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 made with kids in schools. Rainerâ€™s, however, was huge! Not only was it at the center of a major urban park/playground, it was the focus of an annual week of public art and mud work â€“ a modern incarnation of traditional village-building, with Rainer as â€œarch tecton,â€ literally, the â€œhead builder.â€ I sent an email asking if I could include some photos of his work in my book, and got a quick reply â€“ in English! (I was grateful, not having any German myself.) Not only did Rainer send wonderful photos, stories, and inspiration, he also provided apt and timely advice regarding my layout and design for the book. More recently, he helped Ian Miller with feedback on the German edition of Build Your Own Earth Oven. I still havenâ€™t met him, but Rainer continues his work in various areas, including oven-building, and has a website in both English and German. Itâ€™s about time I said a proper word of thanks.
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