Natural Building - Earthen Walls, Plasters and Artistry

april 4-15 2017

 Register here


Join prominent natural builders and artists Athena, Bill and Benito Steen and the Ranch crew for an unforgettable and unprecedented collaboration of 2 weeks of earthen building, plasters and artistry at our wonderful facilities on the edge of the rainforest.  We will cover wall systems, clay and lime plasters, earthen floors, sculpting and more during this unique, comprehensive and life-changing course.  

Rancho Mastatal has been hosting transformational natural building workshops since 2002.  The Ranch has become a regional leader in the realm of natural building with focuses on earth (wall systems, plasters, floors, and finishes), bamboo, and timber frame construction.  Our campus has numerous examples of relevant building styles in our climate and has become a model for those interested in building in the tropics and beyond.  We hope that you’ll consider joining us for this incredible opportunity to learn from the Steen’s and our competent team of natural builders. 


Athena Steen
For over 25 years, as directors of the Canelo Project, a non-profit organization, she and her husband, have been teaching and hosting workshops in strawbale, natural plasters, earthen floors, earthen ovens, straw-clay blocks, domes, vaults, cob, etc. While incorporating many commonsense tools and techniques from other countries, their focus remains on simple, low-cost, low-skill methods that build community.

When Athena does not have her hands in the mud or teaching others how to smear mud on the walls, she is busy designing small, sensible houses for her talented sons to build.  Co-author of several books, including “The Straw Bale House,”  “Small Strawbale,” and “Built by Hand” she also publishes and designs books.

Bill Steen
Bill Steen, together with his wife Athena, co-founded The Canelo Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people, culture and nature. Much or their work has been inseparable. They are known for their books about straw bale and vernacular building including the best selling, The Straw Bale House. They have taught and worked extensively in the States, Mexico and Europe.

Their work also includes art projects at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., the National Botanical Gardens – Washington D.C., the Denver Art Museum, the Ceramic Research Center – Arizona State University and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

As an individual, his primary focus has been teaching and developing collaboration between others. He has worked passionately and with dedication, transforming how we think about relationships between people, different cultures and the natural environment

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

course start and ARRIVAl dates

The course will start on the morning of Tuesday, April 4.  Students are encouraged to arrive on April 3.  Lodging the night of April 3 is included in the cost of the class.  

course end and departure dates

The course will end at around 5 p.m. on April 15.  Most students will depart on the morning of April 16.  Lodging the night of April 15 is included in the cost of the class.  


Price includes all food (except Sunday dinner when we close our kitchen to support the local restaurant), lodging and instruction.  

Early Bird (before January 1):  $1,200

After January 1:  $1,400

A $250 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 Central Americans for this class.  Please inquire at and/or fill out an application here.  


This class will be taught primarily in English though there will be plenty of bilingual support for those not perfectly comfortable with English.   


All food (except Sunday dinner when we close our kitchen to support the local restaurant) 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 and/or call the Ranch at 2200-0920.