Deep dive into the world of clay.

We regularly attend seminars and training courses to further educate ourselves in the field of natural building and healthy living in the countryside. It is a great opportunity to connect & build a network with very interesting people — to learn, exchange and grow. Here I tell you about my experience at a natural building workshop at Cob in Larissa, Greece.


How connected are we with nature — our earth?


What does it do to us when we experience less and less of the natural world and no longer feel it in our own bodies? We become alienated from our own nature, which gives us so much. We lose the knowledge of how things work in nature, how to use the natural resources that surround us in a healthy way. What do we know about natural ecosystems and cycles? Are we part of it? What do we give to nature and what do we take?

“What do we give to nature
and what do we take?”

 

 

The consequences of climate change and environmental pollution are getting worse day by day. We often feel powerless, don’t know what we can do to protect our environment — or don’t really realize how badly we are damaging it. We can change a lot with our behavior and how we live, but the first step is to become aware of things.

I think one reason why it is so difficult to protect nature and live in harmony with it, is, because it has become alien to us and we no longer are familiar with it. The workshop helps us to become aware of this. During the 3 days deep dive into the clay, there is a noticeable change in awareness.


You stand barefoot in cob, you see cob, you talk about cob, you build with cob. But what actually is cob?

Cob is a mixture of sand, silt and clay and is one of the oldest building materials! The first clay buildings were discovered in Jericho 10.000 years ago. Even then, hand-shaped clay bricks were made from it. Even today, half of humanity still lives in buildings made of clay.


Clay is earth. What does the earth mean to us — and above all, what does it give us?

It is the ground on which we move, it provides protection for humans and animals, it is the reason why we have something to eat every day. It is therefore an essential part of our lives. How often do we realize this?

What do we give our precious earth?

The list of negative factors is long: soil erosion, land sealing, intensive land use, deforestation, overuse, waste, toxins, pollution, resource depletion, …

And what positive things can we do with the earth?

To get to know this resource a little better and become aware of some things, it helps to really experience it yourself. For example while working with it, like we did in the workshop.


Hands on! Everyone can do it!

Outside, fresh air, sunshine and 30 motivated young people. The clay and sand come directly from the area. The recipe is simple. Take 1/3 clay, 2/3 sand, a few handfuls of straw and water. Then shoes off and off you go! Stomping everything for as long as you like, dancing on it and a few minutes later the mixture is ready to be worked.

There are various techniques, there are really no limits to your imagination. With the help of molds, you can shape the clay into bricks. Or you can glue it directly to a structure that you have built from bamboo, for example. You also can take the pure clay–not the mixture, and stamp it together so that it becomes a solid compressed form. You can also combine other building techniques (wood, straw, stones, …) with the clay.

It is fascinating to see what a short time it takes to create such a structure out of nothing — with people from different backgrounds, some of whom have had nothing to do with the material or with building. Intuitively, just get going, tackle it and learn in the process. You learn as you go, immersing yourself in the material so that the clay teaches you how best to handle it. No skilled builders, just a few motivated people who are open to new things.


Outdoorkitchen — almost ready in 3 days.

At this workshop, a kind of outdoor kitchen was designed, which was attached to an existing “kafenion” (greek coffee place) building. The “kafenion” is to be refurbished and the outdoor area is also to be used. A bench made of rammed earth was built on the back wall, a wall that serves as wind and sun protection, made of a woven structure of bamboo with clay, which transitions to a wall made of clay bricks into which a barbecue and an oven were integrated. Everything was then sealed with a natural clay plaster (sand, lime, straw, water), which becomes harder and harder like an eggshell, but continues to “breathe”. It protects from water, but breathable.



Our perception has been shaped by clay.

A few days after the workshop, many of the participants are connected in a Whats App Group and suddenly it starts that one of them reports to see only earth everywhere, the next one only sees different kinds of walls, the next one dreams of building with clay. Our perception has been shaped by clay.

We grounded ourselves and connected with the earth by throwing ourselves into the clay on these days full of practice. A beautiful way to learn, I think — so intuitive.


How do we want to live & how can we use cob in the future?

A clay building is characterized by good living comfort and a very pleasant indoor climate. Clay earth is free of harmful substances, regulates air humidity and is diffusible.

Not everyone has the opportunity to build their own small cob house, as can be seen at Cob. But awareness can help us to consider whether this material would make sense for a renovation, a conversion or, of course, a new build, and whether it is more environmentally friendly and healthier for people and nature.

The workshop also makes us think about how we want to live. Where? Alone? In nature? In a community? How much space do we really need? I think these are all interesting questions that we can ask ourselves.

And who knows, maybe it can help us to find a more healthy way of living not just for us, but also for nature.

I generally think that the developments in architecture are very interesting and that a lot of research and work is being done on materials and sustainable construction.

Text & photos: Jessica Morfis

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