Every night this summer, Dani Guo went to sleep to the sound of crickets and the site of stars floating over a field. The 27 year old is a seeker of a simple life. For five months she found it on a farm in Copetown.
Guo’s home was in a cottage the size of a big garden shed. It had a sink, and some chairs, a lamp, and a ladder to the sleeping loft .She cooked her meals in an outdoor kitchen, and used the outhouse as needed. The carefree life, short on stuff but big on experience was what the 27 year old wanted, “It was really nice not having clutter, I didn’t need to worry about having so many things to clean and look after.”
On her path to a plain way of life, Guo was lucky to meet the artist Dave Hind, and fortunate to find her way to ManoRun Organic Farm in Copetown. Farm owner Chris Krucker and Hind had hatched an idea to create Cottage Industrious. Hind would built a magical little cottage to house an agricultural intern on the farm, three days a week the intern would plant, weed and harvest, and the other three days they would make art. Guo, a Toronto native saw an ad for the internship on when she was working on a farm in Hawaii. “I couldn't believe someone combined art and farming, I never thought such a thing existed.”
Guo was charmed by the 14’ by 10’ cottage Hind built. He’d been making paintings out of recycled aluminum, and they kept getting bigger. “They started to resemble walls,” Hind says. So the idea of an art object made functional led to Cottage Industrious. All parts of the cottage are recycled. In addition to recycled aluminum Hind used windows and doors discarded from a renovation, and bits and pieces of old lumber for interior walls and shelves. The inspired floor is made of damaged highway signs from the 401. “I saw a broken sign and got the number for the company that makes them, they were happy to see them reused.”
The exterior cottage walls are the artist’s canvas. One side is covered by an aluminum painting of an igloo Hind made with The Aluminum Quilting Society, an artist’s collective. The patchwork pieces interpret a 1950’s Life Magazine photo of an experimental igloo made of Styrofoam.
On the opposite side Guo drew and etched her experience of farm life on bits of recycled aluminum. Each piece, about the size of a baseball card, records the day-to-day work on the farm, from harvesting beets to planting corn. It’s a botanical journal for a new age.
Cottage Industrious is a concept for a different way of living according to Hind, art meets agriculture meets simple shelter. It may grow into a village. Already Hind’s portable, wood-fired sauna is parked next to the cottage, next summer he may add a bathhouse. The cottage will be improved Hind says, but not too much. “It’s about simple pleasures, being outside, wood fires, feeling alive.”
Guo’s internship finished in October. She’s packed her one bag and moved on to a monastery in New Zealand where she will cook and garden in return for room and board. Though she has a Masters in international relations, she found the work discouraging, life on the land with less is her path. “Sleeping in the loft with the stars and the fireflies, it made me fell like a kid again.”