Little house, big idea

Check out sculptor Tim Laursen’s custom-made ‘Teahouse’ at the Granary Gallery.


Sculptor Tim Laursen of West Tisbury really made his mark on the Vineyard last summer when the M.V. Museum installed his large-scale, solar-powered sculpture “Sun Bird” outdoors on its new campus. The kinetic steel and bronze sculpture, with a seven-foot wingspan and flapping wings, has been captivating visitors since it first landed on the grounds of the museum in July. Although “Sun Bird” is his first public outdoor installation on the Island, Laursen has been designing and executing impressive moving sculptural pieces for many years, during his time both in New York City and on the Vineyard.

Now Laursen is debuting his latest work outdoors at the Granary Gallery. It’s a shed-size structure built of recycled material, with floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides and stained glass inserts. “The Teahouse,” as the artist is currently calling it, features solar panels that provide electricity for the building. “I like to imagine that, for someone, it will be their night light,” says Laursen. “I want it to be a spiritual place for someone to go to be by themselves and be a part of the world through the glass windows. It reminds me of being in a boat when you look back to the Vineyard, and the lights from houses on the shore look so cozy and nice.”

“The Teahouse” is for sale, and is also a prototype for anyone who would like one custom-built to their specifications. Laursen describes the structure: “‘The Teahouse’ is 8 feet wide by 10 feet long. You could read, write, meditate, practice yoga, or take a nap in it. It collects solar energy all day. It’s completely off-grid. You can plug your laptop into the solar-powered outlet and go online.” The structure can be customized with Wi-Fi.

With everything that he creates, Laursen repurposes much of his material. Of the “Teahouse” he says, “It is 80 percent recycled materials. The frame was made from leftover steel from a construction site on Martha’s Vineyard. The windows were from a tear-down, and the wood was from the kind of pile of boards you’d find in half the backyards on the Island. It was all headed for the dump when I diverted it to my horde. The idea was to try to create a structure that would age nicely on a rigid frame. The steel frame will always hold its shape. I left the wood unfinished. It will age like a natural board, turning colors as it heads to gray. I do not want to add anything to change the natural state of the wood. I feel more of a connection with materials when they are like this. The roof will be finished upon purchase with your choice of wood, rubber, or copper.”

Laursen, who also works with glass, has included some decorative stained glass windows and a triangular panel that casts beautiful colors across the “Teahouse” interior.

The artist, who was born and raised on the Vineyard, studied animation and film at the Rhode Island School of Design. There he found himself particularly inspired by projects that involved prop construction. After college, Laursen spent about 10 years playing music and traveling around the country with various bands and musicians, including his longtime friend, acclaimed singer and songwriter Willy Mason.

Laursen lived in Brooklyn from 2010 until 2019. There he spent time working with, and learning from, various contemporary artists, including Jonathan Schipper, known for his large-scale event-based conceptual sculptures, and Duke Riley, who creates experimental dynamic installations. “I’ve learned so much from the people I crossed paths with, and I am grateful for them all,” says the artist and musician.

He has shown his work at various galleries and sites around New York, including at the Maker’s Fair at the old World’s Fair Grounds in Queens. One of his most impressive projects is a spectacular elephant-size, fur-covered robotic sculpture of the Indian god Ganesha, whose multiple limbs play drums while the creature’s illuminated body moves up and down and his head rotates 360°. The sculpture is a marvel of engineering, as well as an impressive work of art.

Laursen has spent time living variously in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. “My goal has always been to try new things and live in different places, then come back here, build a family, and practice what I’ve learned,” he says. “Martha’s Vineyard is a great place to live and work.”

Currently Laursen is working on commission projects, and planning his next very ambitious project, which will incorporate his passion for music with his skills as an artist. Chris Morse, owner of the Granary Gallery, who has been working with Laursen for years, says, “He is one of the most brilliant, creative artists, with an engineer’s mind and a musician’s disposition. He has so many layers of creativity, and he’s got tremendous depth. He thinks in a sort of Jules Verne way, as in, How can I realize any vision, no matter how challenging?”

Tim Laursen’s “The Teahouse” is currently on display in front of the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury. Laursen can custom-make a similar structure or, it would seem, just about anything. Visit timothylaursen on Instagram to see more of the artist’s work and view videos of some of his projects.