Natural Plaster Intensive Workshop – Edmonton, AB

Date: June 3 - June 5, 2016
Duration: 3 +1 (bonus day)
Fee: $Varies
Location: Edmonton , AB

Register Online:

$445.00 plus gstRegister Here

Natural Plaster Intensive + Bonus Day: The Art of Clay Plaster and Paint – Interior Finishes – Save $76! Early bird pricing effective until May 20th. Reg. price $445.


$320.00 plus gstRegister Here

Natural Plaster Intensive. Early bird price in effect until May 20th. Reg. price $320.

Natural Plasters – The ‘Skin’ of Success for Your Home

Dirt Craft Natural Building will be teaching a 3 day (plus an additional optional 4th day – details below) hands on workshop dedicated to plaster systems for natural buildings from Friday June 3rd to Sunday June 5th 2016 + optional bonus day, Monday June 6th, just outside Edmonton in Sherwood Park, AB. These will be full days, so come prepared to have fun, learn, and get your hands dirty! Lunch and refreshments included.

Purpose: to understand the steps necessary to finish any natural wall system, including your straw bale home. It is one thing to learn how to stack straw bales or stomp cob, but it is critically important to understand how to finish a building, as it will determine the longevity of your home or building. A good plaster system will mean the difference between success and failure of a natural building.

Thinking of starting your own project? This workshop will position you well to make good decisions in the design phase, so that you can plan for success.

The workshop will nicely balanced between hands-on experienced, and design & theory.

Here is some of what to expect:

  • Using plasters to create an air tight wall system = super energy efficient, comfortable homes, use Passive House design methodology
  • Wall preparation for various natural building techniques, including clay fiber, cob and straw bales
  • Sourcing local materials
  • Learn to identify clay, and process this inexpensive local material
  • Recipes for exterior renders and interior plasters
  • Rain screens (siding for straw bale homes): an alternative to plaster for exteriors
  • Learn to mix & apply interior plasters that can be applied to a variety of wall surfaces
  • Discussions comparing different plaster systems, pros and cons of earthen plasters, concrete stucco, especially focused on the areas of durability and vapour permeability
  • Plaster as it pertains to the long term health of a building with natural walls
  • Tool selection
  • Application techniques for base coats and finish plasters, including proper trowel techniques
  • Building design for earthen plasters
  • Different recipes and treatments for durability and weather resistance

Optional 4th Day:

Stick with us for Monday June 6th and learn the art of finish clay plasters and paints. These are the colours and textures that you’ll experience everyday in your home, so it is worth learning. Spend the day learning our refined recipes, an introduction to American Clay, how to work with pigment, and how to create a durable finishes. Best of all, you can introduce natural materials to any home, and these recipes can go easily over drywall! For more information about this bonus day, visit the finish clay plaster and paint workshop page.

Want more visuals? Click here to view our project gallery.

More on Workshop Content:

We will be working on the straw bale Temple that we started last year through a work party. The Temple itself is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the lands in Alberta and the people who strive to protect them. This space is to be available for people of all faiths, spiritual beliefs and religions, as a global healing temple for all. offering a great opportunity to all students to get to know more about the designing and approval process for a natural building. This calm, beautiful rural site is located in Sherwood Park, Alberta, just outside Edmonton, and presents a rare opportunity to get quality hands-on natural building experience. You’ll be nurtured by the landscape, while you enjoy an opportunity to be immersed in rewarding learning. If you decide to camp (highly recommended!) we (your instructors) will also be on site after hours – details at bottom of page.

Below is an overview some of the ways earthen plasters interact with the building they are applied to. It is a bit long, but we feel that you will learn something, even if you don’t sign up for this workshop.

An Introduction to the Role of Earthen Plasters:

Earthen plasters are an essential part of any natural building. When we say ‘natural’, we mean straw bale, clay fiber, or cob to name a few. There is one key point that all of these wall systems have in common: whatever the finish it needs to facilitate the movement of moisture, and clay is the perfect companion.

Plasters are the skin of these buildings. They work in a very similar way to the way the skin of your body works. You can sweat, take on water, dry off, keep cool or warm, and you probably appreciate it when you have some protection from the elements. But you also don’t feel comfortable when you are clad in a plastic raincoat that doesn’t breath, as you usually end up as wet on the inside as out. This is somewhat analogous to the differences between how clay plasters and cement behave in relation to any natural wall system. Not only will the final outside layers determine how the building will respond to moisture in the long run, they also have an effect on the indoor experience of the building.

Clay helps to buffer moisture and sound, resist mold, is VOC and toxin free, as well as warm and calming; cement does not provide these qualities. These properties and benefits are available to any type of home, not just natural homes. For a wall system like straw bale that mostly provides insulation, clay plasters can truly add benefit by providing thermal mass.

Consider this: the relationship between thermal mass and insulation is inversely proportionate. Really, all that means is when you have good insulation value, you have poor thermal mass value. We live in a chilly, Northern climate, so we all know about the importance of insulation, for sure. But what about thermal mass? You can think of thermal mass as sort of a bank, for warmth as well as coolness.

Basically, thermal mass is the ability to store heat after the source of that heat is no longer present. If you have a fire place, surrounded by bricks, those bricks are acting as a thermal mass. If you have passive solar design with south facing windows, your floor and walls can act as thermal mass if made of appropriate material, like clay plaster. Thermal mass has the ability to take extremes in temperatures (the peak of daytime highs, and the valleys of nighttime lows) and moderate the available heat. The same applies to the cooler temperatures that we all appreciate during the summer months. What this means for you is more comfortable temperatures all the time, all while using less energy.

So, if this has intrigued you, read on!

We will be covering the above material, and more, during the workshop in detail. And you will get to apply your new understanding directly in the workshop. There is skill involved every step of the way when using earthen plasters, but after this course you will have the theory and well as the experience to work on your own project. There will be a lot of information covered, but feedback from our past students tells us that what they value most is the hands-on factor. We will be working on a proper building, which gives you the experience and skills to deal with real life situations.

Included (as with all our workshops) is a very detailed resource package for our students which will give you a great resource to reference when taking on your own project. These materials could really be referred to as small books, as they are a true collection of data, experience and how-to!

“Thank you so so very much… I’m definitely feeling inspired. I enjoyed very much the hands-on approach. There really is no other way. The instructions were simple, clear and relaxed…which I also loved.”

                                                                                                                – Dalia Kohen, Student

A few years ago, Ashley had the opportunity to apprentice with two very talented people, Bill and Athena Steen who are both very experienced straw bale builders and earthen plasterers’. In fact they are credited with the modern day use of straw bales in building, and were the first in North America to teach a natural building workshop, more than 20 years ago. They have a beautiful place in Arizona called the Canelo Project. If you are interested, Ashley conducted an interview with Bill Steen which can be read here. It was Bill, who chuckled to Ashley at one point,

“Straw bale construction is really more about the plasters than it is about staking bales”.

“Heather and Ashley embody an incredible wealth of knowlege and earth wisdom. They took responsibility and care for the project as if it were their own. What a wonderful way to build community and rejoin a more sustainable lifestyle.”

-Jen Stotland, Student

Mixing clay plaster with our feet.

We will be working on a straw bale building. Read more about the process of the straw bale construction we lead last summer here. It will be a great opportunity to get into detail about what is means to build a small straw bale building as a second structure, studio, or garden suite, and learn about the systems that are in place to make it comfortable and durable.


What You Get:

  • 3 or 4 full days with 2 instructors. You get to ask questions, and learn from our mistakes.
  • Comprehensive note package outlining what we cover in the workshop.
  • Food during the day is included! Sit back, and engage with the learning.
  • There are very few places to learn about the art of clay plaster; if you are considering building with natural materials, this is a skill that you will see on your walls for years to come.
  • If you are committed to engaging in the process of sustainable building, there are very few better ways to use truly local materials: clay is the most prolific building material on the planet – learn the critical step of how to source and identify clay

Register Online:

$445.00 plus gstRegister Here

Natural Plaster Intensive + Bonus Day: The Art of Clay Plaster and Paint – Interior Finishes – Save $56! Early bird pricing effective until May 20th. Reg. price $445.


$320.00 plus gstRegister Here

Natural Plaster Intensive. Early bird price in effect until May 20th. Reg. price $320.


Feel free to review our cancellation policy here.


Date & Time:

9am – 4:30/ 5pm Friday June 3rd, 4th and Sunday June 5th. If you are joining us for the bonus plaster day on Monday June 6th the day will also run 9am – 4:30/ 5pm, with wrap up time being sensitive to the need to travel home that evening.  A healthy, hearty lunch is included all days.

Accommodation & Camping Options:

Our hosts are offering a camping option for $20 per day. Payable directly to our hosts once the workshop commences. There is lots of space for camping, as well as cooking/ eating facilities with a fridge & cook stove in a marvelous shared kitchen. Our hosts are also offering additional dinners for $10/meal per person if you desire some excellent sustenance. Michael is a fantastic cook (we can tell you from experience)!

 Other Notes:

**Please note that we send out specific course information to all registered participants prior to workshop date which includes specif address & directions, and a brief reminder of what to expect, and what to bring. Please contact us if you have any questions. Thanks!

When you register online, we save your contact information so we can reach you with details about the workshop. We respect your privacy, and never sell to third party! If you would rather bypass PayPal (the secure service we use to process credit card payments; and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to use our online registration), we gladly except email money transfers or cheques. Please contact us if you would like to pursue these options. Thanks!

Wooden sill detail with plaster corner.

Why Take a Dirt Craft Workshop:

We strongly believe that natural building is best learned in a hands-on environment, and this is why we always work on real projects in our workshops. 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.

Learn From Experience:

We have taught over 500 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.