Builders & Artisans

Year of Mud, The Book

The Year of Mud is one novice builder’s story of building his first cob house, a home constructed largely of natural, local materials, many literally straight from the earth and surrounding ecosystem.

A documentary story and inspirational guide for other individuals wanting to create more sustainable, simple, human homes, The Year of Mud demonstrates one example of building that is intuitive, inexpensive, earth-friendly, and creative. And muddy, too, of course.

Make sure to see what Ziggy and friends are up to on The Year of Mud ( the web site ).
Also check out the upcoming workshops on Timber Framing and Straw Bale construction.

The Book
Preview it and Buy it.
Use promo code NEWBLURB for 20% off!

Zuker’s Medieval Cottage

This delicious 900 round foot hand-sculpted building is the work of Austin, Texas resident Gary Zuker.  Seems to have come straight out of medieval times. He wasn’t a professional builder when he embarked on creating this master piece, but you wouldn’t know it!  I really admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Gary used timber frame and straw/clay infill technique for his wall system. Straw/Clay A.K.A: Leichtlehmbau ( a German term for light straw-clay ), light-clay or my favorite – slippy-straw.  Light-clay is lighter than traditional cob, about half the weight per cubic foot and has greater insulating properties.  It’s packed into temporary forms and allowed to dry before plastering.  Check out Gary’s  article illustrating the technique [pdf].
Light-clay generally isn’t load bearing, no matter, that’s where the timber frame structure comes in. A scissor-truss system was used for the home’s roof structure made from pine from a sawmill nearby. Local stones were hauled to create the epic entrance and fireplace. To top it off Delores, Gary’s wife, artfully created stained glass windows for the home.

I’m happy to host  the Zuker Cottage photo gallery »




No collection of Making Cob articles would be complete without “BobCob”. That is: Cobcat, Bobcat cob or tractor cob. Although foot mixing cob can be a tactile treat for your feet, after the 100th ton of mud one thinks to themselves: Is there another way to do this? Well, our friends at Clay Sand Straw have demonstrated that there is another way. Here is a video of Kindra mixin-mud in Hunt, Texas –  BobCob style.

Texas Natural Builders Pallet House

David Reed of Texas Natural Builders is in South Dakota.  They are working hard on the beautiful Pine Ridge Reservation to build a home for Walter and Alison YellowHair.  As the fall weather closes in they are looking for help finishing up.  Do contact David if your able to help.
I look forward to hearing more on how the pallet house evolves.

SunRay Kelly’s Extreme Crib

SunRay covered in earthen plaster

SunRay Kelly in the mud. Photo by Chris McClellan.

If you’ve voyaged into the realm of natural building you’ve probably seen the awe inspiring work of Master Sculptor Builder SunRay Kelly.  His sculptural homes seem to come straight out of a dream!  He has been a great teacher and inspiration for many.  Personally, the moment I saw a photo of the “The Yogurt” I was hooked on cob and the possibilities for our built environment.  Thanks SunRay!

I love this story on his website:

SunRay’s organic designs take their form from the shapes of living trees. His study of architecture and sculpture only reinforced his affinity for the forms Nature takes, in rejection of the artificial forms in rectilinear Western architecture.
The teacher in his first college drafting class told SunRay on seeing his designs,

“Learn to use a hammer, boy, because no one but you is going to be able to build that.”

SunRay’s work is showcased, by his  daughter Kumara, on MTV Extreme Cribs.
We get a tour through the one-of-a-kind homestead known as The Nature Village.

View more at SunRay’s site »