & Small show. The resulting work: Un Bird 2022.

Work in progress. For finished work, click >>>> HERE <<<<

The Large & Small show in Slaley Village…

Large & Small  
Karen Melvin, Claudia Sacher, and Carl von Weiler

in association with Small House North East

at Slaley Commemoration Hall, Slaley Village, Northumberland, NE47 0BQ 

Friday 13th May 2022, 7-9pm & Saturday/Sunday 14th-15th May, 11am-5pm

This pop-up exhibition in Slaley will feature the very large and the very small, the outsize and the miniature. It includes an elevated shed, a vintage dolls’ house (Small House Cottage) and handmade toy car garage (Small House Garage) as part of the Small House North East co-curation experiment on ‘tour’ from London to Northumberland. Small House Gallery is a mini-contemporary art project for a group of dolls’ housescurated by Eldi Dundee. 

(See more at )

These small houses are spaces for exhibiting art by living artists that play with scale in their practiceIdeally, ‘the home’ marks a place of safety, comfort, and shelter. A dolls’ house allows for a child to ‘play house’, and explore family dynamics: mummy, daddy, baby; going out to work, coming home, sharing food. For adults, the iconic protective spaces within the family ‘house and home’ become a much wider concern. It includes support for and connection to wider society, the environment, and a projection of one’s family line into the foreseeable and imagined future. 

Offcuts: Homing In

In the micro-exhibition within Small House CottageKaren Melvin has brought the outdoor environment into the house, to look at cycles of growth, nature and those large and small issues that go with our concern for a sustainable future – all the activities from picking a flower for a vase to caring for the land and concern for climate change. Off-cut pieces of wood were picked up from the workshop floor to paint on and put in the small house next to cut-up bits of exhibition prints folded into tetrahedron shapes. This metaphoric house is surrounded by a metaphoric painted table-top garden with more offcuts. The relationships within the works intermingle with ideas of our place within nature and the places in nature we love.

(Melvin’s OFFCUTS show can also be viewed on the Small House Gallery website now: )

Yvette’s People

An installation of poetic paper structures by Claudia Sacher includes small drawings enclosed in a restricted space and larger drawings leaning in a corner, hanging from the rafters or floating above the floor. The small drawings are very spare and concise, offering up their view of the travails of a female human figure, artworks as thoughts inside her body visualised as lines. The large drawings use previous work so the paper takes on a weathered aged appearance due to its various incarnations, each incarnation bringing its own gravitas. It is “Ephemeral, never lasting, uncollectible as the remains from this exhibition turn into the next one. It travels through time and space, just like us.“

(Sacher also showed this work in Small House Cottage in March – to view it, go to )

Un Bird 2022

Carl von Weiler’s work, within the bowels of the derelict and abandoned toy Mac’s Garage (aka Small House Garage), once potent a symbol of western dominance, and beat-poet journeys towards personal freedom, this model fuel station has become a symbol of a broken world. Against a backdrop of images emerging daily from Ukraine, with our global climate emergency, an empty ‘gas station’ becomes a symbolic diorama fraught with foreboding and threat.  

Showing in the back of the garage’s sparse workshop, and casting an eerie light and sound across the space, is Alfred Hitchcock’s classic full-length feature film The Birds.  The tense psychodrama haunts the space (miniature and real-life-sized gallery), playing on our sense of scale, overlapping narrative – as when the man at the gas station, half way through the film lights a cigarette, blowing up the whole area. 

Here the small dystopian cinema is patrolled and guarded over by life-sized birds made by the artist. For a number of years, von Weiler has been making hand-made birds from fragments of recycled materials, sometimes with communities from around the world, including groups of migrants who walked from Russia into north Scandinavia in 2014.

Un bird 2022 is the first work made by Carl von Weiler since his large-scale commission Tremuseum, sited by the vast Randsfjorden in Sondre Land, Norway in 2016.

Karen Melvin and Claudia Sacher last exhibited together in the uninhabited rooms full of the atmosphere of prior lives, in the back wing of Highgreen Manor, Tarset. No.3: Stories in a house retold, part of Varc weekend/ Highgreen Arts in 2018. Karen and Claudia collaborated at Ladycross Nature Reserve in 2019 with Picnic at Stone Circle and currently have the exhibition Breath of My Garden on at Gibside National Trust, Gateshead. 

Small House North East is a collaboration between Dundee, who is back in London curating other shows in the project’s two remaining ‘buildings’ over the course of the 3 month north-eastern sojourn, and Karen Melvin, temporary custodian of Small House Cottage and Small House Garage. This is the first time these ‘houses’ have been to Northumberland, and the first time they have left South London since being acquired by Dundee’s Small House Gallery project.


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