(above: Daiva and her mom, Sylvia)
Daiva came to Quail Springs in 2017 for a natural building internship, where she learned how to combine straw, sand, and clay to create earthen homes that are beautiful, affordable, and made of locally-sourced materials. Since then Daiva has built earthen homes in Mexico, Bolivia and California, and has taught earthen building in Oaxaca.
Q: When and why did you first come to Quail Springs?
I first came to Quail Springs three years ago, for the natural building program. I really wanted to do some hands-on natural building. I found the website and applied just two weeks before the program started, and Sasha replied right away. I was really interested in Sasha because she’s a woman builder. I wanted to be taught by a woman; that felt really important to me. And I was interested in John because of his background in earth bag building and earthships.
Q: What were you doing before you came to Quail Springs?
I worked in the affordable housing field in Eugene, Oregon helping low-income people, doing community building events for a nonprofit. I saw a pattern happening with people living there; they were not moving forward, they were stuck relying on government help. I wanted to look for something more hands-on, something people could do for themselves without much money.
When I was little, I lived in an adobe home in Bolivia. I traveled from Bolivia to the States every year, and I remember the adobe house in Bolivia felt so warm and cozy compared to houses here. I always wanted to learn how to do that. I went and got a degree in architecture, but I never learned how to build a mud hut!
Q: What were your favorite projects?
I really liked doing the bathtub at Sasha’s house. I got to learn about rocket stoves, how the heat transfers. We finished that project in one day. I also built the cathedral and Steve’s house, plastered the outside of the office, plastered the bathroom, and plastered a few sheds.
I got inspired by the cob oven, too. It inspired me to start baking bread.
The interns working on the bathtub
Q: What have you done in the realm of natural building since leaving here?
A lot! After that first course, I told Sasha “I need to keep doing this.” I felt uncomfortable but comfortable at the same time; this work was challenging but I knew I could grow from it.
I was invited by Betty Seaman and Bianca Mondragon to help teach a 10-day natural building workshop in Oaxaca. We brought students from the USA down to learn and help local people rebuild their homes after the 2017 earthquake.
After that, I went to Bolivia and had the courage and the confidence to help my mom build her own adobe home. It’s pretty simple, just her land and her little house. She and I built it together with help from one other guy who showed us where to harvest materials from the area.
The house in Bolivia
Q: How did your experience at Quail Springs impact your life and your work?
Greatly! If I hadn’t taken that course I wouldn’t be who I am today. I might’ve kept working at an office and been really frustrated. Now I understand my value better. I’m a much happier person.
I’m grateful for John and Sasha. Any time I had trouble, they were there. I could continue on this path knowing that someone was there to answer a question, listen to me. They were a big motivator for me, telling me that I can do this. That’s the biggest part of Quail Springs for me: knowing that there’s support there if you need it.