Well, I might be biased, but being trained in design, I would suggest that regardless of whether you legally need to or not (ie even if your project is smaller than 10m2) you get some plans drawn up. It really helps being able to visualize something, down to all the details. If your project is small, you can do the working drawings yourself, for example using a program like Google Sketchup. If your project is more elaborate, I would advise that you get really clear on your "vision" and then write up a brief for a professional designer who has experience in the (natural) building technique of your choice.
Personally, it has taken me some years to understand that it is helpful to engage professionals to help me with things that are beyond my expertise or to help me develop myself professionally. I am very much a DIY kind of person and a perfectionist on top of that, so you can imagine that I have not always done things the easy way. My motivation for doing things without (professional) help was partially aimed at saving costs, an equation that didn't always add up, and partially aimed at the sense of achievement of having it done "all by myself".
My business is one of my bigger works in progress. It started out with me buying an existing mud brick production set-up and then visualizing all the services I wanted to offer. I was very inspired by it all and my ideas were very vivid, so I boldly put them out there on my very first website in 2002. I had been building in Earth for around 10 years by then, so I had the technical confidence, but would people actually engage me? I was blown away when a couple of years later, everything I said I could do I had done! The "mud stuff" was the easy part for me, learning to run a business and operating in the building industry however was a steep learning curve and something that I witnessed trip up quite a few people who were working in my field. We love being creative, but do we equally enjoy building and nurturing our businesses?
Especially when it comes to running my business, I have been blown away by the difference professional support can make. Locally, I have worked with the extremely inspiring Johny O'Donnell from ShiftOn Motueka and I am also working with Natalie Sisson from the Suitcase Entrepreneur.
Today we are on day three of her 10 day blog challenge and she has asked me to talk to you about my vision for the future, or how she puts it: My "Perfect Day".
I would like to start by sharing that I have experienced a bit of shift inside of my self in the past two years, to a place where I feel deep gratitude for my life. Gratitude has changed everything. It makes me focus on the little things that make my day, the lessons in all the experiences, the growth that comes from challenges. However, it doesn't make me want to stop moving and challenging myself. I am content with my life, but I can identify many areas that need improvement, or maybe I should rather call it balancing.
For example, the work-life-play balance. It is something most of us struggle with. In my perfect world I would not make a differentiation between the three things, but the reality is that I often work really hard making bricks, building something or organizing a workshop, and then don't spend enough quality time with my loved ones or doing the things that sustain me, like yoga and solo time in nature.
It is really hard to actually describe a possible "Perfect Day", but for the sake of visualizing it the way I would visualize a building if I want to make a plan and make things happen, here is my first draft:
"I wake up to the dawn chorus I love so much, the sky is a feint pink and blue. I open the window next to my bed and quietly lie there a little while, drinking in the fresh morning air. I have an hour to myself before the others get up. I cherish the silence and try to recall my night dreams, before getting up and drinking a glass of lemon water. I do my yoga, and this centres me and sets me up for the day, leaving me warmed up and supple. My head is not spinning from the many things on my to-do-list, as I have written them down the night before and identified my three main priorities for the day. This focuses me and makes me feel relaxed.
I have breakfast with my partner Scott. He cooks yummy eggs with leek and mushrooms. We sit in the morning sun outside, in our abundant teeming garden. The bees are buzzing between the flowers and we can pick fresh cherry tomatoes and some basil to go with our home grown eggs.
Today we are shooting video footage for my online course on "DIY interior Earthen Features". Scott is behind the camera, which makes me feel relaxed and able to let my passion for earth shine through, without being too self-conscious. I think of how I can inspire people to create wonderful healthy interiors using natural materials. I think how satisfying it will be to have people share photos of their work with me one day and know that I could contribute to their success by sharing my experience in a visually engaging way.
We are happy doing creative work and spending time together until mid afternoon. Then I do a couple of hours of concentrated solo work in the office, fleshing out my next natural building course which will be held on a client's property. I enjoy customizing solutions for people and working with the materials on site.
Late afternoon I take our dog for a walk at the beach nearby. The rocks, driftwood and waves never cease to inspire me. I think of a piece of land art I want to do and then about our upcoming three month trip to South America. I want to catch up with my earthbuilding friend from Chile and check out all the amazing things she has spoken about. I am excited about it all and feel very lucky to be able to go on this adventure."
This exercise is fun, but it is hard to write up publicly. How often do we dare to share with others our ideas for a perfect day? What would be your perfect day? What does it smell like, look like, feel like, sound like?