Summer update

teaching online now!

Hi there!

This is a challenging  year for workshops and courses on natural building. Many things have been cancelled and others moved online.

I’ve created a selection of courses on my e-learning site.

These are the titles

  • Understanding natural wall systems
  • How to choose the best spot for your home
  • DIY natural home design
  • Design your natural home -interactive

Check them out and please share with your circle.

Sadly all hands-on courses for 2020 are cancelled . We hope that we can re-schedule for 2021 , but for now we have to focus on doing the work we can online or in small private teams on a project.

I invite you to subscribe to my mailing list for short notice opportunities.

Design your own natural home 

Online :

Interactive course with group zoom meetings, online presentations and practice activities. Two versions: DIY and with group meetings : Check in here


You read and watch all information pieces at your leisure. Repeat if you like, show your partner.

Work on your assignments when you can focus.

Check in with your cohort weekly on zoom- this helps keep you motivated , gets you supportive feedback and builds connection.

At the end you will have

  • a ‘sensitive’  site map
  • a list of support people
  • list of what you need
  • clarity about choices
  • list of what furniture moves in
  • sketches
  • a model
  • floor a scale floor plan for costing

This course will save you energy and money by helping you to make educated choices, avoid mistakes, and getting you prepared to get prices, before you start the permit process.

The next group session starts September 15 and will run for 5 weeks.

Hands-on at home and abroad

Most of my workshops are hands-on :

A hands-on workshop will allow you to explore your personal abilities in a safe and supported environment. Participate in a real project with other learners like you and discover the power of working together. You just might discover a new passion!

  • Learn techniques of building with Earth: Cob, Earthbag, Straw-bale natural plasters and more.
  • Learn to trust your senses and reach into your creativity.
  • Feel the joy of your body in action
  • Get your questions answered and discuss related topics
  • Build a network of friends for your natural building future

All workshops are offering a supportive learning atmosphere for diverse people. If you have questions please email me .

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Scroll to Hands-on workshops local and global


surrounded by stunning nature

Come play with Clay in Kitimat !

Place-making and Natural building workshops for all ages and levels in 2021

We’re going to the North Coast of BC  for this exciting series of workshops.

Have a look at the overview. Scroll down to read detailed descriptions and registration links.

Workshop titleDates & timeCostWho can take this course?
Introduction to Earthen floors1 day workshop
(weekday or weekend option)

Friday, July 10 or Saturday, July 11
8:30 am – 4:30 pm

$ 50
Early bird: $ 37.50
This course is for contractors and DIYers. Participants must be physically fit, with a strong back, and able to work kneeling.
Earthen Floors from start to finish4 days +
Thursday, July 8 to Sunday, July 12

8:30 am – 4:30 pm
(additionally, once the floor is dry, Elke will schedule two 1 – 2 hour sessions for learning oiling and waxing techniques)

FREE to applicants with a serious intention to use these skills for personal projects or as professional contractorsThis course is by application only for contractors and DIYers. Participants must be physically fit, with a strong back, and able to work kneeling.
Introduction to Cob Building and Natural Plaster Finishes1 day workshop
(weekday or weekend option)

Friday, July 17 and/or Saturday July 18

9:00 am – 3:00 pm

$ 50
Early bird: $ 37.50
This workshop is for all ages* and all experience levels – anyone who wants to have fun with mud and learn basic building techniques.
Introduction to Art with Clay
(Natural Plaster Finishing and Sculpting Level 1)
4 days
Monday, July 20 to Thursday, July 23

9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Early bird $150
(includes optional free participation in the introductory workshops on July 17 and July 18)
This workshop is for builders, contractors and creative souls age 15+ would like to learn the basics of finishing work, sculpture and designs with natural plaster.
Art with Clay (Natural Plaster Finishing and Sculpting Level 2)Tuesday, July 28 to Sunday August 2

daily 9:00 to 4:00 pm

$ 300
Early bird $ 225
(includes Scraffito workshop, and optional free participation in the introductory workshops on July 17 and July 18)
artists and aspiring artists, age 15+ seeking to learn advanced techniques for creating three dimensional art.
Scraffito workshop
1 day workshop
(weekday or weekend option)

Friday, July 31 and/or Saturday August 1
9:00 am – 3:00 pm

$ 50
Early bird: $ 37.50
This workshop is open to anyone age 15+ (younger teens capable of sustaining attention for the day may be considered as an exception).
Natural Building Intensive20 day program

July 15 – 18, 20 – 23, 28 – 31
August 1-2, 10-14
(plus one day during plaster drying week of August 4 – 7)
8:30 – 4:30 daily

$ 1000
Early bird $750
This workshop is by application only, for contractors, artists and DIYers who want to acquire the skills necessary to undertake advanced natural plaster building and art projects on their own. It includes all of the above courses (except for earthen floors), plus extra time working in a small group with Elke.

General Information

The Earthen Floor courses will be offered in the Cable Car subdivision of Kitimat.  All other courses will be offered in downtown Kitimat. Location details will be confirmed after registration.

Lunch breaks will be from 11:45 – 12:15 for all courses.  Pack your own lunch, or pre-order sandwiches and wraps from a local cafe through us for $10/day.

We encourage participants to draw their inspiration from the local temperate rainforest ecosystem, by joining Elke and her team on a short hike through the magnificent old growth forest trails at Hirsh Creek park in Kitimat.  Dates and times for these pre-workshop hikes will be announced a few days prior to each workshop.

Participants who need accommodation may email us for recommendations.

Early Birds – register by April 30, 2020 to receive a 25% discount on all courses.

How to register:

1. Submit a completed Registration form (See workshop descriptions)

2. Send payment

Payments can be made by e-transfer to

Cancellation policy – full refunds (less a $10 administration fee) will be provided to participants who cancel within 30 days of the course start date.  Refunds will only be issued for medical reasons after the 30 day deadline.

For courses designated ‘by application only’ simply send us an email describing your reasons for wanting to participate and any relevant background experience or skills.

close-up look at an earthen floor

Introduction to Earthen floors (1 day)

Earthen floors are beautiful natural floors built as a slab on ground (in layers) or over a subfloor of cement or plywood.  They may be installed as a retrofit to older homes or as a complete system to a new home. Finished with oil and optional natural polish, they are durable, washable and non-toxic.

In this workshop we will lay a finishing floor onto a cement slab.

Participants in the Introduction workshop and Start to Finish course will learn hands-on and in discussion how to:

  • Build a complete floor system with earth (presentation)
  • Test and choose materials
  • Mix a finishing floor mix
  • Work with trowels and floats to lay the floor

Cost : $50/ day ,  early bird $37.50 until April 30

Start to finish Earthen Floor

In addition to the content of the Introduction to earthen floors, participants in the Start to Finish course will also learn how to:

  • Compress and burnish the floor
  • Understand when the floor is ready for each next step
  • Choose oiling and polishing materials
  • Apply oils and polish

We can only accept a few folks for this piece and ask that you please write to us at

exterior natural plaster

Introduction to Cob Building and Natural Plaster Finishes (1 day)

Cob is a mixture of clay-soil, sand and straw, with enough water to make a pliable mass to work with. It is easy to learn and can be used to build benches, ovens and whole houses!  During this weekend we will build benches to be enjoyed by the public in downtown Kitimat.

Natural plaster can be used to retrofit existing homes or to finish new walls, both inside and out. Benefits include healthy indoor air, no off-gassing, reduced mold issues, and low materials cost.

In this workshop we will apply plaster on an exterior wall and build benches.

Participants in the introductory workshop will learn hands-on how to:

  • Identify and test materials
  • Mix cob
  • Set a foundation for a bench
  • Build the cob bench
  • Make different mixes for different uses
  • Do basic sculpting with mud
  • Apply mud onto a wall as a base layer of earth-plaster

Cost : $50/ day ,  early bird $37.50 until April 30

Introduction to Art with Clay (Natural Plaster Finishing and Sculpting Level 1)

Following the weekend of cob and base coat plastering we will proceed into defining shapes for the benches and a three-dimensional mural on the exterior of a commercial building.  We will take inspiration from the natural world and work out techniques for sculpting using our hands, various trowels and special mixes. Participants in the 4 day course will learn the skills listed above, and also:

  • Gain efficiency in mixing plaster mixes for various applications
  • Learn to use tools with confidence
  • Create strong sculptural shapes
  • Train their eye for working in three dimensions
  • Complete cob benches
  • Create something beautiful in collaboration with others,

Cost for this workshop is $200 , early bird $175 until April 30

example of clay art by Athena Steen

Art with Clay (Natural Plaster Finishing and Sculpting Level 2)

 also includes Intro to Cob and  Scraffito workshop

This workshop builds upon the Natural Plaster Finishing and Sculpting Level 1, but can be taken separately.  Learn techniques of working with earthen plaster mixes to build sculptural walls. Wake up your inner artist and help shape and define lines and shadows to guide the eye.  Participants will work together on wall sections and/or produce panels for a composition art piece, and will learn how to:

  • Select materials (clay, pigments)
  • Mix sculpting plaster
  • Mix fine finish plaster
  • Handle tools
  • Work with others on a common theme
  • Create individual pieces
  • Learn Scraffito technique of layered design (participants in this course will join the Scraffito workshop on July 31)

Cost for this program: $300, Early bird  $225 until April 30

Scraffito workshop

Scraffito is a layered plaster-art technique.  Working with different color layers, a graphic image can take a three dimensional feeling in very thin plaster layers. You will learn how to:

  • Mix fine finish plaster
  • Apply thin layers
  • Design your piece for a collective public art installation
  • Transform your design into three dimensional layers.

Cost : $50/ day ,  early bird $37.50 until April 30


Permaculture and Natural Building 2021

Build a community school and food forest in Coastal Kenya

August  2021

at Magarini Children’s Center and Organic Demonstration Farm.

We are developing another program in Kenya where participants will help with activities like natural building, farm work and community involvement . To get on the list for this program please contact me.