It’s February now, spring cannot be very far, while last Christmas came and went and Autumn came and went before that. Days, seasons, challenges and infatuations, passions and early afternoons, good talks and delays, decisions and the lack thereof, sudden bouts of thankfulness and an ubiquitous feeling of longing for things that matter, that leave a sweet mark – all these things are what makes us human, even more so than our sly organs and resilient skin.

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It’s February now. Last Autumn, Maria Sgîrcea of Lână&Beton (awesome hand-built lamps with felted lamp shades and concrete fittings) approached me with the proposal to work together at a series of one-of-a-kind lamps for an architectural project which uses l o c a l . f o r a g e d . c l a y both for the walls of the house and for the fittings of the lamps. Then Maria produced out of her bag a sample of the very local clay I was to use for this project. It was b u r g u n d y and I was love-struck. I was sold.

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I was supposed to build fairly large (16 cm high) cones to serve as fittings for the lamps on which the woolen lamp shades would rest. Here’s how it went. The clay was hard to work with, it was tough, dense, groggy, it hurt my hands. “This. Is. Real. Clay”, I kept telling myself. Usually I work with store-bought clay that comes as a 10kg brick of perfectly moist and flawlessly smooth homogeneous mass ready to be sliced and used right away, because it has the texture and plasticity of play-doh. Easy. But this. Oh my. I felt tremendously joyful working with this clay because it is what it is: earth. Patchy. With roots in it. With stones in it. With bones in it. Working with foraged clay keeps it real and makes me humble.

With great difficulty and after several crumbling trials, the cones were built, dried and fired – yes, the firing took the edge off that burgundiness, yet it still had great soul. Rock solid, heart touching, as Asus once used to say.

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Prepping the clay was like a job interview for a butcher position.

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High quality crack

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Smooth operator

And now they’re done! The house is done, the lamps are up. Casa din pământ (Lelese, Hunedoara) is, in my eyes, an awesome architectural feat primarily for the respect it treated the earth with – the earth upon which the house was built, the earth which was used to build the house, the earth we tread on, the earth we’ll lie in.

Here they are:

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Congratulations to the team of architects and builders who worked at building this house and many thanks to Lână&Beton for the proposal!

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