A new action week took place from 19th to 26th of October, when GAIA’s Bozevce program hosted a workshop on plastering with natural materials. The workshop was designed to introduce young women with little or no prior experience to work with earth and natural materials.
The idea was to show that natural materials are easy to work with, but also to promote their benefits. Conventional building in general has a very high carbon footprint, and using natural and locally available materials contributes to keeping the carbon rather than releasing it to the atmosphere. Responsibly acquired natural materials are not damaging for the environment, and are available to all. Working with construction material such as earth and straw can be very meditative and is always fun, especially when many hands are involved in the process. By taking care of our choices, such as building materials (as the conventional ones are often polluting), we also take care of our planet, and thus of ourselves and our communities.
A different aspect of the workshop was the fact that it was intended for women. It is unusual, especially in the Balkans, to see women involved in building activities, so we wanted to use the opportunity to challenge some common stereotypes of such as building being reserved only for men. Gender roles are very present in our society, so it is always good to give different examples that could contribute to positive changes in our communities. An example of young people from different backgrounds (e.g. Albanian, Serbian, Croatian and international, different age, coming from rural and urban areas, different religions) working together, women involved in building, sharing the work but also caring for each other, these are all the little examples that are able to inspire others to make positive changes.
To contribute to the developing of environmentally and socially healthier society, it is necessary not just lower our carbon footprint, but also to treat each other with respect and equity. We are all different, and we don’t come from the same starting point. Women are often not encouraged to take part in building activities, mostly due to tradition, but with artistic natural building aesthetics and the clear environmental, economic and social benefits, women are taking almost 50% in the natural building world. It is a new chapter for a fair future, where people of all gender, younger and older generations, everybody, can work side by side.
Ruzica, an IT expert from Belgrade, who has already been involved in different projects on natural building with Earth&Crafts in Mosorin (Serbia), was teaching and showing the practice of plastering to us. She has several years of experience in building with earth, and earth plastering became her passion. So, this week around 10 young women came to Bozevce and learned how to prepare, test and plaster with clay, sand and straw mix. Most of us were plastering for the first time, and the results are great.
Our task was to put a finishing, outside layer of earth plaster on a house which is used as organizations work and educational space, where we have a workshop, space for seminars and gatherings. The goal is to make Bozevce program an eco-village and educational centre, where people from Kosovo, region and broader could come to learn about permaculture, and also experience it in practice, by living together and with nature.
As we started to work, our plaster mix consisted of 1 bucket of soil, 2,5 buckets of sand and 1,5 buckets of cut straw (1:2,5:1,5). The recipe changes very much depending on the soil type you have. That’s why before starting we made few soil tests, to see approximately how much clay our soil has (e.g. making different shapes with it and checking how it cracks). So we got to know the materials we will work with and filtered them, prepared the plastering mix and then we started to plaster. After the first few movements with earth plaster in our hands, we got more relaxed and continued our work even better. We also painted the walls with earth-water mix, which is another technique to make the natural plaster look more even.
In addition to work, we prepared and shared meals, talked and enjoyed our time together, went for walks, watched some short movies on natural building and a longer one about soil, we crocheted and tried to make dorodango (Japanese polished mud balls). It was a dynamic week in Bozevce, and it was nice to host people from all around Kosovo and share muddy work with them.
Bozevce, October 2020
This workshop was part of my ESC volunteering project Building Resilience. Spending a year in Bozevce and experimenting living with nature and in a community, building with natural materials and producing organic food offers a lot of inspiration and knowledge. It is a chance to challenge ourselves and to grow, but more importantly to experiment in our context, where we are trying a different way of living, that is not harming to nature nor people.