Kata Polano

Kata-PicBefore I was a natural builder and designer I was an artist, an outdoor enthusiast, a bit of an environmentalist, and a traveller. My adventures brought me to places where I learned of different cultures and ways of life. I visited Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Guatemala, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, and France.
I spent most of my time in Mexico, where I became very involved with spiritual practices and holistic living. I was a divemaster, made silver jewellery, opened a restaurant, taught yoga, practised massage, and settled into a meditation practice. Most of all, I learned how to get around and get things done.

I heard of natural building for the first time during the 4.5 years that I lived in Mexico. I was dating a man who said that he would like to live in a mud house. My imagination immediately drew an image of an igloo-shaped mound of dung on the side of the road in India (he was big about India). I said sure! Then he showed me pictures of the homes in places like Ireland and Whales. I was surprised to see these houses were quite ‘normal’.

It wasn’t for another three years until I finally found myself taking the first steps towards getting involved with natural building. I had moved from Tulum, Mx to Tepoztlan, Mx and was encountering work hard to find. I knew it was time for a change. But what? I wanted to continue with my art, yet the more I learned about the impact of our lives on the environment the harder I looked for a way to balance art and earth care. All around me were houses of adobe and stone. The memory came rushing back and I was on the internet searching for a place to learn. I knew I wanted to learn in my own language. This lead me to either the US or Canada. Being Canadian, this was an easy choice.

My first steps in becoming a natural builder were taken on Vancouver Island in 2008. I signed up for a 6 month building apprenticeship with Elke Cole as the main instructor at a place called O.U.R. Ecovillage. I had originally thought I was going to learn what I needed to then go and build my own home. I soon realized that this was to become my new vocation. I had found a way to blend art with function and I was passionate about it all.

After my first apprenticeship I landed a project right away, and the ball hasn’t stopped rolling. I continued to balance learning with working and furthered my skills and knowledge base immensely in the years that followed. Below I list the major educational components that have taught me many indispensable skills that contribute to my work and livelihood.

  • Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Guelph
  • 6 month Skillbuilder internship with Elke Cole at OUR Ecovillage, Vancouver Island, BC
  • 2 week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at OUR Ecovillage, Vancouver Island, BC
  • 7 months as site manager and crew coordinator with Art Ludwig on retro-fitting and fire-proofing his house, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 4 month crew member with Micheal Smith at Emerald Earth, Boonville, CA
  • 5 day PDC part II: Advanced Design Skills with Robin Francis at The Regenerative Design Institute, Bolinas, CA
  • 5 day Ecology of Leadership program with Christopher Kuntzsch and James Stark, M.A., F.E.S. at The Regenerative Design Institute, Bolinas, CA
  • 2 months co-teaching an engineering lab with Ashley Aymond through Aprovecho at Cottage Grove High School, Cottage Grove, OR
  • various workshops, projects, and festivals from Southern California to the Northern Gulf islands including:
    • Rocket Stoves with Henry Stanley
    • Claylin Earthen Floors with Sukita Crimmel
    • Tadelakt with Ryan Chivers.

Today I run Earthen Built and find myself working on a variety of natural homes and projects on and around Vancouver Island. From community benches to private homes and commercial space beautification, I am honoured each time someone makes the choice to bring natural materials into their built environment.

I am constantly inspired by those around me who dedicate their lives to being the change that they wish to see! I hope to inspire others in a similar manner.

This is my passion, let me share it with you!