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March 2024

Building a cob house

Cara graver cob house builderCara Graver built a cob house. An artist who has worked in many materials, she had attended a six week workshop in Oregon on natural building and came back to build what is now “The Cob Studio.” A cob house is built out of clay, sand, straw, and water. Graver says cob building has been done on almost every continent, and in every age. “Cob” comes from the old English word for loaf. About her house: Most of the clay she got from a neighbor who was building a house. There was a big hole with a pile of dirt beside it and that dirt was full of clay. More clay she retrieved by the roadside where there was exposed land. Graver led a nine day workshop with 25 participants to build the cob house. Your correspondent asked her to demonstrate the process: First you put clay and sand on a tarp and add water. You stamp and mix it with your feet . Next with your arm full of straw, grab a chunk of the clay mixture, combine it all together and shape it into a ball. Once you’ve formed the ball you shout “Cob toss” and toss it down the line of people to the person at the wall. That person puts it into place and tamps it down with their fingers. The wall is just built up from there! (Gravers was interviewed at the High Point Cafe craft market at the Allen Lane train station in Mount Airy, Philadelphia,  in 2023.)

Watch video interview here