Wood-Fired Barrel Oven Workshop

Build an Earthen Oven

Natural Building is the art and craft of using locally available, ecologically-sensitive, minimal-impact materials to create durable, beautiful, and functional objects and environments. Building materials and techniques often include cob, earth, straw, wood, stone, as well as salvaged and repurposed materials.

Cooking outdoors over a fire is truly a primal pleasure. Many of us share memories of summer barbeques, s’mores over the campfire, or outdoor festivals where the smells of cooking food linger in the air. But many wood-fired cooking technologies and techniques are inefficient in their use of fuel or not very user-friendly. Enter the earthen barrel oven.

The oven we will be building is a design from South America and modified by Firespeaking, an Oregon-based Natural Building company specializing in masonry heaters and wood-fired stoves and ovens. Eva and Max Edleson, the company’s owners, have traveled extensively and made a study of how to create beautiful, efficient, user-friendly wood-fired ovens. The result is their marvelously designed barrel oven that we will building together. This wood-fired oven can be used to cook gourmet breads, pizzas, cookies, cakes, pies, casseroles, stews, and more.

Within the container of the workshop we will explore contemplative action through seeking a natural balance of doing and being; and we will combine natural building techniques, local materials (urbanite, brick, stone, clay, sand, straw), and some good old-fashioned, mud-stomping, community-building fun to create a masterpiece of gourmet outdoor cookery that will serve as the focal point for the outdoor kitchen on this beautiful family farm nestled in the Swannanoa River Valley.

Want to join us? Well, you’re in luck, because we’ve decided to host this unique workshop opportunity to a small group of interested folks. We specifically are seeking participants who want this to be a transformative and light-filled experience through building in a mindful and inspired way.

Lead Instructor

Eva Edleson is a professional natural builder, cook, gardener, and craftswoman. As a builder with more than 10 years of experience, she specializes in earthen wall systems, wood-fired cooking and as well as in naturally-based finishes including plasters and paint. She has trained and worked with many of the most-respected natural builders in North America, as well as Argentina. She has combined her own research and experiences into a successful natural building practice.

Eva has dedicated much of her life to nurturing and encouraging lively community. While living in Portland, Oregon, she was an instrumental visionary of the nationally-recognized City Repair Project and the Village Building Convergence. Both projects have become prime examples of urban revival through the strengthening of neighborhood communities and introduction of earthen building in the city landscape.

Eva’s love for the earth also manifest in her passion for gardening, cooking, and craft. She has been an active gardener and a treasured cook in the communities where she lives. Besides making many great home-grown meals for her extended family, she has both taught at and cooked for natural building workshops and other large gatherings. Her active mind and inspired hands are often engaging in crafts, herbal medicine, seed-saving, and music.

Supporting Instructors

Max Livingstone is a builder, open-hearted philosopher and explorer, super-fun expert in finding the new clever angle on any topic, and an all-around swell guy. He is the general contractor and owner of Livingstone Construction, a small construction company in the San Francisco Bay Area that specializes in the remodel and retrofit of small spaces.

Max travels internationally to work on a variety of unique and inspiring natural building projects. His focus is on creating sustainable spaces that reflect a “stewardship” perspective toward the planet.

Max was a key player in last year’s Natural Building Extravaganza hosted by the Ashevillage Institute where he built a wood-fired barrel oven with Eva.

Leon Liebenberg is a veritable polymath who hails from across the Atlantic Ocean. Born and raised in South Africa, Leon traveled internationally a bit before landing here in Asheville. He brings a broad collection of experience and skill that all find a common thread in the search for beauty and truth in creative expression.

Leon has built with a variety of materials and techniques including log homes, timber frames, conventional construction, cob and natural building. He has earned the moniker “special ops” on the job site, short for special operations, i.e. any task involving a combination of specialized technical knowledge, singular focus, and/or fine attention to detail.

Leon also records and performs original experimental electronic music, makes knives and tools, finds and fixes things, gardens, makes hand-bound books, creates art and sculpture, and lives communally.

Aaron Maret is a professional designer and builder, as well as project manager for the family farm where this workshop will be held. Trained as an architect, his passions explore the creation and discovery of beauty in many forms, from the colors and angles of photography to the intricate internal worlds found through meditative practices.

His professional goals revolve around not being a professional. He endeavors to integrate his life such that the difference between ‘work life’ and ‘private life’ is not so distinct.

Currently he finds inspiration through wandering, seeking, playing, loving, and being guided by the ineffable compass within that always leads him back to this perfect present moment.

Aaron’s creative practices fall under the umbrella of the eponymous Aaron Maret Design Build Studio. Organic modern architecture, construction, furniture, web and graphic-design, photography, and art. Click the following links to learn more about Aaron and his approach.


Saturday, April 28 – Sunday, April 29, 2012


Davidson Farm / Aaron Maret Design Build Studio
15 Riparian Way
Swannanoa, North Carolina 28778


The fee for the entire workshop is $200. Registration is limited to 10 people in order to keep the group small and intimate, creating a more focused and engaging experience for all attendees. A $50 deposit is required to reserve your space. The registration fee includes camping and meals.

Participants will gain fundamental design principals and the hands-on experience that will enable them to go on to build their own barrel oven, or apply the natural building skills gained to any number of projects.

Scholarships and work-trade positions are available on a first-come first-served basis.

To register or find out more information, contact BJ at barbarajane.hj@gmail.com or (828) 782-8004, or Aaron at me@aaronmaret.com or (828) 505-5055. Payment can be made via cash (in person only), check, or paypal.


Here’s a sweet little video from the barrel-oven build that Eva led last summer at the Natural Building Extravaganza at the Ashevillage Institute:

Natural Building, as defined on Wikipedia.

More information on barrel ovens from Firespeaking’s website.

An article written by Andrew Janjigian, a professional writer and cook who speaks practically and eloquently about the benefits of the barrel oven.