Middle Ages Party in Joshua Tree. Not really Janet, but her daughter, Edie, wielding the sword.

Janet Armstrong Johnston, architect & builder

Janet co-founded Skillful Means and pioneered in strawbale, leading workshops and creating manuals and detail books. She now lives in Joshua Tree, California, practicing architecture while raising two children.  She and her husband, George Armstrong, run Strongarm Construction.

Massey Burke, specialist in earthen materials

"I work with earth to reinvent the relationship between humans and nature. Most living things make habitat for themselves, and we experience all of these habitats collectively as nature. What if we also made habitat that contributed by design to biodiversity–to the well-being of many other living things as well as to our own?"


Pam Wadsworth Goode, Urban Architect

Pam discovered strawbale construction early, working with Skillful Means. With Kelly Lerner, Pam was one of the first directors of CASBA, the California Straw Building Association.  Pam practices architecture with pwg architecture in San Francisco, concentrating on sustainable design in the urban environment. She is a member of AIA and USGBC.


Athena & Bill Steen, The Canelo Project

A talented family living in the southwest running a non-profit dedicated to skilled natural building.  They handcraft simple, small-scale and comfortable shelters that are built with local and natural materials. They used a straw bale and clay wall system that is finished with beautiful clay and lime plasters, sculptural wall carvings, earthen floors and clay ovens.  Stay in one of their hand built structures or take a plaster workshop.

Benito Steen did beautiful earth plaster on this Skillful Means project.

Matt Crawford, Motorcycle Mechanic & Senior Fellow, University of Virginia, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture 

Matt worked for Skillful Means at the young (and illegal) age of sixteen, and was inspired by electrical trades he encountered on one of our highly crafted projects in Berkeley.  

We like to take credit for what came next:  after his PhD he began teaching and opened a motorcycle shop. Eventually, he wrote, "Shop Craft as Soul Craft", which the Wall Street Journal called, “A powerful case for the special value of skilled work that requires the use of one's hands.”  
Listen to his interviews:

National Review
The PBS News Hour
The Colbert Report
NPR The Diane Rehm Show
NPR All Things Considered

Chris Housley, carpenter and Itsy Micro Home developer

Chis is a highly skilled carpenter, who has worked with Skillful Means, but his real passion is creating tiny homes for homeless people.   Help fund his project!

Kelly Lerner, Architect

Kelly worked briefly for Skillful Means before starting her own practice. Working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Kelly helped introduce and adapt strawbale to Mongolia, where a well-insulated home can save half a family's yearly income.  Kelly went on to lead a similar program in China, while Janet Johnston of Skillful Means, continued training bale builders in Mongolia.  Kelly continues design healthy, beautiful, and super energy-efficient custom homes throughout the northwest. 

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

An 80-acre research, demonstration, education, advocacy and community-organizing center in West Sonoma County, California that develops strategies for regional-scale community resilience and the restoration of biological and cultural diversity.

Seeking to model solutions applicable to a wide range of place-based communities, OAEC's demonstration site and online resources use DIY (“Do It Yourself”) technologies that readily transfer to urban and international context.

 Ryan Silva, Facilities Manager, began his career with Skillful Means.

Ensamble Studio, straw as form, calf as builder

"We think with our hands, we experience. We seek to control the processes more accurately than the results. Because finding the logic in the development makes it harder to be wrong."

Using bales as form work, and with the help of a small calf, Paulina, Spanish architects, Ensamble Studo, created "The Truffle" a tiny house on the Costa da Morte.

A stacked cube of straw was encased in concrete and soil and cured. When the front was sawed open, Paulina, a small calf, came to stay, and ate away the straw over the course of a year, leaving the interior bare.


Bart Prince, Architect

Bart Prince, who worked closely with Architect Bruce Goff before going off on his own, is a master of creative architecture in service of his clients, finding different aesthetic, structural and architectural solutions to each project brought to him for design.