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These Artists Used Clay to Build Their Dream Homes in Miniature

Ceramics artist Eny Lee Parker hosted a contest that asked quarantined creators to imagine their ideal rooms

This miniature room design by Julie Dumas Rose is a finalist in Eny Lee Parker's Clay Play challenge. (Image by Julie Dumas Rose / Courtesy of Eny Lee Parker)
smithsonianmag.com

Toward the end of March, designer Eny Lee Parker posed a challenge on Instagram: Create your dream home in miniature using polymer clay.

Parker is a ceramics artist known for her spherical furniture and jewelry designs, many of which are inspired by the natural world. She recorded her own room-making process on Instagram Stories in hopes of inspiring others to participate in the event, dubbed Clay Play.

“I started three weeks ago when New York City started to quarantine,” Parker tells Eleanor Gibson of Dezeen. “I knew that for me, I'd have to keep myself busy so my mind wouldn't focus on the bad news happening everywhere. You need a balance of being well-informed … while finding positivity to stay sane and safe.”

Viewers can watch Parker’s process via Instagram, from the textures she adds to a miniature chair and sofa to her development of a tiny version of a lamp seen in the video’s background. The artist’s final design features a checkered rug, blue double doors and a wavy coffee table set in the center of the room.

Semi-transparent sconces appear flanked by black polymer clay chain links that resemble the ceramic chains frequently seen in Parker’s work; in real life, the motif adorns vases, dangles from earrings and dots entire curtains. A vase of tulips is the designer’s favorite part of the room, she says in her Instagram Story.

“I thought of ways to start a challenge that people could do while being home,” Parker tells Dezeen. “Polymer clay was my go-to since I focus on ceramics, and creating an ‘ideal room’ seemed fitting since we are all in our homes.”

Parker’s designs are based on natural shapes ranging from the beach to, most recently, individual brain cells. As the New York TimesLizzie Feidelson reported in March, the artist’s latest collection of 11 lamps was inspired by 20th-century Spanish scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s pen-and-ink drawings, which she stumbled upon while exploring a secondhand book store.

To share the fun and encourage participation in the Clay Play challenge, Parker sent materials to seven fans who didn’t have them on hand. By the contest deadline of April 2, 46 artists, architects and designers had sent in submissions.

Entries feature stained glass, elaborate fireplaces, multiple levels and sunsets in the background, among other creative touches. One finalist recreated a Pablo Picasso mural on their ideal room’s wall, while another used mirrors to create the illusion of an infinite space. The clay miniatures made use of furnishings from favorite designers, including several of Parker’s own creations.

Four days ago, the artist shared snapshots of the nine finalists on Instagram and put the final decision to a vote. The poll has since garnered more than 7,500 comments. Parker has yet to announce the contest’s winner and runner-up (who will receive a small Oo lamp and daisy sconce, respectively, as prizes), but in the meantime, those interested can scroll through the dozens of submissions to see where artists wish they were spending their stay-at-home periods.

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