The Art of Building with Clay & Polished Plasters – Lime, Clay & Tadelakt

march 29 – april 6, 2019

 Register here


This course will introduce students to the fascinating art of polished plasters and clay carving whilst focusing on technique and application. We will also introduce students to the theory and practice of building with clay using adobes, cob and wattle and daub.

At the end of this course students will understand the roles of each of the ingredients involved in natural earthen mixtures both for plasters and for building. This key understanding will allow students to apply this knowledge when building for themselves or in other situations, empowering students to go on and build successfully with natural materials.

Students will also gain competency in plaster application and be introduced to a number of plasters from around the world including tadelakt, Venetian and polished clay.

This class will be perfect for people looking for an introduction to natural building or for people who already have some plastering experience and would like to learn some new techniques and finishes.


Day 1
Testing mixes

Day 2
Base coat plastering
Material preparation

Day 3
Wattle & Daub


Day 4
Theory of materials
Clay and straw finish coat


Day 5

Day 6
Polished clay
Simple polished lime

Day 7
Clay carving & artistry

Day 8
Venetian polished lime

Day 9
Wrap up
Questions & feedback

instructor(s)/teaching organization bio(s)


Benito Steen
Benito Steen, a natural builder, homeschooled, he grew up building with his parents Bill and Athena Steen.  He and his younger brother, Oso, gravitated early on as teenagers towards the trades and arts such as; plastering, blacksmithing and woodworking.  He has taught natural building throughout Latin American and Southeast Asia.  Always learning and experimenting he mixes old techniques with the new, to create beautifully sustainable and healthy house


Nic Donati
Nic Donati, Rancho Mastatal’s Director of Natural Building and Appropriate Technology, first came to the Ranch in 2007 and fell in love with the community and lifestyle he experienced there.  Always good with his hands and wanting to get stuck in meant he was able to develop a wide range of skills both at the Ranch and other farms around the world.  The lure of the Ranch both as a community and working environment have continually drawn him back and he now considers the Ranch community and Mastatal his home.

He enjoys many aspects about living at the Ranch including communal living, proximity to wild and natural habitats, running around on the football field, solving diverse problems, and wielding tools from chisels to chainsaws to trowels.  He really loves and appreciates the freedom afforded to him to express and practice his ideas, develop new skills and hone existing ones, but above all else he believes in the ideology of the Ranch.

He believes that to engage, educate and nurture a desire in people to change the way we live and take more responsibility for every aspect of our lives from food production, to healthcare, to energy production and everything else in between is the only way things are going to change.


course start and ARRIVAl dates

The class begins at 9 a.m. on March 27, 2019.  The night before the class begins, March 26, 2019, is included in the cost of the class.

course end and departure dates

The last day of the class is April 4, 2019.  The night of April 4, 2019 is included in the cost of the class.


US$1,000 Early Bird before January 1, 2019

Includes all food, lodging and instruction.  

Your registration, a confirmation from us that there is space in the class and a $250 non-refundable deposit will secure your spot in the course.  You can make your deposit with PayPal below or go to our Payment page for more information and options.

We have partial scholarships available for this class.  Please inquire at [email protected] and/or fill out an application here


This class will be taught in English.



All food and lodging is included in the cost of  the course.   Students will stay in the Ranch bunkhouse with options for upgrades.  We provide high quality mattresses, linens and blankets.  Please see our Accommodations page for more information.


Please see our  Payments page for more information about how to pay.


Please see our Directions page for detailed information on how to get to Rancho Mastatal.


To enroll in the class, please fill out our Online Registration Form.


For more information about this class and Rancho Mastatal please contact us at [email protected] and/or call the Ranch at 2200-0920.