May 31 – June 2, 9am — 5pm

Natural Plasters- 3-Day Intensive (In-Person)


This three-day class is an intensive introduction to finishing interior and exterior walls taught over a single weekend in Pioneertown, California. We will focus on mixing and applying clay plasters and paints on a variety of substrates (masonry as well non-masonry, frame, and drywall constructions). As an AIA-accredited class, architectural professionals will also have the opportunity to earn 10 HSW Learning Units.

6 in stock

This three-day class is an intensive introduction to finishing interior and exterior walls taught over a single weekend.


24 hours (three 8-hour days)

Course Topics

  1. Soil Selection and Testing
  2. Aggregate Selection and Testing
  3. Straw Selection and Preparation
  4. Water Resistance and Stabilization
  5. Tools for Natural Plasters & Paints
  6. Clay Plaster & Paint Mixing and Application

Who is it for?

Beginners welcome! This class bundles essential “100 to 300-level” topics from the Adobeisnotsoftware Adobe Curriculum into a format that will be particularly interesting for building professionals, DIYers, natural building enthusiasts, adobe homeowners, aspiring owner builders, and the adobe curious.

Course Learning Objectives

  • Learn about clay minerals and their role in the plaster mix.
  • Learn about safety in earthen construction.
  • Learn about how earth has been used as building materials worldwide and in CA.
  • Learn about the environmental and health benefits of earth as a building material.
  • Learn which building codes apply to earthen construction.
  • Learn about how natural walls function and the role that natural/breathable plasters play in natural wall performance.
  • Learn how to prep different walls types and substrates for accepting clay plasters.
  • Learn how to locate and process clay, aggregates and straw for use in earthen plasters.
  • Learn about the use of stabilizers for improved water resistance in plasters, including wheat paste, cactus juice and lime.
  • Learn the proportions of a good clay plaster mix and how to amend your soil if a suitable mix is not naturally present.
  • Learn and master mixing plaster in a wheelbarrow, muck bucket and barrel mixer.
  • Learn and master recipes for mixing your own base, leveling and finish coat clay plasters.
  • Learn and master the application of clay plaster base, leveling and finish coats using a hawk and trowel.
  • Learn and master inside and outside corner shaping using a hawk and trowel.
  • Learn and master leveling clay plaster base coats with a darby and trowel.
  • Learn and master leveling clay plaster finish coats with a skimming blade.
  • Learn and master a consolidated and smooth finish clay plaster surface using sponge float and re-troweling techniques.
  • Learn the advantages of finishing interior clay plasters with clay paints.
  • Learn and master clay paint mixing and application.
  • Learn how to prepare wheat paste for use in clay plasters and paints.
  • Learn how to prepare cactus juice for use in clay plasters and paints.
  • Learn about lime safety and job site precautions.
  • Learn how to prepare Chemstar Type S Lime for use in plasters.

Instruction Type

This is an in-person, hands-on class. Attendees will have the opportunity to get dirty and use tools and equipment typical of adobe construction. Due to the course format, enrollment will be limited to 8 individuals. Children under the age of 14 unfortunately cannot be accommodated except by prior arrangement. In the unlikely event of inclement weather, instruction will occur indoors.

Lodging & Food

These classes will take place in Pioneertown, California. Though lodging is not included, there are nearby options for all budgets. Within walking distance is the Pioneertown Corrals, where you can camp under the stars for as little as $35. Or opt for a little more luxury at the Pioneertown Motel. There are also plenty of hotels, motels, and Airbnbs within a 20-minute drive of the site.

Restaurants within walking distance include the Red Dog Saloon and Pappy and Harriets. The site is a short drive to 29 Palms Highway. The site is a short drive to 29 Palms Highway which has plenty of dining options.


Kurt Gardella

Kurt Gardella specializes in online and field-based adobe construction education. He holds a Certificate in Adobe Construction from Northern New Mexico College (Quentin Wilson) and is also certified as a Specialist for Building with Earth (Registration #01-208-0810) by the Dachverband Lehm (German Association for Building with Earth) and the Handwerkskammer Ulm (Ulm Chamber of Trades and Crafts). Kurt also holds an Adobe Proficiency Certification from The Earthbuilders’ Guild. In addition to Adobe is not Software, Kurt also teaches classes for Adobe in Action and Santa Fe Community College.

Evaluation Methods

20-question written exam
Evaluation of natural plaster and clay paint field work


This course includes topics from the following Adobeisnotsoftware Curriculum modules:

  • 100 Intro to Earth as a Building Material (full module)
  • 120 Soil Selection and Testing (full module)
  • 124 Water Resistance Admixtures for Earthen Building Materials (aka Stabilization) (full module)
  • 240 Introduction to Conservation and Maintenance of Earthen Buildings (select topics)
  • 232 Introduction to Plasters for Earthen Buildings – Concepts (select topics)
  • 352 Clay Plaster (select topics)

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