Many feet make light work

Many feet make light work

Earthen Built by Kata Polano

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Dec 18, 2010

SLAM 2010 ~ progress report

Early morning at SLAM. All ready for the cob to go on!
We were prepared for rain, and blessed with sunshine on the day of the SLAM event! Hoping to get the bench built in one day, we were sure to start early and stomp out as much cob as we could. Just as we were unfurling our mixing tarps a group from two of the local highschools showed up, ready to lend both hands and feet to the flow. Well, almost ready. First there was a quick trip back home to change their clothes for some that they were more readily prepared to get covered in mud. Then the mixing began!

These kids stomped, rolled, jumped, mixed, and made cob like nothing before. We were soon coming dangerously close the the end of our clay supply. A quick run back to the stockpile at O.U.R. Ecovillage ensured that things kept rolling. What first seemed to be a big goal for one day turned into a bench very quickly. By 2:00, when the festival got underway, people were able to come by and see a clear bench taking shape.

We were lucky to have Sol Crawford on the lead building team. Sol had spent many hours and days working on the original design for the community space, and there was nothing like having him there to be involved with its evolution in real time. He had some great ideas and really carried a lot of the project through.

Community bench at the end of the festival.
Book shelves were incorporated, as well as tunnels for kids to enjoy. Arm rests, plenty of bench space, and places to rest a mug were all made welcome. We really wanted to make this space as functional as possible for all.

Some of the greatest moments in public building events are when the public actually gets involved. Watching people go from spectator to participant is so rewarding, and such a big part to why we do this.
SLAM was definitely not short of people who started out scratching their heads and ended up hosing themselves off. Sometimes it starts with someone watching from a distance, wondering what it is that we are up to. Then they come a little closer and actually ask a few questions. We place cob in their hands, and they still don't quite know what to do with it. They watch and ask a bit more. Then, all of a sudden there is another set of hands pushing and poking more cob onto the structure. Then it becomes hard for them to walk away, and we have accomplished one of the goals we set out to achieve. Those who get involved become aware of something innate within themselves, something that makes them feel alive and empowered. Building with the Earth is something that each and every one of us shares within our heritage. People walk away with a new sense of pride, and a sense of shared accomplishment and ownership of something they will get to enjoy for a long time to come. We have truly given back to the people when we give them skills and experience.

One neighbour in particular, Gerry, became so moved by the project that he jumped in to volunteer some of his own rustic woodworking talent. Gerry's work can be seen framing in the openings and giving the bench a beautiful flowing line. He has also volunteered to donate and help construct a round-pole post and beam structure for the roof.

SLAM was intended to bring the community of Shawnigan Lake out of their homes and together in the neighbourhood. Along with the bench building, there was music, food, dancing, and plenty of mingling. Neighbours met and friendships grew. People loved it and had a great time! We hope that people will use the space to both gather socially and to wait for the bus. I also hope to see more of you out there next year when the community does it again! Again, thanks to all who participated and made this come together.

~Stay tuned for more updates as the roof goes up and the plaster goes on.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kata,
Great to see some process photos! It's inspiring when community hands coming together draw out more community hands. In fact, itreminds me a little of Stone Soup! I can just imagine a bunch of muddy neighbours snacking on kale chips together, chatting about children...

Who else was there? I think I see Jay in that photo! Can't wait to see more...

In community,

Frank said...

For as much as I love the work and your descriptions - I really do - I would love to know more about how this is done. I don't know what ''cob'' is. I gather you get your ''plaster'' from the land around you. How, please?