Aesthetics of Natural Materials

Janine Bjornson is a natural builder, practitioner and educator. She began her career in natural building when she trained with The Cob Cottage in 1996. Since then, she has taught over 65 workshops in Canada and the United States, from east to west. Her passion for building with natural materials bloomed out of her love for the earth, in conjunction with her concern for diminishing ecological resources and toxic buildings. As a result of this, Janine has devoted the last 14 years to immersing herself in the world of natural materials and the knowledge of how we can shape dwellings that are healthy, healing, inspiring, and beautiful. She has developed a penchant for natural paints, and plasters and loves the concept of “naturalizing” any kind of home. She loves to share this knowledge with others and this is evident in her enthusiastic teaching style. Janine has assisted in organizing 2 Natural Building Colloquia. She has presented at the Natural Building Colloquium in Bath, New York, Kingston, New Mexico, and Kerrville, Texas. She taught the hands-on natural building component of New College of California’s EcoDwelling program, and Dominican University’s EcoDwelling program. She lives in Sebastopol, California. www.claybonesandstones.com.

Questions and Answers

Q: What is the relationship between people's visual perception of beauty and the use of natural materials, considering that there are a wide range of materials and possible material combinations. Balance of form, material adjucencies, colour, texture... and detail is crucial to our perception of a good piece of Architecture.

A: I think there is a conscious visual aesthetic within each human being that is particular to that human. This may be stimulated within a well crafted piece of architecture as well as in fine art. However, within the world of Natural Building I believe that there is a deeper part of humans that gets stimulated, call this the "unconscious" part of ourselves if you will. The difference between the experience of being in a Natural Building that is finished out with Natural materials (clays, sands, fibers etc.,) and being in a conventional building that is finished with highly processed materials often laid upon extremely flat planes is quite extreme. A Natural building has surfaces that undulate and are often organically shaped, they reflect and absorb light differently, the colours are often earth tones due to the choice of natural materials, the material are less processed, more alive.... and so on. When you enter a space of this sort your body which has co-evolved with nature finds a resonance that you often only experience in natural settings. A green forest isn't just one kind of green, it is many, many shades of green with different textures and curvalinear lines to define itself, and dappled light. This is the kind of thing that is simply inherent when creating natural buildings due to the personality of the materials and their inherent nature. Time and time I again I have witnessed (and experience myself) people being awestruck at the beauty of natural buildings, but this finds itself expressed in the emotional part of themselves due to this long lost connection with nature. All of this may not lead us to the conclusion that we are within a worthy piece of architecture by Western standards, but we are definately in a worthy piece of architecture as far as out spirit and psyche are concerned.

Q: We recently bought 3 beautiful cream colored matchstick blinds. I would like to treat them with something to prevent staining. Suggestions?

A: You could oil them with various types of oil. The most important part is to make sure to remove any excess so you do not have a sticky surface that will never go away. Lastly, make sure you take care of any rags you use properly as rags with linseed oil (with drying agents for example) can combust if handled improperly.

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I specifically disclaim any warranty, either expressed or implied, concerning the information on these pages. Neither I nor any of the advisor/consultants associated with this site will have liability for loss, damage, or injury, resulting from the use of any information found on this, or any other page at this site. Kelly Hart, Hartworks LLC.