Workshops local and global for 2020

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 .

Scroll to Natural Homes and Design workshops

Scroll to Hands-on workshops local and global

More workshop listings coming!

Natural building Design

Design your own Natural Home

Design your own natural home 

two dates to choose:

Spring course March 2020

Friday March 27th, 6:30pm -9:30pm , Saturday/ Sunday March 28/29th, 9- 4:00 pm;

plus optional Design Lab

Monday  March 30th 9-4:00 pm

Fall Course October 2020

Friday October 23, 6:30pm -9:30pm , Saturday/ Sunday October 24/25, 9- 4:00 pm;

plus optional Design Lab

Monday  October 26 9-4:00 pm

Location:   OUR Ecovillage, Shawnigan Lake, BC

This weekend intensive  is for those who are interested in actively being part of the process of designing their natural home. Learn about choosing the best site for passive solar performance and energy savings. In two days and an evening you’ll be introduced to a variety of building technologies- in theory and by taking an extensive tour through the buildings at OUR Ecovillage.

There are exercises to work on with your peers around the table. There’s time for your questions to be addressed. You will learn about how to approach laying out a floor plan and how to move through a permit process. And if you have your project ready to work on you may introduce it to the group.

Topics covered:

  • Gathering information
  • Making a map
  • Choosing a site
  • Determine passive solar orientation
  • Foundations
  • Thermal Mass and Insulation
  • Earth building: Cob, rammed Earth, Light Straw-clay, Adobe,
  • Strawbale construction
  • Finishing options
  • How to start designing
  • Where to get help
  • Getting a permit

NEW!  Design Lab Monday

This day is an add-on option only for design course participants.

For those who are ready to dive a little deeper into the drawing stage we are offering a new piece: a full day of coaching, peer reviews, and more ideas and input. Get those sketches done in a supportive environment.

You must have your site identified to begin designing. We start where you are and spend the day stepping into what’s next.

Elke’s experience and occasional input of  ideas from peers will support your process.

OUR Ecovillage is a demonstration site for Permaculture and Sustainable living, located in Shawnigan Lake, BC.

Visitor accommodation is available in private rooms, dormitory or camp. Booking options  will be visible in the registration process.

The Zero Mile Eatery serves tasty meals with options for many needs. We recommend booking Lunches during the course for off-site participants, and meal packages for those who choose to stay .

Hands-on at home and abroad


Come play with Clay in Kitimat this summer!

Place-making and Natural building workshops for all ages and levels in July and August 2020

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

$ 50This 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

$ 50This 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

(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
(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

$ 50This 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

$ 1000This 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) July 9 or 10

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

Start to finish Earthen Floor July 8-12

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)

Friday July 17 or Saturday July 18

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

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

example of clay art by Athena Steen

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

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)

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.


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.