Earthen Sonce: DIY Natural Building


sconse11Here’s an easy natural building project that you can try in your own home. These beautiful sconces are made from wood, sticks, straw, sand, and clay. They can be affixed to any type of wall and utilize a standard wall mounted ceramic screw-base light fixture. Feel free to innovate with shape and structure.

1. First we created a cardboard template for the sconce backplate. It was important to make sure the light fixture would fit!

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2. The template was traced onto 1″x 12″ fir, then cut using a jigsaw with the blade angled at 45 degrees to give the finish plaster a soft edge.   

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 3. Next we drilled holes for our plum branches (these form the sconce framework.) The holes were drilled larger from the back to allow fixing later.

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4. We harvested some plum branches from the garden and removed the smaller branchlets leaving straight, flexible canes.

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5. The plum branches were inserted into the holes we drilled, then fixed using a small nail. We had to pre-drill the branch to stop it from splitting.  The long ends were then cut-off.

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6. The plum branches are bent to the other side of the back plate, making sure that you leave enough space for your light bulb!  Using freshly cut (“green”) branches is important to maintain flexibility.

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 7. The final branch is bent from the bottom and tied onto each cross piece.

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8. The framework is now completed and you can fix it to the wall using the appropriate anchors.  We fixed our sconce to a lathe/earthen plaster wall using four toggle bolts.

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9. Using long strands of straw dipped in clay slip, we wove the body of the sconce, making sure to leave gaps at the bottom for the light to escape

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10. After it dried, we gave it a trim using scissors creating a shape and medium that would receive the plaster well.  After applying a clay slip we used a straw-heavy base plaster to build the shape we desired.  The base plaster dried and we finished with a fine-grained clay-based finish plaster.

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We encourage you to try this at home! If you make one, send us a picture. We’d love to check out your work!

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If you are looking for more hands-on natural building training from a team of professional builders and artisans check out Aprovecho’s research and education opportunities in Natural Building and Green Design!

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Text and Photos: Jeffrey Hart, Chris Foraker
Original Design: Chris Foraker, Ashley Aymond

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