Some years ago now, I got an unexpected email from Elke Cole, a German-born architect now living in Canada, whom I had originally met at the first Natural Building Colloquium in Oregon, in the mid 90s. Elke was traveling in Germany, where sheâ€™d come across a public art project in a park in Berlin. It was full of earthen sculptures made by a German artist named Rainer Warzecha. At the time, I was collecting stories and photos to expand a little pamphlet about earthen art projects (Dig Your Hands in the Dirt). But most of what I had were small scale projects: benches, ovens, and things . . .
I built this oven for a local CSA farmstand restaurant (gathering together farm). We held a public workshop; folks came to make mud and learn and we built the basic oven in a weekend. BUT! (and this was my fault for not watching more closely), the dome came out a little flat. Usually, when it's not quite right, I tell folks, "OK, time to tear down and rebuild." This is a great way to conquer the fear of doing it wrongâ€” and it's the only way to prove to folks the truth of my favorite oven-building adage: "the second time is easier and faster." But I let myself be convinced that the dome . . .