Architectural reliefs & house portraits

House portraits.

Meticulous small scale architectural sculpture in low relief.

Queen Anne house portrait (detail)

I make small scale portraits of individual houses to commission, handbuilt in terracotta or stoneware, depending on the original building material, with detailed decoration and glazed windows. I’ve made portraits of all kinds of houses, some for the National Trust, many for individuals, from thatched cottages to castles, always seeking to catch the unique character and essential spirit of the place. (Please have a look at One house, six portraits for a Work in Focus post on one of my recent commissions.)

This is one of my all-time favourites – a lovely house with interesting brick and stonework, and beautiful gable detailing. I like to include as much detail as possible, to show the individual character of the subject; for this house, I also made the house name plate, which appears in the portrait.

This one’s Peckover House, a National Trust property in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, which I’ve made several portraits of, including one as new, without the wisteria, for a historical society. I’m sometimes commissioned to make a portrait of a childhood home that no longer exists, when I work from old photos and people’s detailed memories; portraits like this can be very special, containers of memories and happy times in a quite extraordinary way.

Here’s another of my favourites: ‘the most perfect Georgian street in England’ (Pevsner) – North Brink, Wisbech, which I’ve made several stretches of, in interlocking sections, for different people. One was for a doctor retiring to Stirling who wanted to take the scene of her much-loved working life into retirement with her.  And these portraits are very good for occasions like moving away or retiring. But I often make not-quite-so-grand subjects:

this one’s our old gallery in Whitechapel – a typical Victorian town-house;

and this one’s a cottage in Norfolk – a lovely subject with the archway through to the garden. I often make portraits of modern houses too:

this nice mock-Tudor house has lovely brickwork and interesting detailing.

This one really is a log cabin in Switzerland.

And this is a good example of a much-loved ‘ordinary’ house which makes an ideal subject. I often make portraits of larger subjects like hospitals, churches and factories for retirement commissions:

They’re made in low relief, so they hang on the wall or stand on a shelf, with a flat back that’s ideal for an inscription. I work from photographs (which you can send me by email or post – and I have a short photo guide to let you know what I need), and prices start at £500 for quite a straightforward subject. They are ideal for formal presentations or commemorative celebrations. I also draw architectural subjects on handmade paper for presentations, often combined with a hand-lettered inscription – prices for these start at £300 (on A4 paper), and £400 (on A3 paper), and again, the price is determined by the complexity of the subject and the time it will take to make the portrait. ( I can also frame a portrait on paper: this usually adds about £50 for a frame in, for example, oak or beech.) The portrait on paper below is a pencil drawing of the Royal London Hospital facade (clay portrait shown above), here surrounded by the names of its wards as a retirement gift commissioned for a ward-sister. A portrait on paper can be a good solution if time is too short to wait for the making and firing cycle for a clay portrait – I do need a minimum of six weeks for a portrait in clay commission and I usually have a waiting list, but I can often make a paper portrait more quickly. I’m always happy to take a look at your photo for a commission enquiry, and can usually give you a rough estimate of price and timing from a snap. My portraits are always unique, and become treasured mementoes and containers of special times and memories.

Many different subjects work well, as long as the facade has interesting features and a strong character. Most of all I enjoy catching a likeness of a much-loved house and garden, with its own individual feeling: I try to catch not just the features of the face, but the expression and life in the eyes too.

And the same house in a portrait on paper:

I’m always happy to discuss a possible subject and estimate for a commission – if you send me a photo, I can let you know how much your subject would be likely to work out at.  Potters’ Yard house portraits is my website dedicated to these miniature architectural studies, with a gallery of past commissions, full information about the commissioning process and a contact page; you’re very welcome to send me an enquiry about a place you think might work as a portrait.

Architectural reliefs

Tympanum is an example of my larger scale architectural reliefs: wall-hanging detailed low-relief sculptures of architectural subjects.  This one’s based on one of the doorways to San Marco in Venice; or the subject could be an imposing Georgian brickwork gateway connecting an English country churchyard with its manorial lands:

I enjoy making studies of architectural details in series, for example of San Marco, St Paul’s, Winchelsea Church, Castle Rising, looking at the brickwork or tracery detailing, or quirky features. Or sometimes I make portraits of individual buildings that have caught my eye and I often have some of these studies for sale; please contact me for further information. My architectural studies and house portraits have featured in such great British institutions as Country Living, The Times, The Guardian, and House and Garden; and Country Life ran a special feature on my work on 13th March 2019 in the issue devoted to Smaller Country Houses. I’m currently working on a group of portraits of the smaller historic houses of London, for an exhibition in Burgh House, Hampstead, that was postponed from 2020 due to lockdown and I hope will now take place in 2021.

Potters’ Yard house portraits is at

To enquire about any work, please leave me a note in the comment box below or click on contact details.

All photographs copyright Liz Mathews.

7 Responses to “Architectural reliefs & house portraits”

  1. […] Architectural reliefs & house portraits […]

  2. Jane and Sue Says:

    You did a replica of our house on Edes Terrace in Wisbech many years ago. We still treasure it.

    Best wishes Jane and Sue

  3. John Says:

    Hi do you make o guage(1:43 scale) miniature models of these? pls let meknow. thanx

    • No, I don’t make models at all, only low-relief sculptures of individual architectural elevations and the scale varies depending on the subject. I aim for the human perspective rather than a bird’s eye view.
      Many thanks for your interest. Liz

  4. A new website devoted to my house portraits can be found at
    with a lovely gallery of my favourite past commissions, and a commissioning page that explains the process.
    I’ve added a blogpost about the new site here on Daughters of Earth at
    House portraits from Potters’ Yard

  5. john key Says:

    We still treasure our house and Wisbech Fire Station they take pride of place in our home.Always a talking point. Thanks Liz.

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