Big Clown Tiny Home

Whenever I speak about building and living in a tiny house I always stress that the experience isn’t just about the size of the house but about the philosophy of “tiny” living. There are so many reasons to go tiny but one of the biggest one I’ve seen among people in our community is the desire for freedom. Freedom from debt, freedom from demanding schedules, and freedom from feeling trapped. 

The one common trait most tiny house people seem to have is the interest and ability to take risks and make these big changes in their lives even when they know it won’t always be perfect. Each time I meet a new tiny house person who exemplifies this I get excited all over again just the way I was when we broke ground on our own home. 

The past April, while Matt and I were in Portland, Oregon for the Tiny House Conference, we had the pleasure of meeting Michael O’Neill, a real-life clown building his own real-life tiny home. Building a tiny house for me was a catalyst to force myself to follow my dream. For Michael, it is a continuation and a tool to enhance it. I immediately sensed a kindred spirit and I am excited to share some of his story with you here today.

Michael's big project, besides building a tiny home, is to create a series of silent films. I absolutely adore the first installment. 

Tell me about your project? 

My "Big Clown Tiny Home" project is two projects in one. First is the building of the home itself. A 136 square foot home on wheels designed by architect Leandra Eich in Boston and being built by myself and several friends while being over seen by license contractor Stefan Jecusco. The build will be taking place on Sisyphus farms in Gresham OR owned by to very good friends Charlie & Zefer Brown. The build begins on August 3rd and we hope to be done by the end of September (8 weeks). The second part of the project is a series of silent film episodes where the Big Clown/BC shows up at the build and things unfold in a way you might expect.

What got you interested in tiny houses?

Back in the early to mid 90's I worked for the Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and lived in a 4X8 room for two years. I believe this was the first indication that I could live in tiny spaces. I then went onto living in small spaces in shared community housing. I felt that a small space of my own would be nice. Approximately 4 years ago I heard about the tiny house movement and was very intrigue by the thought, I lived in Seattle at the time in a small apartment with a loft. When I moved back to Portland in 2013 I again was living in a shared home with my cousin. In the spring of 2014 I started to think, “Why couldn't I have a Tiny Home.” Later that Fall I started to make a plan. Meeting you and your husband made the plan more of a reality and now I'm only weeks away from getting my trailer delivered.

What are your plans with your tiny house? 

My hope is to have three or four locations around the Portland area to live in it while I spend time in and out of Portland. My plan for the next 5 years is to tour the US with several different shows, and also tour internationally with Clowns Without Borders, and I would like to have a simple home to come back to when I return. Honestly I haven't thought much about the plan after it's built. My plan is to have it off grid with the option of plugging it in.

How did you get into performing? 

This is a long story, I started to perform in High School in 1989. I was terrified and had no intention of making it my life's work. After graduation I attended a Community College with the goal of becoming a high school math teacher. After the third semester at school I began to realize that I was spending all my time in the theater. I rethought my plan, transferred to a 4 year program, and started studying theatre day and night. In 1993 I auditioned for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, I was accepted and attended the following fall. In October of 1994 I was offered a contract with the Greatest Show on Earth and I spent the next three years traveling and performing. In 1998 I took a year off to reevaluate what I should do next, that fall I attended Dell Arte International school of Physical Theatre. Following my 9 month intensive I moved to Portland and my stuff has been here ever since. There is a lot to this story so feel free to contact me.

What are you looking forward to the most living in a tiny home? 

The thought of living alone excites me. Not for the reasons you might think. It's hard to feel like you can move freely in a home owned and run by other people. There is one thing to live with several people and rent a place, there is equal ownership when you all rent. Please don't get me wrong everyone I have lived with in the past has been welcoming and I love them for the space they have let me occupy. I would just like to have my own space. The simpleness of living in small spaces I have always enjoyed and look forward to being in that place again.

Welcome to the Tiny House Community, Michael!  

If you want to know more about Michael’s project visit his Indie Gogo page, Big Clown Tiny Home, and spread the word!