natural materials (224)

Optical Illusionary Carpentry in British Columbia

Lloyd: greetings from Victoria BC. Some five years ago I shot this pic … up north of here. I was up there to play at the island art festival. It’s likely that you have been there on your long and winding road. We took a little drive and when I saw this fabulous wall I shouted … STOP. I jumped out and grabbed the shot. I didn’t ask the owners permission as there seemed to be no one at home. I rediscovered the shot and have been admiring it again. Much love and gratitude to you.

Stuart

I wrote Stuart and asked if this was a painted-on optical illusion and he replied:

“No it’s not a painting. I walked up to it, sized it up, started laughing, and it’s just a very well made optical illusion in wood. Gobsmacked … I was a little.”

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Renovation of Timber Frame Church in Santa Barbara

Bob Easton, who designed (and did all the hand-lettered headlines and drawings of small buildings) in Shelter with me in 1973, has been an architect ever since, and today sent me this note, along with this photo:

“…got busy this week, in the middle of renovating 120-year-old Episcopal church here in Montecito.”

The church was apparently designed by Arthur Benton in 1900.

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My Little Hut in the Woods

I live in a little Co-Housing on a farm just outside a small town in Switzerland. In Spring 2017, I sold my the little caravan that I was living in and started sleeping at the edge of the forest 200 yards from the farm, under some huge beech trees. By the end of Summer, I was feeling really at home there and decided I would make myself a home, so I could stay there in Winter.

I could already see the place for my shelter, hugging in between a small ash tree and an overgrown pile of dirt. So I started digging, using only a knife, a folding saw, and my bare hands. My inspiration was the debris hut, a shelter i know from the wilderness school.

The main structure is made of bent hazel branches, which looks like a huge streamlined basket. This a covered with jute bags, than a thick layer of pressed straw and a thick plastic lining normally used for ponds. All this is covered with dirt.

The entrance is formed by two well-chosen bent branches and around it, I closed the gap with adobe and some embedded glass bottles for light. The door was then closed by a few layers of woolen blankets.

Heat is provided by two small burners using denatured alcohol. It was warm and cosy this first winter. And even without heating, temperatures inside never fell below 7°C (44°F) inside, with -10° (14°F) outside, the warmth from the ground keeping the interior warmer.

In 2018, I added three layers of mud plastering to the inside walls. I dug the floor deeper and added a clay layer with gravel on top, covered by an earthen floor, sealed with linseed oil and wax. A small rocket mass heater now provides heating. With all the thermal mass from the mud, it now takes a little longer to heat up, but then keeps the warmth for more than a day.

The newest addition is a double-glassed door with a wooden frame perfectly fitted to the door shape, providing a lot more light inside when I use the space during the day.

All in all, the experience of building my own shelter, with not much more than my bare hands and what materials I could find in the vicinity alone was worth the effort. I think it is one of the most basic instincts of all living beings to make their own shelter, and we humans are no exception.

–Martin Fuchs

Article in Swiss newspaper (You may need to use an incognito window to get past the web block.)

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Old Barns For Sale in Vermont

Last month, we received this letter:

Hi Lloyd

I wanted to follow up on the email I wrote earlier this week about Luke Larson, a talented historic timber framer.

Luke is currently restoring a corn crib (and several other barns built in the 1700s.) I am sure that your readers would be fascinated by Luke’s outstanding craftsmanship. He would be able to share incredible insight about his techniques, the buildings he saves and the beautiful new timber frame structures he builds.

Let me know if you would be interested in an article.

Thanks!
Rachel (Kaplan)

Here is the article:

Green Mountain Timber Frames, a small company based in Middletown Springs, Vermont, specializes in transforming vintage, hand hewn timber frames into custom homes, studios, additions, and barns. Luke Larson now owns the company and operates it with a dedicated staff of craftspeople and history buffs. Luke is passionate about preserving the history that resides in old timber frame structures, and digs into the generations of folks who have built, cared for, and used these buildings. The structures undergo a complete restoration and are put back up on new foundations, ready to stand tall and true with integrity for many generations to come. Luke and his team are dedicated to preserving the craftsmanship from the past, as well as being students and teachers of the crafts of yesteryear. Take a look to see his current barns for sale.

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Straw Bale and Clay in Slovakia

This year marks 10 years since our first teaching trip to Slovakia when we made good friends here, Bjørn Kierulf and his wife Zuzana Kierulfova, who are a major force here in the world of straw and clay building. We’re here doing two workshops: a short 2-day straw bale workshop and currently in the middle of a 3-day plastering class.

Interestingly enough, this is the first time we have taught workshops consisting of mostly full-time builders.

In the photo, Boris Hochel and Zuzana Kierulfova, two of our oldest acquaintances here in Slovakia, Zuzana Kierulfova and Peter Coch Shaman, who is also very active in the world of natural building.

–Bill and Athena Steen

www.caneloproject.com

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Two-story Mud House in Togo, Africa

Photo by Yoshio Komatsu from his children’s book Wonderful Houses Around the World. This is next to a large baobab tree in the Tamberma region of Togo. The outside of the house is painted red with paint from the nut of the Karite tree. Bedrooms are on the second story, animals on first story. Note goose and goslings heading for their ramp on right side. Bones hanging on walls are to scare away evil spirits. Nine family members live here.

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