One of my life-long dreams has been to design and build my own home. When I was a kid I remember watching This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop with my father every weekend, asking him questions the whole time, about the projects, the tools, etc. But my main question always was, “Can we do that?!” And watching my dad build things in the garage was one of my favorite activities, and the smell of sawdust still is comforting to me now, just as it was then. The idea that we could build all these amazing and beautiful things on our own was completely fascinating to me as a child, I was so inspired. My dad had a huge wooden drafting table, and an old metal toolbox full of stencils and special architectural pencils, and I loved playing with them. I spent hours and hours with that drafting table, carefully designing houses. Houses which always included secret hidden rooms that only children could access- usually behind the kitchen cabinets. The first thing I was “going to be when I grow up” was an architect (except for any time after I came inside from picking flowers. Then I always decided I would definitely be a florist.)
After a lifetime of public schooling and television and our culture of “experts”, those ideas and dreams had mostly gone away. It wasn’t until I had dropped out of college and was living in a barn on an organic farm that all these dreams started to return. Could we really build our own house? Could we really create the lives we want for ourselves?
Over the years I had read some books. The Cob Builders Handbook. The Hand Sculpted House. Built By Hand really got me! I’ve flipped through the pages of that book so many times that they are all falling out. What I really wanted was to take a workshop, but every time I looked for one, which wasn’t all that often, they were always on the west coast. A few months after finally moving to the land I had bought with three other people I saw a flyer somewhere for a local cob workshop. I was so excited and signed up right away!
So, in May of 2009 I helped build this cottage:
That week long workshop was an inspiring experience for me, and gave me the confidence to finally start on my own cob house. I spent the rest of the year helping out on building projects whenever I could, and started scavenging materials for my own home, which I was sketching over and over again on graph paper. And then in 2010…
I’m reflecting on all this because…
We’re having a week long cob workshop here in Durham in June!
You can check out the info about it here. Greg and Mike taught the workshop I took in 2009, and they will be the instructors for this workshop, where people will be constructing a cob and straw bale meditation studio and garden wall. Mike and Greg both apprenticed with the Cob Cottage Company in Oregon, and are awesome instructors. I’ll be there with Leo to help out and hang out, and my friend Julia is going to be cooking some awesome food with local produce! I’m pretty excited, it should be a lot of fun!
Reflecting back, not only did taking a workshop give me new building skills, ideas, and experience, but I also made life long connections and friendships with some amazing people. And then the following year I taught my own cob workshop and once again got to make connections with awesome people that I am grateful to still have in my life. I’m looking forward to once again getting to participate in another workshop setting and meet new and interesting people.
Building brings people together!
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