Matrix, Mix, Sample and Crisp!

 In Blog

We are now nibbling in the second half of the build time, and while we do this, our understanding of both the details and the overall master plan is both broadened and challenged.

Bright Blue elements dot the building and all our walls turn Red.

Does it have anything to do with Joe’s socks, the Matrix or the Render Gun?

Okay, some clarification is needed, and there is not much to do with the aftermath of our film sessions wrapped in blankets on the couches of our comfortable Marquise while snapping mosquito fireworks with our electric racquets.

The Render Gun

The Render Gun is definitely involved. The clay we spray on the strawbale walls is now red. A beautiful ocher that reminds the south of France. This week, the inside of the big workshop is pulverized in one day and we send back the Render Gun and its compressor. Thanks guys! For your good services! But we will not regret your thunderous noises.

The ‘Matrix’ fibre coat

The matrix? Getting lost in time, webbing an epiderm with a mixture of straw-clay on the straw walls, penetrates deeply into our muscles, our inner roller coaster from meditation to exasperation. Alone in front of your wall! IIt takes a Jeffrey and a Jodie to distill judiciously the information which will allow you to understand, finally, the Matrix. Or is it, in the corner of the eye, a red sock and a blue sock walking over giant boots that remind you that the Matrix must still be understood?

Oak doors

The oak door frames are perfectly assembled in a quieter corner under the shade of our roof: Joe uses a plane and chisels, a custom workbench and a lot of head scratching. In two days, the two door frame of the summer kitchen are in place …. and are covered with a flashy blue tape. With our oak wood beam, our chestnut green wood frame, and the recently installed oak frame windows, the bright blue protective covers remind us that we are getting closer and closer to the finish. That’s where it’s getting Crisp! (The crisp finish is what we aim for!)

Flat not smooth plaster

“Flat but not smooth” is now the new motto. After applying the matrix, the walls of the summer kitchen should be flattened or, or better said leveled up to their proudest vertical points. It’s the daubing out. And the level we use as our guideline is our “stick of misery” as baptized by a student who wants to remain anonymous.

# SuffolkStrawbale build is also a lab : sampling and experimentation are happening all around!

A corner of the Marquise bubbles with delicious home-made wines (another student who wants to remain anonymous becomes more and more talented!), while a large tall container is filled with straw and water to produce a fermented straw, element of fine plasters, following the traditions of the Japanese master plasterers.

Testing the plaster mix

shake test to analyse soil

After a good break under the warm sun of the bank holiday we reveal the results of our plastering sample tests : which is the best ratio of clay / sand /loam? Jeffrey and Jodie adjust the final recipe and at the end of the day, everyone applies the stabilized lime render: almost a third of the small walls of the workshop are covered just after tea break. The next day, I work under the direction of Jodie to reproduce the chemistry of the mix (do not ask for the recipe!

You can only find your own local recipe by testing / sampling your specific ingredients). On this very day 8 / 9th of the large workshop the outer walls are rendered with this coffee coloured render, resembling very much a cake icing. Everyone loves the feeling of the trowel and the smoothness of the mix. Invert the cells of your brain: “Smooth but not flat” is our new motto. What matters is to seal the strawbales (water, insects, mold or fire, none will pass our rendering). Next layer is the larch cladding (already delivered). Plasterboard, roof soffits, decorative plaster stops (larch and oak in the summer kitchen) are on the menu and we are getting closer to the clean finishes! So convenient that we had all the previous steps to perfect our techniques and our accuracy!

Reflection on the build so far

Without a doubt, we have this unique and rare opportunity to experience all the stages of a construction project: from foundations to roof (the good boots and the good hat), from frame to finishes, from woodwork to strawbale, from brickwork to metalwork, from earthfloor to plasters.

Our brain and our body have to constantly adapt and learn new climates (from dry to dusty from wet to muddy), new languages and populations (here come the alligator saw, then come an electric plane, and now welcome to nail-gun and table-saw world!) and then to conjugate them, to bring them together, to assemble them and to be at the same time their apprentices, their ambassador, their translator or their mediator.

What a journey and an exploration!

Thanks Hartwyn and all the students who share! Julie, Phoebe, Andries, Vittorio, Rihanon, Mike, Sophie, Samantha, Jules

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clay plastering can be messy!