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Seven Samurai

'Titchy/Kitschy' - a collectable product

Seven Samurai

A limited edition ceramic collectible -
A pair of idealised rural homes, one in Japan, one in the English Lake District
Each model approx. 15cm x 15cm x 15cm

Prior to arriving in Toge, we researched the similarities between the Lake District (Grizedale’s base) and this part of Japan: both are being forced to look beyond agriculture to economic diversification; both have a largely aging population and almost no young incomers; and their physical isolation is exacerbated by extreme weather and poor public transport. Toge has the advantage of better food (!), and both places seem to benefit from a high level of public subsidy. The lack of tourists (bar the occasional paddy-field photographer) or second home-owners preserves Toge’s beauty and yet is possibly the death knell for its survival.


We initially had the idea to encourage the village to promote itself and generate income by producing and/or selling a souvenir of Toge – perhaps making them during the long winter months. Inspired by the Lake District company Lilliput Lane – which has made a huge success of its cutesy English cottage collectables – we approached them with our ideas before we left for Japan. 
They kindly gave us samples of some of their existing models to try out on a Japanese market and some mould making materials which we used to make test houses in the village which we could all try our hands at decorating by way of a test run!

We have now produced a limited artists edition (of 21) pairs of prototype models: one based on Lawson Park (the 'classic' Lake District home to Grizedale Arts) and the other on one of the oldest houses in Toge. Rather than sticking to an exact copy of this house, we worked with former Lilliput Lane sculptor Mike Atkinson to incorporate all the classic features of the Toge Houses and landscape that came out in our 'Shields of Toge' drawing session with the ladies of the village.

We have since exhibited the houses as part of the exhibition developed from our residency. The film ‘Little Deluxe Living' accompanies the houses and goes some way to laying out the strange set of ‘house-related’ coincidences we experienced during this project.

6 months after our trip to Toge the villagers visited us in the Lake District, it seems they had been impressed by the little houses we’d bought with us and later designed. At the women’s request we visited the Lilliput Lane factory to learn how to mass-produce the little houses. As well as one third of the artists edition of houses we will now be giving the moulds for the model to the villagers. Judging by the amount of notes they wrote at the factory it wouldn’t be surprising to find them mass-producing models of this house during the long snowy winter Toge months.