House portraits are familiar, but Liz Mathews goes one step further by capturing the heart of a home in her mesmerising clay miniatures.
(Country Life, 2019)
Liz Mathews makes architectural studies in clay, including one-off house portraits – celebrations of special places, from cottages to castles. Each unique piece is individually hand-built by the artist, working from photographs to create a small-scale sculpture of the facade in low relief (seen from your perspective, rather than a bird’s eye view).
Every characteristic detail of the facade is captured, from quirky architectural features down to the lamps, house nameplate and roses round the door, as well as glimpses of the rooms inside the windows. Each portrait combines meticulous accuracy of detail in miniature with a sensitive evocation of the spirit of the place. The subject is carefully measured and drawn from photographs, then hand-built in either terracotta or stoneware to reflect the original building material. The windows are glazed – literally – creating a tangible object that feels, as well as looks, right. Liz can even make a portrait of a place that only exists in memory now – a happy childhood home, or a long-ago holiday cottage. Working from your photos and memories, she is able to make a very special memento of a treasured building.
‘You did a replica of our house many years ago. We still treasure it.’ (Jane and Sue, Cambridgeshire)
Ideal for formal commemorations too, these studies in miniature work well for presentations, perhaps on retirement, leaving or to mark an important company date like a centenary. They’re also perfect to commemorate more personal occasions: a birthday, an anniversary, wedding or even a house-move, so that your former home can come with you to your new one. Subjects have included significant places all over the world, from stately homes to log cabins, with churches, pubs, hotels, town halls, shop-fronts and galleries, even a fire-station, all being portrayed with the same attention to detail and feeling for atmosphere. A selection of past commissions can be seen on the Gallery page.
‘I am very pleased indeed. It is perfect… how well you caught the colour and detail.’ (Andrew, Edinburgh)
Catching a likeness: trained as an art historian specialising in English vernacular architecture, Liz has an eye for the quirks and details that count, to help her capture a real tangible likeness of each subject. She made her first one-off house portrait 30-odd years ago in 1986, and many of these miniatures have become treasured heirlooms now. As well as hundreds of individual house portraits, Liz has made architectural studies as formal presentations for public organisations like the National Trust and museums, hospitals, schools, theatres and societies. Her work has featured in national publications including Country Life, The Times, The Guardian, Country Living, Time Out, Crafts, and Ceramic Review, Anglia TV and BBC Radio.
‘If, after months of toil and rubble, you’ve finally finished restoring your house, you could celebrate by commissioning a replica of the result. Liz Mathews’ ceramic reliefs are hand-built in terracotta or stoneware to reflect the building’s brick or stonework, and duplicate every detail down to the name plaque or roses round the door.’ (Country Living, 1993)
These small unique artworks are surprisingly affordable: each portrait is a signed original. Usually measuring around 20cm x 10cm high, they have an integral hanger, or will stand comfortably on shelf or mantelpiece, or on a plate-stand. As well as a studio potter, Liz is also a lettering artist, and can letter an inscription on the flat back of the portrait – name and date, commemorating the occasion of the commission. Prices start at £500.
Architectural drawings are an intrinsic part of the process of making house portraits in clay – so Liz also draws detailed architectural portraits to commission. Working in graphite on beautiful handmade paper, and sometimes including lettered elements, Liz draws with the same meticulous accuracy and attention to detail. An original signed artwork from £300 for a drawing on A4 paper, or £400 for a drawing on A3 paper.
For images of house portraits and commissions, please see Gallery
For a tour of Liz’s exhibition at Burgh House, go to Exhibition page
To find out about having a portrait made, see Commissioning
For more information visit Liz’s gallery-blog Daughters of Earth
And for all enquiries, please leave a message on the Contact page