Volunteers make adobe bricks for restoration projects and fire victims
Volunteers gathered Friday outside the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, whose adobe structure has stood in more or less its present form for over 300 years, to mix and make a batch of adobe bricks from mud, straw and sand.
Supervising the hand-mixing to get the texture just right was Jake Barrow, program director with Cornerstones Community Partnerships, which works with communities to restore historic buildings.
"We believe in the tradition in New Mexico," he said. "All this adobe came from Native American traditions with North African, Spanish influence, to create all of this."
Barrow used to work for the National Park Service in New Mexico, and became interested in the widely-used, traditional building materials. When he retired, he began working with Cornerstones full time to restore churches and other traditional buildings around the state.
Cornerstones encourages the public to come along and help on adobe-making days.
"We're putting it in the molds and then pressing it down so there's no air bubbles, and then they pull off the mold. And we are left with two lovely bricks," said Catherine Fulton, who was attending for the first time.
Inside the chapel, regular volunteer Lindsay Appel was performing restoration work, re-plastering an interior wall with adobe. She had worked on earth architecture projects elsewhere before she encountered Cornerstones in Chimayó and helped with a project there. She said the group's ethos resonated with her.
"A sense of community, and just how powerful this work is. To work with the dirt and the earth and just connect with fellow humans while preserving these sacred places that bring so many together," she said, working all the while.
This year, some of the bricks will be donated to people affected by wildfires, trying to rebuild traditional homes.
"We decided we'll make these available for people in Mora and San Miguel that want them," said Barrow, referring to the counties hardest hit by last year's historic Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak fire.
Next month, the team will also be making adobe bricks at Luna Community College in San Miguel County.