Dirt Craft Natural Building is Ashley Lubyk and Heather Noakes. They can be found, often with their hands in the mud, working across Western Canada, who now live in Penticton, BC. They are passionate about working with natural materials, and believe that ancient wisdom combined with modern understanding is a dynamic, and authentic approach to creating beautiful, low-impact, life enhancing spaces and places.
Why We Do What We Do
Dirt Craft seeks to inspire a movement of people using their hands and engaging their senses. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have willingly surrendered our self-sufficiency (and much of our happiness) for convenience. Tasks that have been done for millennia with grace and perfection have been co-opted by ‘specialists’, leaving us unfulfilled, both spiritually and emotionally. The act of working with ones hands is not only empowering but the most direct path to reinvigorate our senses.
Dirt Craft works with a wide-range of natural building materials and techniques, including straw bale, cob, clay fiber, clay plasters and paints, and earthen floors.
Ashley has a Bachelor of Environmental Science and spent the seven years working in the environmental not-for-profit sector. He developed the award-winning Healthy Homes Calgary program – a holistic in-home consultation service that sought to help individuals live simpler, healthier lives. He has written and presented on a thorough range of environmental issues, including indoor air quality, composting, grey water recycling, sustainable food production, alternative energy, rainwater harvesting, fermentation and food preservation, and has been featured in both local and national media. His experience in this field has allowed him the opportunity to thoroughly investigate human relationships to their environments and ecologies. Through this work, he has come to fully understand that these relationships, in many ways, need to be rekindled.
The last 8 years have taken Ashley to four continents, where he’s studied with and worked along side many of today’s most respected natural builders including Ianto Evans, Robert Laport, Charlie Carruthers, and Elke Cole, among others.
A few years ago, Ashley had the unique opportunity to apprentice with two of North America’s most experienced straw bale builders and clay plasterers’, Bill and Athena Steen, at the Canelo Project in Arizona. This was a formative experience that has informed some of Dirt Craft’s essential practices.
Both his strong leadership skills and his astute ability to communicate are keen attributes which he puts to work when he is teaching, consulting on building design, or working alongside owner-builders mixing plasters.
Recently, Ashley has been invited as a guest teacher to the Endeavour Centre in Ontario, and to O.U.R. EcoVillage on Vancouver Island.
As of September 2016, we are excited to announce that Ashley has returned to school to pursue a graduate degree in Building Science, in the faculty of Architecture at Ryerson University in Toronto. This is a 12 month intensive program, that will require his full attention through to fall 2017.
Heather has always had a passion for the visual and artistic elements of life. With a background in design and fine art she is able to put her skill, and eye, to work designing and sculpting with earth. She also has extended experience with environmental education, and she is able to provide guided teaching assistance. During her Bachelor of Fine Arts, she was able to direct the focus of her studies, opting to research environmental and social issues, as well as solutions.
For her, Dirt Craft Natural Building is a long sought after opportunity to create functional art – an amalgamation of useful forms that are also esthetically valuable. She adds her skills of visual communication to Dirt Craft. She loves mixing plasters, stomping cob and stacking bales, but most of all she loves helping people learn how to integrate these materials into their lives through teaching, and leading by example. Also, she has a passion for cooking, eating, and sharing good food, especially when it comes to wood fired, cob oven, cooking. She often assists in providing delicious, healthy food as part of Dirt Craft’s workshops.
While working on several larger construction projects in New Zealand and on Canada’s west coast at OUR EcoVillage, Ashley and Heather learned of the power of earth ovens. Soon after returning to Calgary, Ashley got busy building his own and soon they both fell in love with the experience of baking pizza and naturally leavened bread in these beautiful earth ovens. This work naturally lead them to large projects including clay plasters, alternative heating systems, rehabilitating conventional buildings with natural materials, and small structures. They are passionate about working with their hands, and sharing knowledge with others. Both Heather and Ashley are permaculture designers and enjoy the challenge of applying the philosophy, and approach, which focuses on holistic, integrated and ecological design, to the work they do.
When their hands aren’t in the mud, Ashley can often be found with his nose in a book, while Heather enjoys putting her crafty skills to work. Ashley and Heather met through their shared love of climbing, and have always been avid enthusiasts of outdoor pursuits, including backpacking and canoe tripping. Recently they’ve developed a love for long distance cycle touring and can be found (time permitting) exploring travel on two wheels. One recent adventure they are proud of took them down the Pacific Coast of Canada, the US, and & Baja Mexico, for 6,500 km (or thereabouts).
Learn from Experience
We have taught over 450 students, and worked on many projects (since we officially became a business in 2010). This means we have encountered many different, and sometimes difficult situations. We bring this experience and knowledge to each workshop, so that when you encounter your own difficulties, during your own project, you will be armed with all of the necessary information to make decisions when the time comes.
Thoughts on Natural Building Education
We strongly believe that natural building is mostly easily understood in a hands-on environment, and this is why we always work on real projects in our workshops, while providing thorough theory to support meaningful learning. Our goal is to ensure that you get the education and experience you need, to have the confidence to work on your own projects. We want to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner to the natural building community and we think that education, with integrity, in the latest building techniques can expand and add to this emerging field.