In a bid to showcase the many different people drawn to natural building, we want to introduce you to a different SNaB trainee. This time, it’s the turn of 32 year old Lea Bal from Slovakia,for whom discovering strawbale building proved a life-changing experience!
Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Lea and I am from Slovakia. I was a normal person, but now I am different 🙂 In 2006, I graduated from the University of Maintenance and Economy of Transport. During my studies I became aware of ecological issues and I was looking for other solutions how to live my life more ecologically. After my friend introduced me to Permaculture, I went to visit one permaculture farm in Czech Republic where I discovered strawbale buidling and my journey began.
After completing my studies, I went abroad to improve my English and broaden my horizons. I heard about amazonails while I was working in Wales. I really wished to work with them, but at that time my experiences on the building site where zero. I went to work in Prague – my one and only office job experience – and in my spare time I started to volunteer on the farms with natural building. Later I travelled with a friend also interested in natural building and we visited other countries as volunteers, including Denmark, France, India, England and Wales.
So what happened next?
I returned to England in 2010 to work as a social carer, but my great intention was to attend Barbara’s 5 day load-bearing strawbale course. My friend Michal attended course as well. After that we wanted to build – and build we did! We built a small round yoga studio on the farm in Oxford, 7m in diameter using the infill method.
We came back to Slovakia in the summer of 2012 and wanted to continue to build! We set up the group of natural builders Organica and built a load bearing strawbale barn for a friend. Ever since we have been promoting natural building in Slovakia, organising practical courses and advising self builders. This year our working group has expanded to 6-8 full time members. We do mostly clay plasters, some lime plastering and SB walls.
What inspired you to get involved with the Straw Works School of Natural Building?
Their great experience, approach to building and the fact they already have programmes, presentations, theoretical and practical courses ready and the level of their standards.
And what have you done so far within the traineeship?
Due to my prior experience, I am missing just one part from the practical course – car tyre foundations. I attended many theoretical courses, not just to learn more theory but also to see how to lead presentations and courses.
What would you say have been the highlights of the experience to date?
There are many high points: making new contacts, gaining more experience, working to high standards. A low point might be that, in some cases, I cannot source the same materials back at home and also budgets are different. So I either have to find another solution or make a compromise.
What are your future natural building plans and dreams as far as strawbale building is concerned?
I have been a trainee for a long time, so by finishing this traineeship, I am hoping to complete my journey as a travelling natural building apprentice. There is also a need for experienced strawbale teachers in Slovakia. I would like to be able to design and build whole buildings out of ecological and natural materials. I wish that people would stop building boxes and make more organic shapes and be more creative with the space we live in!