- Photo provided by Katie Barnes
Katie Barnes’ Snow Pond Ceramics creates big beauty in small places.
Katie Barnes is in the business of making tiny ceramic cities. In addition to showing and selling them at art events, she also hides them throughout Columbia. If you’re lucky enough to find one, it’s yours to keep — or you can re-hide it for another scavenger to find.
Katie is passionate and prolific when it comes to what she makes, and her Instagram account, Snow Pond Ceramics, has a large, avid following. Katie loves what she does, and that love translates to her work.
Katie got started with pottery on the wheel when she was young and then got back into it years later. When she was home during the pandemic, she was inspired to start again.
“I felt a very strong desire to be creative with clay, and so my studio director said, ‘You know, I’ll just give you bags of clay, and you can drop them off at the garage and I’ll fire them, hands-free,’” Katie recalls. “So I started playing with clay at the kitchen table with my kids, and they were building creatures, and I kind of shaped a tiny house, and we were all like, ‘Oh, look, that’s so cute,’ and it just kind of took off from there.”
From scraps to art
Katie was then inspired to share what she does with her community.
“I’ve always been into hiding little things around. My kids would break the tail off a toy dinosaur, and then we’d hide it somewhere on a hike, in a tree,” she says.
She explains that when you make pottery, there’s a lot of excess material that normally would go to waste. Katie brainstormed ways to make use of that clay.
“I started making medium-sized angular houses, and then I realized, ‘Gosh, I could make a lot of small houses out of the scraps of the medium-sized houses I have in front of me.'” And she did, eventually creating what she calls “an insane amount of tiny houses.”
The hunt is on
From there Katie started listing some of those houses on Etsy — where she has made almost 900 sales — but she still had a remarkable surplus. Ultimately, she thought she’d just leave one someplace, and then that idea caught on. Now, she’s frequently approached by people who are thankful that they have randomly stumbled onto one of her creations. Making her art interact with her community guides how she creates.
Katie won’t tell you exactly where to look for her tiny cities, but she will give up some clues
“I typically hide houses downtown — on windowsills, in trees, between bricks,” Katie says. “I also hide a few outside of the public library every few weeks and along popular hiking trails in the area. I sometimes post hints within my Instagram stories when I hide them, but not always.”
Katie says her inspiration comes from the desire to give joy to the community, and from her own creative impulses.
“I do think that creating these houses seems to bring people a lot of happiness in a very tiny package,” she says. “I like to use splashes of color here and there — doors, sunshine, rainbow raindrops — and lots of details to give my tiny houses a big personality.”