An Interview With Catherine Wanek

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Home: Kingston, New Mexico

Profession: Photographer, author, tireless sustainable building advocate

Recent achievement: Spent a year traveling the United States and Canada taking pictures and writing profiles of straw bale houses for a coffee table book, The New Strawbale Home (Gibbs Smith, 2003), which features 150 color photos of 40 environmentally conscious houses.

Vitae: Founding member of Builders Without Borders. Owner/operator of Natural Building Resources, a mail-order source for books and videos on sustainable construction. Video producer of the Building With Straw series and The Straw Bale Solution. Former editor of The Last Straw: International Journal of Straw Bale and Natural Building. Co-editor of a book of collected essays, The Art of Natural Building (New Society Press, 2002).

Bale-toting experience: If she’s not framing straw structures in her Nikon lens, Wanek likes to frame up straw bale houses. She’s helped build a wheelchair-accessible summer home for her parents and a straw addition to the family-owned Black Range Lodge.

Why she does it: “I put my energies into natural building because it makes a difference for my neighbors and the entire planet. My photos in The New Strawbale Home prove that when you create a sustainable home, you don’t have to compromise on aesthetics or comfort.”

Insights into straw balers: “Straw bale homeowners are progressive, creative people who think outside the box. Many started as skeptics but ended up as straw bale advocates who are proud of their homes and eager to share information with other builders.”