Eddie joined the Clayworks team in August 2021, inspired to continue her work with clay following a period of volunteering with an organisation in Utah that builds affordable and sustainable homes for low income residents.
Clayworks looks to self-sufficient and natural building as a source of stimulation and inspiration for alternative ways to live, with the notion of preserving environmental and ecological systems while simultaneously providing shelter. We asked Eddie to share her reflections of working with Community Rebuilds.
Throughout the tumultuous year of 2020, I called the desert town of Moab, Utah, home. I was interning with Community Rebuilds, a unique non-profit organisation which, in exchange for education and housing, sources volunteer labour to build affordable and sustainable homes for low-income residents. Many existing homes in Moab were built prior to modern building codes – for example old static caravans – and Community Rebuilds aims to replace these with energy efficient homes.
My journey in natural building began whilst studying for a degree in Sculpture. I was concerned about both the environmental impact and functionality of my work, and how to break away from the confines of a gallery space to reach more people. My final year of research focused on imagining a future of social housing in the UK, whilst searching for practical learning opportunities. I struggled to find anything quite like Community Rebuilds in the UK, so some months later I boarded a plane to Moab.
Typically, each semester of interns builds three homes from foundation to finish alongside apprentices and lead builders. Two of the homes I helped on were working towards Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, a visionary program which sets a long list of aspirational criteria for creating self-sufficient buildings. Throughout this time, I gained a broad but in-depth understanding of natural and conventional construction, from framing to solar installation, upcycling architectural salvage to permaculture landscaping. Every aspect of this education has been invaluable to me, but it was the plaster work that stuck with me. I fell in love with the material science and the expansive potential it offered. Due to the pandemic, I ended up staying in Moab longer than I had planned, which afforded me more time to get to grips with lime renders, clay plasters, earthen floors and even tadelakt bathrooms. Playing with mud in this capacity certainly satisfied the child in me!
After searching for ways to further this experience with plaster back in the UK, I have found myself in the heart of Cornwall with Clayworks, working in their samples department. It requires a similar skillset and is less ‘rough and ready’, but the ethic of beautiful, healthy building remains the same, as does the feeling of endless possibility. Plus, I like the thought of being involved (even as a tiny part) in projects all over the world. It’s an exciting time to be with the company and I’m eager to continue learning and refining this craft.