About Us

Christina Ott, Deanne Bednar, Chris McClellan, and Sarah Highland first met at the Natural Building Colloquium East where we all were teachers.   We realized that we could offer a unique combination of skills if we joined together to teach – and that we enjoyed working together.   So the Natural Cottage Project was born.

The Natural Cottage Project is an ongoing series of workshops created to give do-it-yourselfers of all ages and skill-levels the expert coaching and hands-on experience they need to tackle projects of their own, from thatching to timber-frame to cob to earthen plasters and floors. Come join us for a great adventure into your own capabilities and creativity!

–The NCP Crew: Deanne, Chris, Sarah and Christina

Deanne portraitDeanne Bednar,  a former art teacher, joined with several friends to build the Strawbale Studio in 1996. They hired a Danish master thatcher to teach them how to build a roof to match the organic shape of the building. Since then she has led countless workshops and community projects, many of them involving kids, and has made the Strawbale Studio into a learning center for natural building and gentle living skills. www.strawbalestudio.org


Sarah portraitSarah Highland builds and designs with timber, clay, straw, brick, and slate. Her work is an exploration of how to create buildings that feel alive and how to build community while building structures. As principal of Highland Artisan, she works with owner-builders and community groups as consultant and build leader, cuts timber frames, designs, and teaches.


Chris portraitChris Mc Clellan specializes in information access and synthesis, connecting people and businesses around the world with the resources that support their livelihoods and further their passions for over 15 years. Chris’ micro-publishing company, IndustrialRustic, produces print-on-demand books, cd and dvds on natural building topics including strawbale curriculum and the work of SunRay Kelley. As an enthusiastic owner-builder, he sees here a unique opportunity to reintroduce expediency and sustainability as core elements in the increasingly complex social dance that building has become.  www.industrialrustic.com


Christina portraitChristina Ott took a five-day cob building workshop in 1999 and has been hooked on natural building ever since! After that brief course, she built a cob pottery studio in her backyard in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Christina then completed the apprenticeship program at the North American School of Natural Building in Oregon, where she worked with and learned from Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley. She has since built and taught natural building workshops across the country. Christina currently lives in a cob house in Middle Tennessee and works all over the South.   www.barefootbuilder.com


What Makes the Natural Cottage Project Different?

The four of us bring together backgrounds in both art and science, and five decades of experience in a broad range of natural building skills.   From sculpting to carpentry, from rocket stoves to masonry heaters, from clay plasterwork to slate roofing, from stone walls to reed thatching, from building science to intuitive construction – we weave together a breadth of experience and teaching styles that is far greater than any of us could offer alone.

Our workshops capitalize on our wide-ranging skills:  in each we offer in-depth training in a varied set of natural building techniques, often combined in a from-the-ground-up construction project.

 ”The staff provide a safe and supportive learning environment with knowledge, wisdom, and patience. You will learn how to build in harmony with nature and some of the most compassionate people you will become friends with.”

Will, Tacoma, WA



One Response to About Us

  1. James Robert (Bob)Chambers says:

    I am very interested in your Tennessee cob workshop. I need some details. Can I apply for a work-trade position? I am available to come earlier. Is there sleeping accommodations or do I need to use a tent?
    I am a manufacturing Teacher with many years experience in construction and am off on a sabbatical for the spring of 2013. I have some cob experience building a rocket stove bench with Erica and Ernie in Canton NY last fall.

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