Finish Plastering Workshop with Carole Crews
Aug 12-17,2006
Black Lake, New Mexico

Carole Crews approaches natural building as an artist. Drawing from tradition and her own experiments she is able to use many of the same materials in the studio and on the construction site to create luscious surfaces, As a girl making mud pies in an old adobe village near Taos, New Mexico, she never imagined that her play would lead to a career, but after earning her degree in art at U.T. Austin and participating in an adobe building project in 1975, she discovered the compelling nature of clay surfaces and their possibilities as an artistic medium as well. She collaborated with the late Lori Lawyer in 1990 to start "Gourmet Adobe" and has also built an adobe dome with additions west of Taos which offers ample opportunities for ongoing experiments.

Carole has taught at Natural Building Colloquia for the last decade and contributed to several books including The Art of Natural Building and Alternative Construction; Contemporary Natural Building Methods. She is currently working on a book of her own and seeking a publisher.

During the summer of 2005 Kindra and Chris had the privilege of helping plastering guru Carole Crews with an addition to her adobe home near Taos, NM. We learned a bunch. Despite Carole's retirement ambitions we immediately started scheming ways to create more opportunities to gather from her experience. Conveniently, we had a good sized earthen building under construction not far from Taos that was in need of plastering and finishes toward the end of 2006 summer. Therefore we matched instructor with site and invited interested people to join in.

Our site encompassed an 800 sqft floor plan prepared in several phases of plastering. We expected to move each section forward one phase including: wall preparation, one-coat plaster, finishes and artistic sculpturing. A half day field trip will provide us with a taste of the thousand year living tradition of earthen plasters in Taos, NM.

DURATION: 6 days
COST: $600 ($550 early registration), limited work trade available

The following photos draw from those taken during the workshop by Keeshi, Gayle, Kerri and Kindra. the pictures are organized to roughly show the workshop progression. We began on Saturday with a tour of several sites that feature earthen plasters: a 300 year old church south of Taos: St. Francis de Asis, an owner-builder project in process: Carole's dome, and a spiritual community: the Llama Foundation.

Sunday we began early on site by prepping matierials. Then Carole worked us through a tricky circumstance: the junction of bales and adobe at the window opening. Using burlap and Carole's sticky-stiff straw-clay mixture we joined and shaped the window opening. In the following days we finished prep and moved on to color samples and plastering. In the first coat of plaster we used only native clays and therefore the color was quite dark. As we moved into finish one-coat plasters Carole added kaolin to lighten up the color. After a little drying we returned to the dark plasters with a cream-colored aliz clay paint swimming with mica to finish the walls. For more pictures of the completion of the house browse the blogs for the Welch-Weglarz mountain cottage project.

photos (click to enlarge)
the tour....
tour: Llama foundation New Mex. ocean front property Sun Ray's "tree house" at the Llama Foundation tour: St. Francis de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, earthen plstr. exterior

tour: stolling away from St. Francis

Carole's dome: view from the sleeping nook...Gayle smiles in front of the incredible ceiling

Carole's Dome: bas relief frame on doorway and view to kitchen

materials and preparation...
clay: red, gold, orange, dark chocolate and Kaolin white
"rosanky red" natural red/orage clay sifted in a bucket and swirled with a finger
soaking pit to soften clay for sifting and mixing
Raylene and Bob setting in the last windows
plastering tools ready to go
bringing home the bales
electrical preped and ready for plastering strawtoss for light-clay-straw adobe and bales framing arched window before prep
slipping bales before burlap wide view of arch prep tacking slip saturated burlap across bales and adobe
filling in and shaping over burlap with stiff straw-clay
Galia making color samples
everyone made their own set of color tests painted on adobe blocks

Carole's boards show the array of possibilites
plaster mixer in action assisted by Chris and Konstantin

straw chopping: our mulcher-blower has its own set of quirks

first coat plaster....
Gayle and Jenn working on entry arch first coat of plaster over cob Jennifer working first coat around header
first coat in entry: Galia presses out the tiny cracks from uneven drying first coat on bench warming the hands and gloves
cob window seat before plaster window seat with first coat of plaster

Carole works on a subtle blend in the aliz at window seat



finish plaster...
Conor putting finishing touches on fireplace bench Conor shows Shea a little harmonica Keshi and Jenn working on a finish plaster
Gayle and Carole looking over a finish plaster Kindra smoothing a one coat with a plastic disk cubbies at entry
finish plaster over light-clay-straw plastering in kitchen working in the kitchen under lights
Leigh finishes up the window plaster cookies
aliz (clay paint)...
Carole mixing the aliz clay paint painting the aliz onto the living room walls view from kitchen to living room
...and the boys enjoyed their fires Shea loves all over little JouJouBee and vice versa Galia dispalys jewelry made from bits the electricians left behind
Everybody together...
LtoR:(in back)Shea
(sitting)Jennifer, Keshi w/Galia, Gayle, Carole, Leigh, Conor, Kindra
(front row) Konstantin, Chris