Artist Spotlight: Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

With such a push for ecologically responsible materials in home construction these days it is vital to also be mindful of the size of a home so materials and energy are not wasted and this is just the concept Jay Shafer put behind Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Sebastopol, CA. With one of his homes it is possible to attain a living space, sleeping space, kitchen, bathroom, office space and four closets all in 65 square feet. Yes, that reads exactly right. His designs range in size from 65-774 square feet but no matter what layout a client selects there is no lack for amenities, storage or sustainable materials inside.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

I have no alarm clock so I get up when I wake up. I go to whole foods and sit with friends out by the parking lot while I eat breakfast. I check my PO Box and call my business partner to see if there is anything I need to know about. Assuming there is nothing pressing I go home to design tiny houses all day (usually forgetting lunch). I eat dinner with friends before renting a movie. That said, I have never actually experienced a “typical” day all the way through. Life always gets in the way.

Is it your personal belief that creativity and the ability to create art is innate?

Yes. Only talent stands in the way of true creativity. Ironically, it is our desire to set ourselves apart with displays of talent or “self expression” that gets in the way of the creative abilities we all possess.

Who or what influenced your work with home construction?

I look at vernacular houses more than anything else. I am less a fan of celebrity art and architecture than I am of buildings built by people for people. Usually the simpler, the better.

When did you first become interested in the planning and execution of building structures?

I can’t even remember when I started enjoying design, but I know I was doing it even as a little kid. The building part came later. No one else would build my designs for free so I had to learn how to do it myself.

Did you personally draft all of the home plans your company offers?
Originally yes, but I recently turned all of my pencil drawings over to a draftsman to be converted into AutoCAD.

Can you tell me about your creative process?
I believe in secular piety. When I can get my own ego out of the way Nature and Society are allowed to do their thing. It is only when a higher power is allowed to design my houses that the houses turn out well.

Where did your first inspiration come from?
Les Walker’s book Tiny Houses was very inspirational.

Was the Green Movement a major factor in your decision to create Tumbleweed?
It was one factor. Aside from that, I just don’t like house work.

What materials do you feel can make the largest impact toward a healthier life by choosing green?
Fewer materials are the best materials. Beyond that, it is important to use things that will be healthy for a home’s occupants and the environment as a whole.
Are there products or materials you spec that may not immediately be viewed as sustainable but hold up better over time thus negating additional manufacturing needs?
Yes. I use foam board insulation. I can think of no better place to put fossil fuels than into something that needs to last. This stuff also does a great job of cutting back on my heating needs and more fossil fuel consumption.

Do you live in one of your designs? If so which one and for how long?
I live in the 100 sq ft Epu. I have been living in the particular house for 2 years, and I lived in an even smaller house before that.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?
I am thinking about writing a book called “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”. In it I would explain that the best thing you can do for the environment is often nothing at all. Drive less, shower less, live in less, travel less, and do it better.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?
Preserving our quality of life.

What is your favorite project or work you’ve completed thus far?
My house is my favorite design.

What challenges have you had in your work?
The biggest challenge is, in fact, designing small. It is much harder than creating a big house because there is no margin for error. I not only love this challenge but I am addicted to it.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?
The internet is one of my favorite tools. I can’t remember how I got along without it. Now, instead of traveling to the Metropolitan Museum or a village in Quebec for inspiration, I can just click a few buttons.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?
I love creating works that have a positive influence on individuals and society. I really am a person who needs a sense of purpose.

What are you currently working on?
I am now finishing a revised edition of my “The Small House Book”.

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?
Stay away from the art world and just make things that are beautiful.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?
My houses.

What is your best going green tip?
Know what makes you happy and get rid of the rest. All of the extras just get in the way.

How would your friends describe you?
Very good looking for such a smelly person.
To see all of Jay’s amazing designs please visit the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company Website

Photographs courtesy of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

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7 thoughts on “Artist Spotlight: Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

  1. draagonfly

    That is AWESOME. Makes your apartment look big, right?! LOL

    I downsized quite a bit when I came cross-country, but I can’t say I’m unattached enough to my stuff yet to live in something quite that small. I like the idea of less to clean tho!

    Go Green!

  2. Jennifer Shon

    I appreciate everyone checking him out! I actually stumbled upon him by accident while doing a personal blog post one day and became so fascinated I knew he must be interviewed for us! Matt & I are seriously considering buying land in southern Cali and building one of these on it as a vacation home, potentially a full time residence as well. They are just too cool!

  3. lorigami

    I found your blog via a fellow eco-etsy team member, dinnertimechimes, and I just wanted to pop in and say how much I love it, especially this interview. I’ve been fascinated with these tiny houses for years, and am really enjoying seeing the face behind them. Thank you!



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