Dig Your Hands in the Dirt: A Manual for Making Art out of Earth by Kiko Denzer

Just what it says it is. Betty Edwards recommends it "for every grade school teacher." 132 pages, 28 pages color, paper.


Here is substantial and serious inspiration and practical lessons for artists, teachers, students, and designers, and anyone interested in natural, earthen materials like adobe, cob, clay, etc. Brief, elegant, generously illustrated with drawings and 32 pages of color photos, and very affordable, this is a book for kids of all ages:

  • integrates craft, art, inspiration & beauty with practical processes to build awareness, skills, knowledge, and confidence
  • makes lo-budget art into a practical option for anyone
  • real world insights demonstrate how beauty can make things better
  • lo-tech methods opens the border between art and architecture

Projects range from earthen murals based on traditional south African pattern design, to a monumental labyrinth and sundial, a whole earthen park in Berlin, large-scale sculpted benches and structures, model villages and even tiny bird-houses of mud sculpted on woven frames.

A comprehensive technical section spells out the details: finding and mixing mud — in more ways than you can cook eggs; explanatory examples and extensive resources offer inspiration and sources for further study.

The chapter on “design as process and pattern” makes art a social activity. First, you build common goals and vision. Then, translate simple, natural (and easy to draw) patterns into sophisticated and complex designs that transform bland, anonymous architecture into real places where real communities can find stories and meaning as well as shelter. Illustrated with real examples.

Dirt is a democratic material for serious, beautiful, and affordable art, and this book offers a democratic process for creative collaboration, to make beauty into a shared endeavor and common property. “Finding and claiming beauty is a fundamentally positive act that helps unite a fragmented world, and makes sense of harsh and confusing realities….Art helps join us, harmoniously, to a whole.”

“I love this book! Kiko Denzer is an imaginative teacher with a great sense of design who clearly inspires children to create beauty from the humblest of all art materials–mud! Just reading his exercises makes you want to get right down into it. Every grade school teacher should seize on this book to enrich their students’ lives.”
– Dr. Betty Edwards, Professor Emerita in art, California State University, & author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

“This is a manual on how to create low budget public art with earth. Rather than a cookie cutter approach, it offers a fascinating process to help you see and understand pattern in nature. The resulting designs are utterly consistent with the process of natural design. It’s an invaluable and unique tool. Use it to involve kids, families, and schools in positive change.”
– Ianto Evans, author of The Hand Sculpted House, co-owner/founder of Cob Cottage Co. and N. American School of Natural Building, landscape architect, and teacher.

“This book…teaches practical skills that empower children to create everything from playgrounds to school walls using the simplest of methods…. [A]dults will be inspired…, and will find the technical information useful…. With engaging text and evocative photos and drawings, Kiko shows us how to build with nature and community. …the best book on doing art with community that I have ever seen. I found it an inspiration.”
– Joseph F. Kennedy, architect, teacher, & editor of Building Without Borders & The Art of Natural Building

“…an excellent tool for anyone who is interested in the design and creation of ecological art and places, in natural building, and in working creatively with children of every age.”
– Mark Lakeman, architect, founder/director of City Repair

“…Everyone becomes an artistin a creative group process that teaches design, application, architecture, and cooperation using the first art we all love: MUD PIES!”
– Ann Wiseman, teacher, & author of Making Things

“[T]he mud wall mosaics….are stunning, transforming hostile barren school walls into somewhere you might actually want to spend time…. [Earth] is a remarkable material, and Dig Your Hands in the Dirt is a very useful resource of ideas and possibilities…. I recommend it wholeheartedly.”
– Rob Hopkins, The Hollies Centre For Practical Sustainability, Ireland

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