The Natural Artisan: Autumn 2016

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The Natural Artisan















Cover Image: Artisan Gorni Cahani from Render It Oz. See story page 08. Cover Photography: Jeff Crow


Editor: Rebecca Park

Design: Tiam Whitfield


The Natural Artisan: bringing together ‘the creators’ of all kinds to celebrate and share the art of crafting beautiful spaces and objects. We do this with a collective intention to live in tune with nature. As Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: “We put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” Photography: Clare Elizabeth Kennedy (see full story page 20) Autumn 2016

A ROCKCOTE Publication 3

"The raw food gives me energy and makes me feel alive."

Photography: Tony Thorogood 4

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KATHMANDU STORE A BENCHMARK FOR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN Words by Melanie Cahani | Images by Bobby Nenandovic

When adventure clothing retail giant, Kathmandu rolled out their newest flagship store in Melbourne’s CBD recently, they firmly set their sights on achieving the first-ever green star rating for a retail store in Australia.

The Kathmandu logo adorns a Clay Plaster DĂŠcor wall in light concrete colour in the company's new Melbourne flagship store. 8

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T’S a name that is synonymous with adventure and capturing the spirit of the outdoors in everyday life, so when Kathmandu opened their newest flagship retail store in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, they set about doing so in an environmentally sensitive way.

Kathmandu Galleria is located on one of the city’s most sought after retail real estate spaces, on the corner of Bourke Street and Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD – not the kind of place you’d expect a green building to sprout.

It is the first retail space in Australasia to achieve the Green Building Council of Australia's (GBCA) five-star green rating and the outdoor clothing retailer is extremely proud of its credentials. Kathmandu sustainability spokesperson, Tim Loftus, says that the Galleria store brings the company’s commitment to sustainability to life. “Kathmandu is creating a benchmark for sustainable design and building in retail," Tim said. “The Galleria store speaks to our brand belief of respecting the environment. We’re incredibly proud to invite Melburnians to visit Galleria and experience the store." The Galleria store was purpose built to target the five-star green accreditation. Using sustainable design techniques, building practices and materials, the store includes features and technologies that reduce its carbon emissions and the amount of waste sent to landfill. Melbourne Artisan, Gorni Cahani from Render It Oz was excited to take part in the innovative project installing more than 250m2 of ROCKCOTE Clay Plaster Décor across the walls of the two-storey building. “When the shop fitting team first approached me, we spoke in depth about the importance of the eco-friendly principles Kathmandu was trying to create with this store and what products I thought would work best,” Gorni said. CONTINUED

Artisan Gorni Cahani from Render It Oz Autumn 2016



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The brief given to Gorni from the design team was rough and textured, concrete look walls which would work with the other elements of the store such as the recycled timber floors.

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use of ROCKCOTE Clay Plaster Décor on the walls instead of cement based render.

Following the initial meeting, Gorni prepared samples of Clay Plaster Décor with and without hemp in three different concrete look colours using the black ROCKCOTE oxide which he mixed according to the manufacturer's colour recommendations sheet.

Tim Loftus said the contractors’ practices, supply chain methods and waste disposal were all critical factors in achieving the GBCA green star rating. The cost of fitting out the store was comparable to a regular fitout and the Kathmandu group plans to incorporate the environmentally friendly elements into new and existing stores as much as possible.

He then sent the samples to the Sydney based designers who chose the lighter concrete look colour without hemp. “Having used the ROCKCOTE range of natural materials fairly exclusively since I was introduced to them, I was certain that Clay Plaster Décor was going to be a perfect fit, especially given its green credentials," Gorni said. Some of the key features which helped the store achieve its industry first rating included: •

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master switching system to turn off all unnecessary energy points when the store is closed.

“Kathmandu is showing the rest of the retail industry that sustainability is a strategic business decision – one that reinforces brand equity and commitment to ethical business practices,” Romilly said.


full cardboard and co-mingled recycling system where customers can see each month’s waste in a store display.

This news was praised by GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew who says Kathmandu’s leadership sends a signal to the retail industry.

Kathmandu has 110 retail stores throughout Australia, 46 in New Zealand and four in the United Kingdom.

Energy monitoring, where data is automatically sent and recorded at head office.

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Recycled timber flooring and low emission materials the company sourced for furniture and fittings.

Green Building Council Australia (GBCA) & Kathmandu Media Release 12 November 2015 Wild Magazine

Low energy lighting with automatic signage dimming when the store is closed.

GREEN CREDENTIALS AT A GLANCE Energy consumption Dedicated to reducing CO2 emissions in the store, the Galleria site uses GreenPower and energy efficient LED lighting.

Lighting levels Ambient lighting levels have been designed to obtain the best balance between effective lighting and energy consumption.

Waste reduction Kathmandu implemented procedures to ensure minimal waste generation and the store recycles as much waste as possible.

Furniture Furniture selected by Kathmandu was certified as sustainable by the product certification scheme, approved by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Low VOC materials All materials used in the store fitout, including furniture and fittings, are zero or very low emitters of indoor pollution. This includes use of materials such as steel, timber and stone as well as the finishes such as ROCKCOTE Clay Plaster Décor, paints and adhesives.

Autumn 2016

PVC Kathmandu was committed to look at the way they used PVC materials in the store design and where possible eliminated the use of PVC altogether.


The stairwell contrasts the smoothness of Otsumigaki in natural white with the textured cob above. 12

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Words by Rebecca Park | Images by Ross Eason

When Mike and Miranda Corkin embarked on the journey to build their new home, the design brief was to create a sustainable house that looked hand-made but contemporary.

Autumn 2016


“There is something innately satisfying about building your own home and working through the challenges involved in that.� - Mike Corkin

Otsumigaki mural with natural toned oxides by Blue Mountains artisan, Mike Corkin 14

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ecuring a north-facing block just under an acre in size with creek and bushland views was the starting point for this ambitious project in Blackheath in the NSW Blue Mountains.

The home was designed by Miranda with the intention to use materials from the site as much as possible. A significant amount of research was undertaken before and during the project with support provided by Jason Dash of Mud & Straw Concepts. Several different construction types were selected to maximise usage of readily available resources as well as to naturally heat and cool the home. Trees cleared from the site were milled and used in framing, stairwells and walls. An 800mm thick repurposed tyre wall supports the slab; five metre high cob walls provide thermal mass; and upstairs is predominantly strawbale. Mike said that 450 tyres were used on the project, sourced from mechanics across the Blue Mountains region.

“In Australia we throw away 20 million tyres a year with only around 10% recycled – the rest go into landfill or are dumped in the bush. We need to use more of them,” he said. Soil excavated from the site was used to make the cob that lines both internal and external walls. Exterior layers were overcoated with lime, required for protection and durability. The two interior layers remain exposed in some areas and are creatively finished in others. Mike said that applying the cob by hand was where he “fell in love with rendering”. He then sought out products that could be imaginatively applied to achieve the end goal of a more contemporary look than that possible with bare earth. The stairwells, bordered on one side by the cob wall, exemplify this intention. One stairwell contrasts textured cob at the top with highly polished ROCKCOTE Otsumigaki in its natural colour, a slightly warm white; the other juxtaposes a slice of black glass-finished ROCKCOTE Marrakesh with the same highly polished Otsumigaki. In both locations, the presence of milled timber handrails and flooring bring the look back to earth. CONTINUED

Mike and Miranda's home is a hybrid of repurposed tyre walls, cob walls and strawbale construction finished in lime on the exterior. Autumn 2016


“A beautiful, organic environment to live in.� - Mike Corkin


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“The stairwell has these two extreme textures and they work well together,” said Mike, who applied the finishes himself. “If you brush against it, you experience the smooth Otsumigaki but if you reach up you touch the rough render and can even feel the straw sticking out if it.”

Marrakesh over the hallmark curves of a strawbale build

The house showcases Mike’s skill as an artisan, the striking entry area cleverly funnelling sunlight through glass panels to show off the polish on a naturaltoned circular mural (see page 14). Splashbacks and connecting window surrounds in both the kitchen and laundry feature Marrakesh over the hallmark curves of a strawbale build, creating a much softer look than standard tile splashbacks, and accentuating the depth of the wide window sills. The build took two years and the couple, along with their two teenagers, moved in last August. Mike described the home as “a beautiful, organic environment to live in.” “There is something innately satisfying about building your own home and working through the challenges involved in that,” he enthused. The couple has learnt so much that they're now keen to share their knowledge with others. Mike has launched a new render business, Blue Mountains Natural Renders while Miranda is studying and working as a building designer.

Mike and Miranda Corkin

Asked if he had any advice for people embarking on similar projects, Mike said: “from experience, small is beautiful. Building big, there is just so much to do.” He reflected on the value of reading and research as well as connecting with people who had completed similar projects to gain their insights. Mike implored owner builders to value their own time. “As an owner builder sometimes you don’t value your own time enough. Towards the end of the project I was putting much more value on my time and bringing in professionals to do jobs that would take me a lot longer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Glass finished Marrakesh (black) and polished Otsumigaki (natural white)

Autumn 2016



From the ziggurats of ancient Babylon to the teahouses of 16th century Japan, clay has been used in building for centuries. As one of the most sustainable and healthy building materials on the planet, clay has enormous potential for making our buildings healthier and reducing the impacts of construction on the planet.


cross the world, designers and architects are ‘rediscovering’ this incredibly versatile material while modern day artisans are finding new ways to interpret clay finishes for contemporary buildings.

So why aren’t more of us using clay in our homes and offices? Clay still struggles somewhat with the perception that a clay finish means brown dirt walls and therefore is completely at odds with the modern building.

The truth is that clay is a highly versatile product and in the hands of a skilled artisan can be used to achieve a full range of finishes from a lustrous polished finish to an undulating traditional rustic finish. Beyond homes and offices, clay also performs exceptionally well in commercial environments such as hotels, schools and restaurants or cafés.


General health benefits

Unlike most common internal decorative or paint finishes that offer limited aesthetics, clay can be finished in a multitude of ways and can look completely different with the slightest change in application technique. The range of finishes achievable can be anything from like a 500 year old mud hut to the most beautiful modern polished finish imaginable.

Being surrounded by clay walls gives occupants a sense of coinhabiting with the earth – it brings one back to nature. The coating is breathing, actively controlling humidity and cleaning the air, therefore helping us to live better, breathe better and feel healthier and happier. Clay does not offgas like many internal finishes and releases no toxins into the indoor air.

Compared with painted surfaces, the slightly open texture of clay means it reflects and absorbs light differently, providing a softer, more even and more natural light. The availability of natural oxides means clay can now be tinted to a wide range of colours.

Being highly charged with negative ions, clay is also recognised for its more subtle benefits. “Negative ions are odourless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments(1)”. Negative ions have been linked with an assortment of benefits to mood and mental clarity. Fresh country air is filled with negative ions; computers, televisions and synthetic plastics on the other hand, emit a positive charge. When it comes into contact with water, clay releases negatively charged particles into the air which is why people who live or work in spaces finished in clay often report feeling calmer.

Don Cameron, curator of the awardwinning Hotel Hotel in Canberra that features earthen render throughout the 68 consciously designed rooms, said it helped achieve an “unadorned approach” to the rooms: “I was looking for a render that had a raw, textural quality that was rough and didn’t conceal the natural ingredients.” Springbrook home owner, Suzy Worrall said the clay lifted the mood of what was previously a damp and dark home: “I like to walk down the hallway and touch the clay walls, feeling the texture and temperature. It has an effect on people because it has so much more character than paint.”


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Moisture management and breathability Clay has remarkable moisture management properties and the “ability to relinquish any absorbed moisture as quickly as it was taken on” (2). Using Natural Finishes provides an excellent description of this process: “When the water evaporates from the body of the clay, the platelets are pulled closely to one another, hence the characteristic nature of clays to shrink when they dry. Beneficial to anyone working and sculpting with clay however is that the platelets will remain in the same shape that they have been moulded into, even when they dry … it can be indefinitely re-wetted and reworked, ensuring it can be infinitely recycled as a building material.” (3) This effective management of moisture means clay will not support the growth of mould and assists in the maintenance of a more consistent indoor temperature. Water absorbent finishes such as clay plasters can “contribute to ameliorating the relative humidity fluctuation caused by ventilation and human activities in houses” (4). By controlling the moisture in the air, rooms finished with clay generally maintain a humidity in the ideal range for comfort of 40-70%. As little as a 20mm layer of clay plaster can “substantially moderate the daily cycle of indoor relative humidity” (5).

Insulation Clay is an excellent insulator. The thicker the clay, the better the insulation. Clay applied over plasterboard at 1.5mm thickness provides some insulation (certainly a lot more than paint) but at 6-10mm thickness produces optimum insulating results. As a guide, a strawbale home would usually include 35mm of clay which helps generate and improve insulation. If extreme temperatures and high humidity are an issue, applying 4-6mm of clay is recommended to ensure the space is cooler in summer and warmer in winter. With reports that people in the developed world are spending up to 90% of their time indoors, the need to actively pursue interior finishes that help to improve indoor air quality has never been more important. Clay achieves this, and so much more along with unique aesthetics delivered by its inherent natural beauty.

Tony Thorogood is ROCKCOTE’s natural materials specialist and a passionate advocate for creating spaces that nurture human health and tread gently on the planet. REFERENCES

1. negative-ions-create-positive-vibes 2. Weismann, Adam & Bryce, Katy: Using Natural Finishes, Green Books Ltd 2008, p.144. 3. Weismann, Adam & Bryce, Katy: Using Natural Finishes, Green Books Ltd 2008, p.147. 4. humbuf.pdf 5. humbuf.pdf

Caution must be exercised when adding hemp, straw, horse hair or other materials that change the chemical composition of the clay – as a consequence mould could grow in the right conditions, particularly in areas with high humidity.

Image credit: The University of Jordan

Autumn 2016


USING WHAT YOU HAVE Words and images by Clare Elizabeth Kennedy

Dirtlab creativity: Clare’s Brisbane workshop 20

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a young architectural graduate, working in practice, I could never understand what made us favour certain materials over others; the reasons always seemed a bit fickle – fashion, cost, convenience. Often we seemed to be specifying products over materials while hiding behind details and countless certifications - a global network of composites, blends, hybrids and contraptions. It’s getting hard to tell what material something is made from by looking at it any more. It seemed also that all around the world we were all using the same stuff, in the same way regardless of location, client or climate. The only architectural movement of which I felt a part was something that I began to think of as ‘generic building’. Disillusioned I retreated to India where I was struck by something blindingly simple that offered an alternative to this globalised mediocrity. There, many people were building simply with what they had on hand. Where the soil was good, mud architecture flourished; where there was bamboo, they used bamboo. Lime and naturally sourced paint colours were used when available. Grasses and reeds were woven into carpets.

Finding ways of building with what you have is actually creatively liberating. Having such a practical constraint both

Everything that could be recycled was recycled. Building materials were chosen on the basis of availability, and they were always simple and accessible without expensive additives or the need for complicated machinery. Gandhi himself had a philosophy that buildings should be made from materials sourced within a five mile radius of the building site, and in India this is commonplace. Indians are community focused and traditionally frugal. They get together and use what they have. CONTINUED

fosters and justifies experimentation. - Clare Elizabeth Kennedy

Autumn 2016


I began to catalogue any building technique made from local materials – recording a step by step fact sheet about each one I observed. These techniques were everywhere once you started to look, changing either as you changed location, or in response to changes in climate and available resources. Not only did these materials provide a precise record of their location, they also highlighted the culture or history of the region giving their use additional layered meaning and appropriateness. For instance in Kerala, India's Ayurvedic centre, the traditional mosquito fighting solution of Turmeric and Neem Tree Bark is also added to their Mud Brick Mix as an effective termite fighting solution. This location based hybridisation results in the fabric of a building specific to its site, creating endemic structures that exist nowhere else. This is how these people have always built yet to me it seemed totally revolutionary. Years in architectural offices specifying complicated solutions had stopped me from seeing the simple ones. Finding ways of building with what you have is actually creatively liberating. Having such a practical constraint both fosters and justifies experimentation. As architects we can collage a landscape and its people to design with meaningful materials born of their place. I began to think of Australia, of the diversity of our people and our landscape, and how we could go about understanding and adapting forms of natural building here at home. It saddens me to think that in a country with as much to offer as ours the design community is simply accepting global generic trends. We must continue to establish our own identity, and create an optimistic forum to celebrate our diversity and facilitate a shift in the way we think as designers.

Clare Elizabeth Kennedy is the founder of Dirtlab. Dirtlab promotes the use of natural, locally sourced construction materials. Dirtlab is created on the premise that people should know more about natural building methods and their social, cultural and environmental benefits. 22

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A collage of Clare's images of her exploration in and work with natural materials.