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Re: GSBN:Straw bale house plan book
- To: "GSBN" GSBN@...
- Subject: Re: GSBN:Straw bale house plan book
- From: Chris Magwood cmagwood@...
- Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2002 00:11:13 -0500
- Reply-to: "GSBN" GSBN@...
- Sender: "GSBN" GSBN@...
It's taken me a couple of days to get back to you. In that time I've gone
from astonishment to anger to amusement at your comments.
At first I was astonished because I had no idea anybody was harbouring any
bad feelings towards me and the work I've done. When I first started
getting interested in bale building (via the Steen's book), I made a big
purchase from Out on Bale. I bought Matt's book, and every available video
and resource they had available at the time. My entire grounding in this
field comes from these people. And that's why you'll find a very heartfelt
dedication to these people in both the books I've written. I certainly do
know who made my start possible, and I readily acknowledge this fact
constantly, at workshops, lectures and in written material. I even made a
"pilgrimmage" to the Nebraska conference (a trip I couldn't even really
afford) just to get a chance to meet my elders.
Did I take a workshop with Matts and Judy before starting? No, I did not.
For many like me, the American southwest is a long and expensive journey,
and those of us hoping to build an affordable house don't have the extra
thousand or two it takes to travel that distance and then pay for a
workshop. I dove in and, using their written and video material, did it
In building my own house, and then gradually building others (which I did
not do by claiming myself an "expert", but rather went to other people's
sites somewhat reluctantly, to help out and put my experience to their
use), I noted the places where I felt that the information I had used was
lacking. This does not mean I trashed all that came before me, but I took a
keen interest in developing that information. I don't think any of the
elders would make the claim that they knew it all and that there was no
room for further movement. I saw a critical need for a complete
owner/builder book, one that went from buying property and planning,
through to finishing. None of the available books at the time did this, and
so Pete and I decided to do it. When we started, we contacted all the
elders of the movement to let them know what we were doing, and to ask for
advice and contributions if anybody felt so inclined. A few people
responded, and we included their thoughts in the book. Most didn't contact
us at all.
We were very aware that we were producing a book from far outside the straw
bale "circle". It made us nervous; we wondered how it would be received. To
our delight, David Eisenberg responded with a very favourable "back cover
blurb". To me, that was the biggest success of the book!
Anyway, all of this is just to say that I do not feel as though I have ever
showed any disrespect to those who came before me.
My anger at your posting came from feeling as though you were judging me
and my efforts, without ever having read my work. I thought: How can it be
that someone who is claiming to be a central resource to owner/builders and
a seller of bale-related materials has not made the effort to see a copy of
this book? I thought, if anybody should be feeling offended here, it's me,
not you. Now that my calmer mind is prevailing, I really mind that you've
never picked up my book. In some ways, it illustrates exactly the process
that has led you to tell me I'm ignoring my elders.
Like it or not, distance matters. Information and thought can start in one
place, but it won't remain there forever. If it's good information (like
that of the Steens, Myhrmans and Knoxes), it spreads from its starting
place. Other places then grow as hubs of that information. Growth becomes
parallel. In the same way that it hasn't been important to you to find and
read a bale book from Canada, it's not that important for Canadians to seek
out the original southwestern pioneers anymore (nor was it important to me
to buy books of home plans that would not be legal or appropriate in my
climate). Not that anybody feels any animosity... but we tend to grow
locally, to seek out sources that are close to home.
Your home happens to be the original hub of bale building. You are very
lucky. But the whole rest of the world can't keep its roots in that one
source. Good seeds were planted by our elders. I have benefitted greatly
from those seeds. But they've blown all over the world now. You can't be
possessive of that growth. True enough, some of the people who are claiming
expert status now don't have a clue where their beginnings were. But many
of them ARE experts, and their distance from the original source doesn't
discredit them at all. I have taught apprentices who now build houses. They
know where I got my original information, but together we've all grown from
that point. This work of natural building is not dogmatic. We can't all bow
to the southwest at the start of every project. I don't think anybody would
I think the fact that one of my first contacts as editor of TLS was to you
and the many other southwestern pioneers should be proof that it is not my
intention to forget or slight those who came before me. I extended a hand
at that point, and though it feels slightly bitten at this point, it
remains extended in friendship and learning.
Chris Magwood / Camel's Back Straw Bale Construction
Check out our book:
Straw Bale Building: How to Plan, Design and Build with Straw
Straw Bale Details: A Manual for Designers and Builders
both from New Society Publishers <www.newsociety.com>