Natural Plasters and Floors Workshop

Whoops, we accidentally sent out the wrong flier! Here is the correct information for our upcoming Natural Plasters and Floors workshop at Wanosh Forest Gardens in Willits. It’s coming up soon, so if you’re interested please register right away!


2 Summer Workshops in Mendocino County

Hello, friends-

There is still space in both of my summer workshops: “Natural Plasters and Floors” at Wanosh Forest Gardens in July and “Natural Building with Clay, Stone and Wood” at Tan Oak Park in August.

This is the 4th year of natural plasters and floors intensives at Wanosh Forest Gardens. There is a lot of great finish work to see from previous years, and we will be adding a lot more beautiful finishes to several of the natural buildings there. My co-teacher Avani Patrick is just back from three months plastering in Japan and is excited to teach some of what she learned there, including the superfine lime Shikkui finish. This 9-day workshop includes a huge range of information and skill-building appropriate for everyone from beginning to experienced plasterers. Register at:

We’ve just finalized details with my longtime collaborator Colin Gillespie for our second workshop at Tan Oak Park, which is being developed into a demonstration center for ecological forest management and reciprocal culture building. This is a great first workshop for people new to natural building who want to learn not only healthy construction techniques but how to develop a more healthy relationship with the land. We will be emphasizing how to sustainably harvest building materials on site, with hands-on work focused on cob, stone foundations, round pole harvest and framing, and earthen plasters and floors. Register here:

Please share the word about both of these workshops, and I hope to see you at one of them. After this year, I will likely be taking a year or two off from teaching workshops to focus on building a straw bale home for my family.


Natural Plasters & Floors

Join me for another exciting learning opportunity at Wanosh Forest Gardens in Willits, CA. The workshop will be July 13-21st, 2024 and will include 7 full days of hands-on training in clay and lime plasters and earthen floors. This is the 4th year we have been offering this class at this location, and we have figured out how to pack a huge amount of training into a week! Plus you get to see all the beautiful results of previous years’ courses. Check out their other course offerings including 2 weeks of Round Pole Timber Framing in September.

For more information or to register:

Space still available in September Natural Plasters workshop

Hi again-

I just want to let you know that there are still openings in the 2-week Natural Plasters workshop at Wanosh Forest Gardens in Willits, CA. In order to make the workshop more accessible to people who are not able to commit for the 2 full weeks, we have divided it into two one-week segments. You can sign up for either week, or for both.

Week 1 – September 18-23, 2023

Taught primarily by Athena Steen and myself

Topics: wall preparation; straw-clay base plaster; clay and lime finish plasters; Sgraffito (layered plaster carving); proper selection and use of trowels; choosing appropriate finishes for any situation; clay soil harvesting and analysis; plaster recipe development and testing; building design for plaster durability.

Week 2 – September 24-29, 2023

Taught by Viva Hansen and Blair Phillips

Topics: straw-clay base plaster; clay and lime finish plasters; clay and natural paints; lime fresco (pigmented lime mural); relief sculpture; retrofits, maintenance and remodels; earthen floor installation.

If anyone doesn’t know Athena Steen, you should! She is one of the most accomplished and celebrated pioneers of the natural building revival. (See her website at I have had the privelege of teaching with her several times in recent years. Not only is she an amazing artist and a remarkable person to spend time with, she is also the most skilled plastering instructor I have ever seen. She has a remarkable ability to give personalized technical instruction to every student in a class, coaching each one on how to improve their trowel handling and application technique. It’s impressive to watch her turn a group of novices into a skilled plastering team in just a few days.

Register at You can get a 5% price break by using the code Michael5 during checkout. Hope to see you there!

Michael G. Smith

Natural Building and Regenerative Forest Management

Hi Friends-

I’m excited to be part of an upcoming workshop that combines two of my passions: natural buidling and regenerative forest management. Forests throughout western North America are suffering from a century of fire suppression, which in combination with climate change makes our communities vulnerable to catastrophic fire. What if there were a way to enhance the health and resiliency of the surrounding ecosystem while harvesting useful resources for building healthy, firesafe structures and supportive communities? There is! Come join us to learn natural building techniques while redeveloping a reciprocal place-based culture. Hands-on work will feature cement free gabion and gravel bag foundations, round pole framing and furniture making, cob, redwood bark-and-clay insulation, and earthen floors.

Find out more at:

Hope to see you there!


Natural Building at Wanosh Forest Gardens

Hello again!

Over the last few years I have helped teach a number of workshops at Abuela Gardens in Willits, CA. This site is rapidly growing into one of the most active natural building and permaculture learning centers in California. I’m happy to be part of their lineup again this year, at the newly renamed Wanosh Forest Gardens. The workshops I’ll be teaching this year are the 2-week Natural Building Intensive, July 16-29, in which we will be building a cob sauna from foundation to roof (including an introduction to insulative infill wall systems like the regionally appropriate redwood bark and clay) and the Arts of Natural Plasters with Athena Steen, from September 18-29. I’m so looking forward to teaching with Athena again twice this season!

These are only two of a much longer list of practical workshops scheduled at Wanosh this summer, which also include round-pole timber framing, rocket mass heaters, and more. See the complete listing, with descriptions and prices, at

For a limited time, I can offer you a 10% early bird discount for any workshop at Wanosh. If you register by May 20 and enter the coupon code “Michael10” during checkout, you will receive 10% off the worshop price. Please spread the word to your friends and family. Children are welcome at these workshops. Get in touch if you have any questions.

Michael G. Smith

[email protected]

The Art of Natural Plasters

July 2-7, 2023 – Tonasket, Washington

with Michael G. Smith, Athena Steen, Robert Kolden and Avani Leitz

Hello, friends-

I’m excited to announce another workshop this summer in Northern Washington. Last summer’s natural wall-building workshop at the same site was a memorable experience: amazing people, beautiful scenery, and that feeling of cohesion, accomplishment and synchronicity that happens in the best workshops. I expect more of the same this summer, especially since natural plaster superstar Athena Steen will be bringing her decades of technical and artistic experience, and Robert Kolden will be teaching the fine art of tadelakt! This will be an extremely comprehensive overview of clay and lime plasters, with lots to learn both for beginning and experienced plasterers. Check out this website for more details and to register:

I hope to see you there!


Earthen Plasters and Floors

September 12-16, 2022

Hello friends-
I greatly enjoyed last year’s workshop series at Abuela Gardens in Willits CA. In case you missed them, we will be offering two more Natural Building workshops there in 2022. There are other great workshops on offer including a Permaculture Design Course and an Herbal Medicine Apprenticeship. See more details here:

I hope to see you at one of these excellent events!


Michael G. Smith, Sasha Rabin

A great opportunity to develop your skills and understanding of earthen finishes, including:

• straw-clay base coat plasters for sculpting and protection

• endless variations of clay finish plasters for durability and beauty

• durable, water-resistant earthen floors

These techniques are suitable for natural buildings including straw bale and cob, as well for “eco-renovation” of conventional homes, where they can add natural beauty, thermal mass for increased energy efficiency, and health-enhancing moisture modulation. Plus, they are fun, artistic, and inexpensive!

Each day includes many hours of hands-on skill building, with an emphasis on proper tool use, recipe development and testing, and site organization for efficiency and flow. Learn to find, test, and ecologically harvest your own clay; how to choose the most appropriate finish option for your building project; how to prepare various wall surfaces to improve adhesion; and how to design your home to make the plasters last.

Rocket Mass Heaters and Natural Building

July 9-13, 2022

Hello friends-
I greatly enjoyed last year’s workshop series at Abuela Gardens in Willits CA. In case you missed them, we will be offering two more Natural Building workshops there in 2022. There are other great workshops on offer including a Permaculture Design Course and an Herbal Medicine Apprenticeship. See more details here:

I hope to see you at one of these excellent events!


Sasha Rabin, Michael G. Smith, Colin Gillespie

Like two jam-packed workshops in one! Come build a rocket mass heater, a super-efficient wood-burning stove that stores heat in the thermal mass of an earthen bench. Learn about the many exciting RMH variations and possibilities: batch vs. downfeed! cooking! water heating! hypocaust floors! 

At the same time, we will be exploring a range of high-insulation and thermal mass natural building systems including cob, straw bale, light straw-clay, and slipsquatch (redwood bark and clay.) We will also install the drainage layer and the first pour of an earthen floor.

Students will rotate daily between several hands-on projects so that they get to know each of these techniques. Daily lectures cover the theoretical knowledge you will need to design your own project: how a RMH works; dangers, do’s, and don’ts; thermal properties of natural building systems; and how to combine them all into an energy-efficient passive solar home.

Straw Bale, Cob, Light Straw-Clay, Slip-and-Chip, Clay Plasters

Natural Building with Michael G. Smith

Tonasket, Washington

July 24-30, 2022

Learn the techniques you need to build a low-carbon, energy-efficient home in any climate. This workshop teaches the hands-on skills needed to construct both high-insulation (straw bale, light straw-clay, slip-and-chip) and thermal mass walls (cob), using low-cost, locally available materials including clay soil, straw, and wood. These wall systems are easy to learn, inexpensive, beautiful, durable, and fire-resistant. Which one you choose depends on your climate, design, and local resources – or build a hybrid home utilizing multiple wall systems to maximize efficiency and design flexibility!

Most of each day will be spent constructing an actual hybrid home. Hands-on building will be supplemented with daily lectures and slide shows that provide the theoretical understanding you will need to design your home: finding and testing clay soils and other local resources; foundations, drainage and moisture protection; passive solar design; structural and thermal properties of different natural wall systems; how to develop your own successful recipes for cob and natural plasters, and more!

Camp under the trees on this remote and peaceful community property in the Okanagan Valley. Three delicious meals per day will be prepared on site, emphasizing organic and local ingredients. Meet new friends who want to help build a healthier future. Register soon, as space is limited.


Michael G. Smith has nearly three decades experience with natural building; he has taught over 120 hands-on workshops for everyone from school children to professional builders and designers. In 1993, he helped found The Cob Cottage Company in Oregon; the next year, he organized the first Natural Building Colloquium. He is a founding director of The Cob Research Institute, which developed the first building code for cob. He is co-author of The Hand-Sculpted House and The Art of Natural Building. He now lives and farms with his family in Northern California.


The base fee is $840 per person. Our aim is to provide the most enriching learning experience possible that is accessible to everyone.  We have many discounts available in addition to work-trade opportunities.  If you want to join us, we want you to be here so let’s make it happen!  Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Natural building sites are family friendly and we welcome all ages (inquire about rates & special circumstances for minors).

  • Family and Friends discount 10% off: Register together and each person gets a discount.
  • EARLY BIRD Discount 10% off: Pay in full by June 10th to receive discount.
  • BIPOC price 20% off:  We acknowledge that many techniques of earthen building have been learned and adapted from cultures around the world that have been marginalized and even destroyed. May this be a way to include people who have been systemically isolated from ancestral knowledge and hereditary wealth.
  • Discounts are cumulative up to a maximum of 25% off.
  • 1 Economic Hardship/Full Work trade available – includes arriving before the workshop to set up and staying after to clean up.
  • Partial work trade for partial enrollment discount is available (please inquire).


Enrollment is limited so please register early. 50% deposit required to reserve your spot. The remaining balance is due upon arrival. Please register here: