Last weekend in Denver, Colorado I held my first ever 2-day Straw Bale Design Seminar. The evening before the workshop began, I joined my friend Jim at the hotel bar for a beer. I met Jim last year at the Brownsville, Oregon straw bale workshop. While he and I caught up with each other another workshop graduate named Julie from the class in Crestone, Colorado, walked up and gave me a hug. She was too tired to hang out, but seeing her smiling face was enough to bring a smile to my own. Shortly after that, Susan (from the Missouri and North Dakota workshops) walked up and joined me and Jim at the bar. I realized in that moment just how much I truly love what I do. My job is one that allows me to meet amazing people from all over the world and to continually grow my circle of friends.
On Saturday night, after the day’s session, a group of us went out to dinner and enjoyed the evening together. Thai and Japanese food, beer and wine, great conversations, and smiling faces made the evening. After dinner we retired to our rooms and settled in for the night. After an hour or so, I made my way back to the hotel lobby to “cook” a bag of microwave popcorn. When I got there, I noticed several folks from the class lounging on the couches. I took my snack over and joined them. We hung out, shared a bag of popcorn, swapped stories, and laughed late into the evening. Yes, I was in my pajamas and no, it totally didn’t matter. We were simply old and new friends hanging out and having a good time. There was no campfire nor guitars, but we found a way to have a blast nonetheless.
The next morning, I found myself in the elevator with a friendly woman who asked me what I was teaching at the hotel. When I told her it was straw bale construction, she became very interested. Turns out she is an architect and the concept is something that has interested her for many years. I shared with her that since my past workshops have all been hands-on, the idea of teaching the design details of a straw bale home over two days in a hotel conference room was something that had taken me many years to wrap my head around. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about the format of teaching in a hotel conference room; however, I can now say with complete confidence that this model for learning works.
I suppose it would be silly for me to try and share the group experience via a blog post. We simply covered too much ground and had too much fun to sum it up in a few paragraphs. I’ll do my best, nonetheless, to let you in on it as best I can. Here’s what I can share. The simple format of the weekend allowed us to discuss the inner workings of straw bale construction in great detail. We covered the construction details of building a straw bale home and how to properly represent those details on the construction drawings. We talked at great length about working with building departments, banks, insurance companies, and more. We dove into managing subcontractors, budgets, and time lines. We reviewed the plans that participants brought with them and offered feedback and guidance on each set.
What I can’t share with you, or at least what I can’t do any justice in sharing on a blog entry, is the overall feeling of the weekend. For me, walking into a room full of people and immediately seeing faces I knew from previous workshops was so great. I started my workshop by hugging old friends and saying hello to new ones. I think there is something about starting a workshop that way because the smiles seemed to be contagious. I think they came from knowing that the room was full of like minded people willing to share their questions and experiences to help the group move forward. After all, people were there to learn more about the details of building their dream home. Sharing that experience with others who hold a similar dream is a great thing.
I am happy to say that this was the first of many design workshops I will offer. The fun was palpable and the overall experience was great. I came home and immediately started planning my next 2-day design seminar which I expect to be in New York City this January or February. Stay tuned for more on the date and location. I sure hope you can join us. I expect nothing but a great time, to be sure…
If you have some ideas about specific locations or just want to be part of the conversation moving forward, please join us below in the comments section.