Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2008 Natural Building Colloquium

After a wonderfully full season of building on Vancouver Island, I delightfully found myself heading south to California in October. My destination was the 2008 West Coast Natural Building Colloquium. This gathering of Natural Building peers was put on by the Natural Building Network, and hosted at beautiful Orella Ranch in Goleta, the northern edge of Santa Barbara. If the setting wasn't enough, overlooking the spectacular Gaviota coast and nestled in giant Live Oaks (above photo), the experiences had during the gathering were equally as beautiful. Below are some shots of the character-rich facilities where we passed many hours talking, lounging, and eating wonderful fresh foods.

Greatly inspiring was the amount of love and passion that everyone brought to this gathering, the work people are pouring themselves into, and the eagerness to share knowledge with one another.

From Shannon Dealy talking about the "what not to's", and Sukita busting out the earthen floors, ...with a hammer, to a full on 40-80 people working in harmony on a multi-system set of washrooms, we sure did cover a lot of dirt!

Of course, with this lovely array of exceptionally talented and creative Natural Builders, art was not a theme that ran shy. Below left, Erica Ann is seen figuring out just how to make a stained-glass window with cob. I was honoured to be a part of detailing this window, and watching the many transformations that it went through. The whole process was quite interesting and the results, shown in the two photos to the right, are just a peek at how expressively wonderful cob, colour, and form can be.

There was magic happening all over as friends, both old and new, and families, spanning many generations (the little one, Secoya, lending a helpful hand with the saws, is part of the 7th generation on the land!!) came together with a common dream.

We came from all around to share with each other our love and passion
for Mother Earth and the tools and materials she gives us to live from. We have dedicated a large part of our lives to creating a livelihood from these gifts, and giving back in the many ways that we can. We are Natural Builders of many shapes, ways, and forms. We love to get our hands and feet dirty. We love to walk gently and slowly. We love to live and play outside. For many of us our work is our play is our home.

This was the first of these
gatherings that I have attended. It was an experience I will remember for much time to come, some for the rest of my life I am sure. It was a time and place where I met more of my family and made connections and friendships that I will always carry with me. I am definitely already looking forward to the next reunion!

Even the cooks couldn't help themselves after a while...mmmm, edible homes!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Art Studio

Here sits the Art Studio when I was first introduced to it in April of 2008. This would be my stomping ground, quite literally, for the next six months as I learned the art of natural building at O.U.R.(One Untied Resource) Ecovillage.

There was a whole lot of cob to be made the good ol' "Canadian" way, with boots on and stomping outside of the tarps! It was still a little too cold for barefoot mixing.

We were each given the opportunity to pick a place of focus to work on. I chose to give some attention to the back and curve of the bench. The first thing I did was find and clean the beautiful piece of Arbutus for the top of the back of the bench. This was installed quite a bit more easily then I had expected, with a single screw into the cob, and a re-bar pin into the floor. Elke is seen driving the screw into the cob wall in the image to the right. Nails were also hammered in to provide key for the cob to grab hold of. This thing isn't going anywhere! After this, I started on applying the cob to form the base structure for the bench seat. I got into trimming quite a bit, and the nook started to take more and more shape. Anchors were set in to give a fastening surface for the exquisite piece of maple that was selected for the bench.

The backside of the bench creates the entrance way of the Art Studio's main floor, so I decided on some simple shelves for the space.

My creative energy was able to be released with the wall sculpture. It was fun to play with form, structure, and purpose together. Here is a closeup of the leaf shelf part way up the wall.

The series of images below go through the three final stages of the sculpture, from formation, to mosaic, and then finish colour.

Emilio and Riki were awesome at helping get the aliz just right. The moon was done with a blue aliz, and the sun with a more orange and red swirl. I also placed some large mica in this area to give it some glitter.

More photos of the finished area coming soon...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Love Nest

Here (left) is a view of the garden. Between the two greenhouses is where the Love Nest eventually found it's home! The image to the right is the phase of the then "Garden Bench" when I took over the build. There was a cob workshop at the time, and I took some of the participants around to scare up interesting artifacts that could possibly be made a part of the bench. The structure had not been worked on for about two months. Time and rain had been taking their toll. It was the moment for some love to be poured into the project.
The flow really got going with a few sketches and the expansion of the stone footings and addition of the four cedar posts. The simple bench was fast becoming a cozy little garden nook!

With two other cob projects going on at the same time, the decision was agreed upon to try out a faster way to make a whole lot of cob. Out came the bobcat. This really is a great way to make a lot of cob, but make sure that the batch is big enough to justify the method!

The ladies that stuck with the project for the length of the workshop were a lot of fun, and we got so much built in just the few days they were there. I hope they have continued to get their feet dirty!

Later we had a PDC (permaculture design course) and were able to start on the finish plaster with many artistic features from a variety of collaborators. Brandy came up with some sweet little red heart-shaped glass pieces, and on one of my walks around the property I stumbled upon a fallen birds' nest. The Garden Bench soon became known as the Love Nest.

We had a beautiful salmon coloured clay on hand, so I opted to use it as our base, adding a bit of orange pigment, getting the playful colour of the finish coat. I also used some lighter alises to create just the right amount of contrast to some key areas. The weather seal on the walls ended up being a 30:70 glue:water wash, which had shown good results on other structures on-site. The actual bench seat will receive a linseed oiling for durability.

Here are some nice little closeups of some of the artistic details that really bring the Love Nest together, including; the little corner nook, the mosaic window that was done the year before by the interns, and the birds' nest found on my walk.

These last two shots do a nice job of giving one the idea of shape, size, and feel. The design calls for a living roof (suitable for a bench in a garden) and I can't wait until that goes up!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Welcome Friends

Greetings Earth Loving Friends!

I am newly inspired to try once again at keeping a blog going.
I will mostly be focusing on my interactions with the earth, and my life as an artist. As I progress along this beautifully foliated path, gleaning from the wonderful delights along the way, I witness a blooming and a metamorphosis.

As time moves along, people are coming round circle and once again taking more notice of the true gift that is our Earth. We realize that it is long overdue to pay closer attention and strive to protect our wonderful natural habitat.

This blog goes along a journey, my journey, as I move through this circle. The progression of my efforts to serve Mother Earth through art, form, and education will happily be shared.
Please feel free to post comments, express your interest, and share your stories with us all. Together we will make a difference!

Listen to the Earth speak.

Keep in Going, Keep it Growing.