Kiko Denzer, Natural Builder and Primitive Skills Instructor
Name: Kiko Denzer
Occupation: arts of living: making, building, baking, growing things, talking/teaching (sometimes singing!), writing, publishing, etc.
Place of Residence: Oregon
Background and Personal History: Born in Maine to artist parents, Kiko was raised in Italy, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York. He moved to rural Oregon in 1992 and in 1994, he quit his day job in community development to pursue a long-term program of recovery from industrial thinking. It helps that Kiko was raised by an artist mom who taught him how to make something from nothing.
For the past 20 years, Kiko has rented about a third-acre in the country where he grows a garden, bakes bread, builds and makes things (mostly using earth, or cob), works with his hands, and tries to learn how to walk and work and live in beauty — on as few dollars as possible. Kiko’s theory is that dollars spent = oil drilled and burned.
Somewhere along the way, Kiko wrote a little book called Build Your Own Earth Oven about how to transform the earth under foot into a wood-fired, masonry oven. He’s been privileged to hear from many who’ve discovered many joys in the mud, from just doing it themselves, to creating wood fire, good bread, companionship and community, art, beauty, and more. For the past 15 years, Kiko’s wife has been the main gardener (and baker) and also does most of the homeschooling of the couple’s two boys. In 2014 (thanks to his late mom and years of low rent), Kiko and his family have been able to buy an acre in town, so they’re making some changes in order to have more neighbors, more independence for their boys, and less driving. It’s going to be different! And interesting.
Since he started making ovens, Kiko’s been privileged to participate with a diverse and growing community, from natural builders who revive awareness of earthen and other natural materials, to bakers searching for local wheats, and grain farmers searching for local bakers. More recently, he started teaching carving and green woodwork at “primitive skills” gatherings — another marvelous, related community of folks who share interests in learning and sharing about all kinds of non-industrial ways of living and working. People practice and learn everything from friction fire, cordage, stone blades and hunting, to weaving, ceramics and other crafts, and husbandry, herbalism, songs and stories.
Kiko tries to deal in gifts more than money, to owe no taxes,and to build beauty and compost more than wealth or career. His favorite definition of success is “to find a place where head, hands, and heart can all agree.”
• Moving homestead and family into town
• Learning to navigate the building code
• Seeing how cheaply one can build a small, “green” house
• Green woodworking (bowls, spoons, etc.)
• Working with hand tools (including a foot-powered lathe)
• Mowing with a scythe
• Developing a no-metal, wattle and daub yurt design that anyone can build for quick, efficient, local shelter
• Building wood-fired ovens, heaters, and cooking in them
• Homeschool/homestead projects (current plans include guinea hogs, chickens, goats)
Other Fun Facts: In the early 70s, Kiko’s mother worked for the Boston Children’s Museum Visitors Center as Program Director; she had him doing demonstrations and teaching when he was 11 years old. That and her varied work in crafts, creativity, and teaching were the greater part of his education. She published the curriculum in a book called Making Things (which Kiko indexed at the age of 12).
More Places to Find Kiko on the Web: