Earth Art and Architecture

Earth art or plaster accents are easy to incorporate into new cob or straw bale walls, but you don’t need to build a brand new house to enjoy them. Plus, if you install the accents yourself with local materials, earth art can be a very cost-effective way to add warmth and life to your home.

| October/November 2007

You’re never too old to play in the mud — earth art allows you to have fun, get dirty and make creative earthen accents that will add life to your home. Whether you have sheetrock, masonry or even wood walls, earth art adds texture, color and warmth to any interior.

Earth Art and Architecture

Mud is a perfect material for art and architecture; it’s durable, beautiful and easy to work with. Earth is used by many cultures for building — in fact, it’s the most common construction material on the planet. For comfort, beauty, ease of use, ecology and economy, it beats most other materials hands down. While earthen accents are easy to incorporate into new cob or straw bale walls, you don’t need to build a brand new house to enjoy them. Whether you have sheetrock, masonry or even wood walls, mud can add texture, color and warmth to any interior. All the examples shown here were made with basic clay plaster mixtures, and reflect the artistry and lives of their makers. And don’t worry if you’re not an artist; if you can make mud pies, you can make art out of earth!

Living Walls

Earthen plasters add life to a building. There’s a reason a so-called “perfect finish” is often referred to as “dead” straight, or “dead” flat — dead surfaces don’t move. When every inch of a wall is the same, there’s no variation of light, shadow, texture or color. But as you walk past a hand-plastered wall, you notice shifting light and shadow — it lives! Rather than just connecting corners, sculptured walls literally shape space. Living, handmade plaster walls embrace you.

Earth is easy to sculpt, and sculpture need not be complicated. Mud makes it easy for anyone to make beautiful textures, patterns and lines. Just rounding a corner or building up edges at doors or windows helps define a room. Extending the play of light from a flat wall into the third dimension removes the division between sculpture and architecture.

Designs shown on these pages were made of clay subsoil, sand, fiber and additional binders as needed. Sand and fiber help control drying and cracking, while binders add workability, strength and resistance.

Small decorative earthen accents are relatively easy to make. Consider making a drawing on graph paper first, but if drawing makes you nervous, just start playing with mud on a piece of sheetrock. For a large mural, try enlarging the design on a grid, it’s easy and it teaches proportion. Divide the design in half or into quarters, then copy it section by section until you’ve recreated a larger version.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: September 14-16, 2018
Seven Springs, PA

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard