I am the director and lead instructor of House Alive. I took my first cob workshop in 1998 and have been building and teaching ever since.
I don't believe that there is only one way to build; however, earthen construction, in particular in the form of cob and adobe brick, seem to provide such a universal and beautiful way to shelter ourselves that it in my eyes has become the "mother of all construction". This motivates me to teach people how to create their own living environment, using clay-soil as the primary ingredient.
I was born and raised in The Netherlands and moved to the United States in 1986, after which I worked in summer camps for 15 years. I still feel like I am using that experience as a backdrop for my workshops: getting a group of people together in a beautiful setting, eating good food, laughing and making music, and, together making something very beautiful.
In 2014 I have compiled most of the things being taught during the workshop into a book called "House of Earth". This is now used as a textbook for most workshops.
When I am not building or teaching I like to camp, Kayak, and, most of all, make music and sing songs with my guitar and harmonica.
I fell in love with earthen construction during a House Alive apprenticeship in India. After working in the solar industry for five years I decided to make the switch from the corporate world to building with mud.
In 2013 I earned my degree in renewable energy and ecological design from Green Mountain College and went directly in to the solar and construction industry. While I enjoyed the work I was doing, I felt a calling to further explore my connection with the natural world.
In 2017 I moved to Oregon from the East Coast to work full time with House Alive. With a few houses, plasters, and remodels under my belt I am as motivated as ever to help spread the word about these alternative building methods.
In my spare time you'll find me attempting different forms of arts and crafts or eating delicious food that someone else has cooked for me.
In 2010 I fell in love with natural building when my family and I spent six months living and apprenticing at House Alive. What better place to experience the magic and beauty of earthen construction and what better people to learn from? I’ve been building, teaching, and playing with earth since then.
In 2011, my wife and I started the Be the Change Project - an urban homestead and learning space in Reno, Nevada. Our half-acre lot is a laboratory for better living where we put permaculture practices, appropriate technologies, and good ‘ol fashioned neighborhood community-building into action. I blog regularly for Mother Earth News and we were honored as one of their “Homesteads of the Year” in 2013.
Yes, I see natural building and our workshops as important parts of what Joanna Macy calls, “The Great Turning” - the narrative for a brighter future. But, as importantly, it’s a hoot to get into the mud and share these luscious materials and techniques with good people.
I was a science teacher and school designer for seven years and a roofer and framer for five and bring those skill sets to our workshops. I spend a lot of time with my two sons, enjoy the great outdoors, martial arts, and a good book with a glass of wine by a fire.
I've been building with mud for 13 years. It's hard to believe it has been that long, I guess time flies when you're having fun! I've facilitated workshops and projects in several countries and continents. I love seeing people get excited about the possibilities of building with earth: everyone who works with it is amazed by how versatile, strong, and just plain fun it is.
I have been working with House Alive on-and-off since 2004. Conrad and I approach the process of learning to build in the same way. Workshops are focused on getting hands-on-experience, demystifying building concepts, and keeping things simple and manageable. I am always grateful for the opportunity to introduce the wonders of earth building to a new group of students!
In addition to teaching workshops, I also have done contract work in both the "conventional" and natural building fields. In 2014 I co-wrote a book about earthen floors, with the goal of making that technique more accessible for people. I am a firm believer that earth building techniques can be used by anyone almost anywhere! All that is required is a little practice and patience.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about any program I'm facilitating.