Clay Plaster Workshop in Denmark

We’ve completed our stay and workshop in Denmark and are now in Finland, just outside of Helsinki staying with Irish transplant Paul Lynch, his wife Charlotta and children.  It’s a change, at first glance more modern, similarities to the States, design oriented which means many more Apple computers than other countries in Europe that we’ve visited.  Trees everywhere, they grow here like weeds at home, water, lakes and surprisingly drier and warmer than Denmark even though it is further north.  For now, that’s all for Finland and back to Denmark.

Kalin and new friend Mila at the Lynch home in Finland

Long trip from home to our bed just outside the town of Aarhus in the small community of Friland.  Plane, train and bus combined for 30 hours, more or less without sleep.

En route to London from Tucson

Dinner in Copenhagen

Stopover in Copenhagen, dinner with Randy and husband Felix.

Copenhagen Train Station

Train Station in Copenhagen, notice the amount of bicycles.


Simply put, Denmark is wet.  When it rains, it is simply more wet than normal, but it makes for a beautiful landscape.  It’s fall so grain and straw we’re being harvested, green pastures support livestock of various kinds.  We’re centered in the town of Feldballe, which in addition to being home to the Friland community has a wonderful old section containing traditional buildings some of which date back to the 15th century.

Feldballe Denmark fields

Pasture on the outskirts of Feldballe, Denmark

Feldballe road Denmark

Country road in Feldballe, Denmark

Reed roofed house, Feldballe, Denmark

Old house with reed roof in Feldballe, Denmark

Thatched barn Feldballe Denmark

Thatched Building - Feldballe, Denmark

Friland is a big story, a mortgage free community with lots of experimental and alternative building happening.  Too much to write about, but a visit to their website will tell more:

Friland Denmark house with living roof

Recently installed living roof on Friland house.

Our hosts as with our visit to Friland before are Lars Keller and his Australian wife Jo Morandin.   They are the ones who take care of organizing our workshops and itinerary in Europe.  Organizers and workshop hosts extraordinaire they are in every respect.

Lars Keller, Jo Morandin, Friland

Lars Keller and wife Jo Morandin of Friland and us.

As in various European communities a common feature of many homes is a vegetable garden.

Friland Denmark Vegetable Garden

Vegetable garden in Friland

Another interesting component of the community is the sewage treatment.  Each individual house transfers its sewage to a septic tank and then instead of a leach field, the black water is run through a filtration bed consisting of willows to purify it.

Willow Filtration Bed

Willow filtration bed in Friland


Children in particular with their white blonde hair stand out like brightly colored flowers in the grey/green landscape.

Denmark children

Danish children and one from India.

As with all our workshops, we usually take a tour of something of interest relevant to the workshop.  We paid to a visit to Willem Oskham of Holland, who also maintains a place in Denmark.  He is a manufacturer of compressed soil block machines, vertical shaft mixers and clay crushers of extraordinary quality.  Not only do they surpass other similar machines in quality and durability, they are extremely fuel-efficient.  His beautiful garden, coffee and cookies make for a wonderful afternoon.  I’ll write a separate post on him later as his work is fascinating.  He is currently involved in more than a dozen African countries providing low cost housing.

Willem Oskham

Willem Oskham with workshop participants

Our workshop participants were mostly Danish with the exception of 5 Australians, who were basically there almost by chance.  The other exception was German clay builder/plasterer Michael Von Reith, who really didn’t need to be in the workshop to learn anything, but since we had stayed with he and his wife Tatjiana two years before, they came to see us and help in the teaching.

Michael Von Reith clay builder of Germany

Michael Von Reith and Tatjiana.

As always the group of participants in always made up of a number of fascinating people.  As a sample, I’ll introduce you to young Lars Erik, who introduced himself as a bartender, which at first thought, fits a certain stereotype, but his fascination with perfecting the 30’s cocktail, revealed creativity outside the norm.

Lars Erik of Copenhagen

Lars Erik, 30's cocktail specialist and more.

As for the workshop, we had a building of approximately 400 sf, 40 square meters that had a minimal amount of plaster work.  As usual, the building in it’s current condition pretty much determines what we will be able to do in the workshop.  This one was obvious, a base coat of plaster to cover all the exterior walls, a middle coat for the interior walls, a clay floor, demonstrations of finish clay plasters, a carving by Athena (as always) and in this case, an unplanned last minute clay oven.  It was a lot to accomplish on what you might describe a somewhat rough pallet.

Friland Straw Bale

New straw bale building where the workshop was held.

Michael Von Reith, as a clay builder from the European traditions, gave a demonstration on how he plasters with clay in that his techniques are somewhat different than ours.  Normally he sprays the first coat of plaster, but in this case, he did all by hand.  We took a video of him plastering if it is of interest to you:

Friland Straw Bale Building Inside

Drying the walls on the interior of the workshop building.

One of the most special things about doing this type of work in Denmark is the clay, it’s marvelous.  The clay we used is dug from a brick factory quarry near Aarhus.

Clay from Denmark

Clay paste we used during the workshop.

Ovens always make for a quick and fun workshop experience.  This one, including the base, took a day to build.  We created the sand mold and clay walls after lunch.

Quebec style clay oven in Friland Denmark.

Applying clay slip to oven for a layer of burlap

Quebec style clay oven Friland Denmark

Finished oven with protective shelter.

The work for the week was satisfying, I feel we left the building in much better shape than we found it, ready for finish plasters inside and out.

Earth floor Friland Denmark

Interior of building ready for finish plaster with clay floor.

The carving Athena did with a number of the participants was beautiful as always, I even managed to find time to squeeze in a polished clay finish sample.

Plaster carving Friland Denmark

Plaster carving by Athena and workshop participants.

Polished clay plaster Friland Denmark

Polished clay plaster sample.


A couple of quick notes on the plaster and floor formulas for those who were in attendance at the workshop.

Base coat plaster – 1 part clay paste, 1 part sand, 1 ½ parts chopped straw.

Middle coat plaster – 1 part clay paste, 4 parts sand, 1 part chopped straw.

Floor mix – 1 part clay paste, 5 parts sand, ½ part chopped straw.


Friland Denmark Road and Trees

Leaving Denmark, next stop Finland.

As with my posts from Denver, the photos are all done with the iPhone.  It’s turned out to be an incredible device that is always handy for use, capturing moments that would otherwise vanish.  Being able to process the images on the phone for uploading to the web is also a great time saver.  Furthermore, it’s really simple and not complicated to use, if you are at all tempted, go for it and don’t hesitate.



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Comments (11 responses)

  1. Jill Martinez says:

    Beautiful work and photos as usual. Thank you for your your posts I really enjoy them.

  2. Nice shots and ambiance Bill. I will arrived on Wednesday afternoon. See you in Finland

  3. Line Aaen says:

    As one of the attendies of the work shop in Denmark I will just say ‘Thank You so much’! It was a great work shop! You are both wonderfull Teachers – skilled and with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the work! Have a nice trip ahead and enjoy Finland (especially, I love that country my self). I look forward to follow the rest of your tour on this site. Take care. Hope to see you again next year! All the best, Line

  4. Milt Lee says:

    Looks very nice. Thanks for the clay recipes. Right now we are doing a finish coat on the outside of our house. 3 parts clay, 2 parts sand, and some wheat paste. It’s really nice for troweling, and the look is excellent.

    Loved the carving! Sometime we will get to see what you guys are doing in person.
    Take care,

  5. Sarah Robbins says:

    As I’m ready for a new phone and about to start my own straw bale building project your praise of the i-phone is especially timely!
    Love the photos and work, as always

  6. Thomas says:

    Loved the photo of Michael Von Reith and Tatjiana.
    Bill your an inspiration for creative production.

  7. Bill Bill says:

    Thanks to all of you for great comments, just wanted to let you know they’re appreciated. And to Franck from France, see you as well.

  8. Jane Holland says:

    I wish I could experience this with you all, but traveling via internet is second best. Thank you for sharing.

    Warmest Regards, Jane

  9. Susanna says:

    Spectacular!!! Nice pictures and great works
    We look forward to your coming. Basque Country waits for you.

  10. jeanne says:

    country rd with white house and burnt siena tree silhouettes
    oh loveliness

  11. Kory K Goold says:

    If you have time, you should check out Hamen Castle at Hameenlinna, it was one of my favorites of Southern Finland.

    View Larger Map

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