Tiny Drop mobile home on cutting edge of efficient living

If big things come in small packages, eco-builder Shannon Bryant and her partners have built a mansion.

Measuring in at a seemingly minuscule 150 square-feet, their Tiny Drop mobile home is an ultra energy-efficient abode that boasts cutting-edge technology, durability and a carbon footprint as tiny as its name suggests.

“Our company, Tend Building, does small, energy-efficient homes and studios and we love to build out of salvaged materials,” Bryant said during Tiny Drop’s open house on Wednesday at Crazywood Gallery. “We were doing high-performance houses, and we wanted to do something to where we could show people what we can do and that meant putting it on wheels.”

Bryant, who is from Vermont but now resides in Houston, makes houses like Tiny Drop for folks who want to live a bit more ecologically and efficiently. Built almost entirely out of salvaged and repurposed materials, Tiny Drop is at the forefront of a new-age building movement.

“We became interested in the tiny-house movement, and we decided to build one and bring it around so people could see what it is like,” Bryant added. “All the people who have been in it so far say it feels really expansive, so we’re able to talk to them about what we do and why we do it.”

Upon entry, the interior space feels much larger than the outside suggests. Natural lighting and a host of windows in every corner helps connect occupants to the world outside and shake off any feelings of claustrophobia.

In keeping with the natural theme, Tiny Drop also uses a fresh-air system to circulate oxygen into the cabin and odor-free building materials, along with a moisture-removing vent fan to keep the interior clean and pristine.

Not one to skimp on the necessary amenities, Bryant also installed a spring water-filtration system, an on-demand water heater and an exhaust-controlled furnace for chilly nights on the road or in the park with everything being powered through solar panels on the roof.

“In creating this space, we were really focused on things that have two or more purposes to be able to fit everything in there,” Bryant said. “Having such a small footprint, not having to clean the house so much and not having to have a big mortgage gives us more time to be able to do the things we really want to do.”

After working with nationally renowned eco-builder Dan Phillips for a few years, Bryant said she was bitten by the same bug he has and now looks endlessly for free and usable materials to repurpose for larger projects.

“He is a big inspiration to me,” Bryant added. “Working with him made me see things differently and now as I’m driving down the road, I’m always keeping an eye out for new materials.”

“She joined my crew about three or four years ago wanting to become a builder and she basically taught herself everything she knows,” Phillips said. “I just gave her an opportunity to learn and now she’s got her own company and she’s building houses that are just beautifully done.”

For more information on Tiny Drop or to find out more about Tend Building, visit tendbuilding.com or contact Bryant at shannon@tendbuilding.com

Perfection in print: The National Parks Photography Project

Few experiences in life can compare to spending time in one of America’s national parks. Whether you’re paddling up the iceberg-ridden waters of Glacier Bay’s East Arm, breathing in the wide open scenery of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, or hiking up to a primitive site on the High Chisos Trail in Big Bend, the spacious solitude of protected nature can soothe even the most troubled soul.

If you happen to be between excursions, or lacking the time to sneak out to one of “America’s Greatest Treasures,” the Sam Houston Memorial Museum is currently hosting an exhibition that will visually transport you to all 59 national parks in a matter of hours.

Over the last four years, photographer Mark Burns, a Houston native, has been charged with the exhilarating task of documenting each park for The National Parks Photography Project. Spanning more than two dozen states, the collection pays tribute to the rich history and heritage of our national parks while celebrating the centennial of The National Parks Service body.

The exhibit, which will be on display at the Katy & E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center through May 22, is presented in a simple and effective manner, with no unnecessary features. Clean black frames with white matting let the photographs do all the talking, while powerful quotes by past Presidents, writers and statesmen — many touching on the importance of preservation — float above the symmetrical groupings in subtle vinyl.

In rich, black and white prints, Burns’ understanding of the shape and scope of still life’s power is evident before you reach the second piece. These are no ordinary landscape snapshots, they are full, natural events captured in an instant with months of preparation. Burns has created intricate situations that magnificently portray the majesty of untouched nature when the only human forcing is that of preservation.

Working in true form with a large-format camera and fiber-based papers, the technical prowess shown by Burns is remarkable. Perfectly spanning the full monochromatic scale in every frame, each print seems to be born from ultimate patience and perseverance, both on the trail and in the darkroom.

Wispy clouds play in unison with the cresting peak of a mountain, reflections are framed in exact detail and common sights such as Yosemite’s monumental El Capitan are translated into other-worldly scenes through precise framing, toning and Burns’ ability to wait — for weeks it seems — for that perfect moment to release the shutter.

While the collection brings back memories of Ansel Adams in both production and presence, it seems to share the same romantic connection to the land that Adams had. Burns treats the landscape as if it had never been photographed before, highlighting contrasting elements, sprawling textures and astounding vistas to show the land’s worth and merit.

Over the next two weeks, take an hour (or three) and immerse yourself in this powerful show. The nearest national park may be hours away, but right now, all of them are just around the corner.

For more information on The National Parks Photography Project, visit www.mburnsphoto.com or www.thenationalparksphotographyproject.com.