I Love Mud!
That is the first thing to say. I have trained as a Civil Engineer and worked as a Geotechnical Engineer in the UK, but it wasn’t until I moved to Bulgaria and replaced steel and concrete with mud and straw, and I began building with my hands and sculpting mud, that I truly felt I’d built anything.
From softening clay to assessing the texture; sifting the sand; combining it with straw to make corbels; building up to designing nooks and crannies with old bottles and broken crockery and smoothing the finishes, there is nothing like it, especially when its your own home. As a material it malleable yet durable, as well as an amazing insulator with endless potential. And at the end of it all, if you don’t like you can melt it down to start again or reuse it on another project. Amazing!
I want to share this love and the skills and lessons I’ve learnt through our previous projects. This is a brief over view of my mud journey so far….
There is a long tradition of building with mud in Bulgaria and at first I saw the local mud brick ‘kerpitch’ and used them like a normal brick. I built a simple outside kitchen using them for support and strength. I was then inspired by the actual beauty and potential of mud during a workshop in the village, ran by an Israeli mud sculptor, where we were converting an old barn into a children’s play area. I created a marble run and I came home with my eyes opened! I began looking at everything differently and planning. An unused door in the corner of the room became a bookshelf and seating area.
From this………………. ……………….to this
The more I read about it, the more I touched it, the more I just wanted to make everything out of mud. During my using ‘mud bricks’ phase I had tried to build a rocket stove, without success. I now felt confident enough to try again. We took out all the bricks and melted them down to start again. We now have a beautiful working rocket stove!
Locally I found every opportunity to get involved in our people’s projects, happily helping just for the experience. This led to a lovely summer of mud, where myself and 3 other woman had reciprocal mud weekends, helping with each other’s projects. We converted a cellar and a garage into beautiful spaces and we made another rocket stove. My work weekend was the final one and I really want to something special with all the skilled help at hand. The group was about 10 people and during the weekend we enclosed my porch to connect all the rooms in the winter.
Most of the structural work happened over 2 days. The beautification has been an ongoing work, at least 50 pairs of hands have helped and contributed to the project. There are so many memories worked into the mud.
I am currently living back in the UK and miss mud and being muddy. I returned last year to run a volunteer-based project to begin the outside kitchen at the purple house.
I am now itching to get back and get muddy also to inspire people to start their own mud journey. It can begin with decorating a nook to building your own home – it’s all possible you just need the confidence, a few basic skills and a vision!