Last summer I went to dinner at a new friend’s house. It was a lovely time: we did a short house tour, sat down for delicious home-cooked food and gathered around the table for a few hours of chatting and story telling.
The only slight difference to this experience was that this friend lived in a tiny house- a type of home I hadn’t visited before. I was intrigued and inspired by the creativity that Miranda had in both building and living in the house in addition to her other creative pursuits that I asked her sit down and chat.
In 2013, Miranda was surfing the internet and happened upon an article about a couple in Portland, Oregon who, fed up with spending tons of money on rent that was ultimately building no equity, had built a tiny house. It cost them ~$30,000. Miranda was intrigued by this idea, having spent $16,000 in rent in just two years herself. She had recently completed graduate school and had dreams to build a community art non-profit. She was grappling with how to be a self-sustaining entrepreneur and maintain an independent lifestyle. The article she read got her to thinking about how other people were creating more sustainable ways of living. She was hooked and decided to learn more.
She started researching the tiny house movement and eventually began working for Tumbleweed House Company, which was dedicated to giving people pathways, through workshops and housing plans, to build their own tiny house homes. Her work with the company led her to travel around the country as part of workshops for people interested in exploring the tiny house movement.
In 2015, she bought a tiny house design plan, enlisted her mother for help and began a year-long journey of building her own home.
At the time, in addition to traveling for Tumbleweed workshops, she was working as an arts administrator at The Umbrella Community Arts center in Concord, Massachusetts. The art center offered her the front yard to use as the building ground for the home. Every weekend, she and her mom would camp out in the front yard and continue to build. The house construction turned from a task into a public art project. People would stop by to see the progression and Miranda expanded her construction team to include community members.
After a year of building, she was done. She hosted her second tiny house festival showcasing her new home, drove the house to Boston Children’s Museum for the annual makers festival and then moved to a Boston suburb where she permanently parked for the time being. Her home lived in the backyard belonging to a female entrepreneur who supported the arts and entrepreneurship and was happy to host Miranda as a tenant.
Miranda told me that her decision to build the house was fueled by the desire to be economically practical and self-sustaining. What she learned from it was an entire way of living. Living in a small space forces you to consider your environment and think critically about how you fill and care for things in your space, she told me. Her environment caused her to think about how she did things most people don’t pause to reflect on- how she cooked, how she spent time alone, how she managed waste. She became what she coined an “accidental environmentalist”. Most of her surrounding community didn’t have to think about where their water was coming from, but having limited resources made her more mindful of how she spent them. Existing in a small this space caused her to live more consciously and aware.
While Miranda was building her house she was also taking classes to earn her master’s in community art. She had wanted to do meaningful community art work since she took a trip to El Salvador in college to work with Claudia Bernardi, an Argentinian artist who used community art to work with victims of the El Salvadorian war. This had impacted Miranda to think about how art could be a means for social good.
While in grad school, she came up with the idea of starting a community art hotel in which people could stay at a hotel with resources, such as soap, paintings, from local artists. Hotel guests would have the opportunity to meet with and learn from the artists. This morphed into an idea in which tiny houses would be the rooms of the hotel. Thus started her quest to build this business.
Over the years, the idea has formed into Miranda’s Hearth. She started with low cost events- hosting events like the tiny house festival and bringing artists together—essentially learning about community building. In the past 1.5 years, she’s had around 150 unique interviews with people to learn about the needs of the artistic community on the North Shore. She continues to build out the Miranda’s Hearth vision. In graduate school, she was required to do a thesis community art project. Miranda wrote a book about the creative process, stressing the importance of just getting started. The book is still selling today. The title of the book, that has gained popularity in pins, magnets and stickers is “Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something”. This sentiment is reflected in all that Miranda does. Her intention is to continue building community, making connections, putting things out into the world without worrying if they are perfect. One of the things she’s found most rewarding about the art projects she’s worked on isn’t the art at all, it’s the friends that have showed up to help, who have become personally invested in projects that impact the community and the world around them.
Miranda stressed to me that this sentiment still resonates deeply with her. Most people, she said, get so wrapped up in the grand vision that when it doesn’t materialize the first time they try it, they give up. She said, “Too often stories of success start with the art piece at the end, but don’t reflect all of the many, many somethings that were created along the way.” Miranda doesn’t plan on getting caught up in that. When asked what advice she had for other people pursuing their creative passions she said, it might sound trite but don’t make art, just make something.