The School of Natural Building (SNaB) is a growing community of trainee natural builders under the leadership of Straw Works Directors Barbara Jones and Eileen Sutherland. It is open to anyone interested in acquiring natural building knowledge and skills. For further details about how to get involved, get in touch. In the meantime, trainee Joshua Paterson tells us all about his journey with SNaB so far.
Meet a SNaB Trainee
Alongside my interest in all things natural building, I’m currently developing skills as a freelance artist whilst working part-time as a health and fitness instructor – so something of a mixed bag for the time being, at least!
How did you discover strawbale building?
In questioning the status quo of the current property market, my partner Sophie and I became interested in the idea of eco self-build as a potential route to a home of our own back in 2013. But would it be affordable? Following forays into other natural building techniques such as cob, early in 2014 I stumbled across the Straw Works website just as they were advertising a Preparing to Build with Bales course mere minutes from where we live. By then we’d also experienced straw firsthand after spending a weekend in Carol Atkinson’s strawbale cabin – well worth a visit!
What inspired you to become involved in Straw Works?
It’s certainly true that Straw Works and SNaB represented an unique opportunity to gain skills which would be invaluable to our own project but for me the appeal ran even deeper than this. The ethos of the company and Barbara’s vision for it – accessibility, equality of opportunity, the focus on affordability – is something I can really relate to and feel passionate about sharing with others.
According to my logbook, quite a bit! I travelled to Poland for practical building and lime rendering courses in the summer of 2014, and have since covered carpentry and car tyre foundations for the Skipsea project, more lime rendering in Stroud, and, most recently, cedar shingling in Dorset. I’ve also managed to squeeze in some natural building volunteering on two different projects in Norfolk, helping lay an earthen floor and trying out some clay plastering.
What would you consider to be the high (and low?!) point of your experience as a trainee so far?
The return trip to Poland for the lime rendering was particularly special – I’ve been lucky to meet some fantastic people through the traineeship and that’s one of the best things about it for me. As for a low point… not being able to do even more even sooner?!
You can follow Josh and Sophie’s strawbale building journey on Twitter @lagomhome.