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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yurt Conference, Office Yurt Coming Soon and other odds and ends

It has been a very full year for us at Yurts of Hawaii so far! We've had some wonderful changes come to the company with some new hires and several great new projects. We also successfully hosted the Second Annual World Yurt Maker's Conference in February and are currently busy working with NAYA to make some great progress in the industry.

NAYA is the North American Yurt Alliance. Together with Becky Kemery, author of "Yurts: Living in the Round", Kathy Anderson, co-owner of Blue Ridge Yurts, Hal Jackson, owner of Laurel Nest Yurts, and the support of our manufacturers at Colorado Yurts, we have made strides in very strong and positive directions. Some of our goals include setting yurt standards to allow for permittable yurts in order to help promote these incredibly strong and durable structures as a means of affordable housing; testing and research for increasingly eco-friendly materials, and creating a website for information with a forum for yurt makers to meet and discuss things that are working and perhaps things that are not working within our industry. It is, first and foremost, a way of working together in ways that are respectful to our work and to each other.

The conference this year was inspiring and fun, it was held just East of Pahoa at Elvira's Ohana House. Elvira woke us up every morning with fresh brewed, organic coffee and organic fruits from the orchards that surround her Balinese Ohana house. The group was cohesive and focused and we got A LOT accomplished in our 4 days together! We focused on discussions pertaining to design, codes, permitting, insurance, shared experiences and where we would like to see things go from that point. We discussed ways that we thought NAYA might be able to help and what some of our current, common challenges were.

After the work was done, we threw a big luau and invited the public to come have some fun, eat some good grinds and ask questions about yurts. Grammy award winning Ukulele player, Keoki Kahumoku, played a lot of great music for the event and various attendees gave presentations about their work.

Attending were: Kathy and Sharon, owners of Blue Ridge Yurts in Virginia, Hal Jackson, Owner of Laurel Nest Yurts in North Carolina, Dan and Emma Kigar, owners of Colorado Yurts, Dawn Singer, former owner of Yoga Swami in California, Steve and Joanne Kicinski of Ellisport Engineering in Washington (Yurt engineers extraordinaire!), Tara Weightman, owner of Hearthworks Tipis and Yurts in the UK and Becky Kemery, author of "Yurts: Living in the Round".

During the event we got word that we had found an agency to insure residential yurts here in Hawai'i; we are one of the first states to be able to make this claim. All very exciting, no?

We start building our office yurt this month, on a small piece of property just off Highway 11 near Volcano Village. We have a wedding coming up soon as well! Some years have all the good times packed into them!

I'd like to thank everyone who helped make the conference such a success, a special Mahalo to Mireille Ellsworth, Robin and Chris Garland, Keoki and Tiffany, Sara Akerman, Elvira and her staff and to my ever supportive, soon-to-be husband, Jupiter Crosson. And of course to all the attendees. It wouldn't have been such a great event without all of you!

That's our update for now. We hope to be able to have you visit our office soon for a good cup of Big Island coffee and great conversation. Until then, keep your chins up, roll with the punches and keep positive! ALOHA!

Melissa Fletcher
Friday, October 29, 2010

2nd Annual World Yurt Makers Conference 2011: Poster Invitation

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yurt Mold Fear Solutions

No doubt about it, the best mold prevention anywhere on anything is air flow and sunshine. Actually yurts have less mold issues than most conventional buildings. Yet it is a frequent question with legitimate fear of health issues that can derive from mold. So, Yurts of Hawaii addresses mold on the FAQ page.

Other yurt sites address mold issues differently, typically focused on the material, ─ but the essential requirement is ventilation. To conclude that the vinyl material is a better mold prevention than the canvas with acrylic coating, or otherwise, is speculative.

All successful yurt makers do their research to select mold-resistant fabrics. What is more important is to build for ventilation. Below are some construction and exterior tips discovered in Hawaii:

(1) Elevate the yurt, preferably a minimum of three feet.

(2) Clear trees and large plants, preventing shady moist areas, three to five feet around the exterior of the yurt, or the lanai/decking. That means no hovering tree limbs.

(3) Maintain landscaping to prevent constant shade, allowing at least partial sun on all areas of the roof.

(4) Install the gutter system properly, ensuring no continuous drips.

Tips to avoid interior mold in the tropics:

(1) No carpeting, yet small area rugs are an option.

(2) Avoid grouted tile where there is any lack of good air flow.

(3) Omit closet doors when possible; use an alternative such as beads. Building inspectors do not require closet doors in the rainforest because of mold potential.

It also helps to wash the yurt at least once a year. Just remember that bleach does not eliminate mold, yet sunshine does, and that bleach is not recommended for yurt washing anyway.

If you find a yurt dweller who follows the guidelines above, I encourage you to ask and verify that there are no mold issues. Most likely, those yurt residents are healthy people enjoying a sustainable lifestyle.

The photos are compliments of Blue Ridge Yurts in Virginia that illustrate landscape and forest with the above mold-prevention guidelines.
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yurt Makers Conference 2011 February

The Yurt Makers Conference was postponed and reschedule is 2011 February 23rd - 28th.

Please stay tuned!
Sunday, July 4, 2010

Where’s the Yurt Money?

You know the proverb, if there's a will, there's a way. And determination with will is certainly a required combo to produce creative financing. I guarantee, Yurts of Hawaii is at it, and in collaboration with the Colorado Yurt Company, (CYC).

It's exciting that Sam Kigar of CYC shares his findings of peer-to-peer and social lending options on the company blog. Since every loan differs, it's a challenge to summarize expectations. Yet Sam explains the process, requirements and precautions well.

"The Loans Marketplace" Prosper, is Sam's first recommended site. It's all about appeasing both lenders and borrowers. With today's frustrations, it can be a refreshing option to step out of the traditional bank lending process.

Also recommended is the Lending Club. Their motto is: "Investors earn better returns, borrowers pay lower rates." Both companies are headquartered in California.

The interest rates are typically better than a bank, but good credit is essential. Sam says your loan request can hang one to two weeks so you can comparison shop interest rates.

Cash payment is every wise person's preference, but credit card payments are most popular for yurts. When goods are shipped out-of-state, you can submit a credit card purchase order without sales tax. Another tip a financial comrade recently told me is that credit union banks honor better credit card interest rates than conventional banks. So if you do use a credit card, shop around for the best interest rate.

As you can imagine, there are advantages to not having a mortgage. Yurt makers are networking and realizing there are better methods for the industry. Additionally, buyers are finding alternatives to conventional insurance without a mortgage. They customize the security of their assets by improved means.

Financial structures are changing rapidly and globally this year. And this year will be the second annual yurt makers conference in Hawaii during August. Networking on this topic will be a good thing, so stay tuned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

World Yurt Maker's Conference 2009

Ah, France in the springtime... The wildflowers, the vineyards, the old stone buildings, the YURTS!

I recently had the great pleasure of representing my business, Yurts of Hawaii, and our top notch manufacturers, The Colorado Yurt Company, at the first World Yurt Maker's Conference, held near Pont d'Arc and Gorges de l'Ardeche, France. The event was held at Canvas Chic's beautiful campground that is filled with rustic style yurts and canvas tents. The orchestrator's, Lucy and Nitsan of Spirit's Intent, helped build a beautiful, two-story yurt palace to be the central gathering place for the event. Several attendees brought their own, hand crafted yurts, that they set up and stayed in, the rest of us rented acoomodations in the yurts and tents present.

A portion of the invitation explains a bit of the inspiration behind the gathering:

"As yurt makers, we have all been captivated by something, an essence of the structure itself, and beyond it to a living craft and a way of life. It has become an increasingly competitive market, especially in the UK and the USA, and in guarding one's part of that, one can separate oneself from a collective possibility (that) we can all share... we are calling everyone to discover what there is in the collective and to tell their story. (We will begin with) nomadic tents... introduce the origins and traditions of the structure. We will follow (with) the story of the yurt from its nomadic origins and how it came to the West, to developments of the structure, possibilities, uses, innovations and where it is going. There is a magical possibility of the yurt being the structure in the next stage of eco-evolution"

It was a small, yet rich gathering of yurt people from all over the world, each of us bringing our different experiences to share and learn from. We discussed different aspects of the trade and shared challenges, wisdom, various philosophies and our common stories of working with yurts. It was an affirmation and pleasure to meet so many others who are using yurts to bring about positive changes in our world. The event was held during the full moon weekend of May 8 - 10th, 2009 and attendees are hoping to make this an annual or biennial event.

Lucy and Nitsan and Lodewijk van den Belt, owner of the Canvas Chic campground, were responsible for making this vision a reality. They provided a wonderful menu for the duration of the event; think hand made breads, fresh fruit over porridge, roasted wild pig with potatoes, delicious salads... They gathered scholars, pioneers and craftspeople, several of whom were invited to speak and share their knowledge, ideas, and love for these structures. Among the speakers were (Alphabetically):

Bill Coperthwaite
Founder of 'The Yurt Foundation', author of "A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity"
Bill's reputation has preceded him with many in the yurt world. Credited with making the first yurt in the USA in 1962, he has incorporated this passion in his life along with other inspiring philosophies regarding community, education and encouragement for our fellow human beings. His joyful passion to create sensibly as well as artistically is downright contagious. Bill shared a bit of his personal journey, highlighting important lessons he's learned along the way, as well as design changes that he has made to the original yurt structure throughout the years. It was readily apparent that, much as his yurts are designed, he considers his life a constant and joyful work in progress.

"The main thrust of my work is not simple living - not yurt design, not social change, although each of these is important and receives large blocks of my time. But they are not central. My central concern is encouragement - encouraging people to seek, to experiment, to plan, to create, and to dream. If enough people do this we will find a better way".

Froit Bolara
A traditional Mongolian yurt builder, a person learns quickly that you can trust Froit to be straightforward in saying what he thinks. He is what I would consider to be a purist, holding fast to the opinion that anything other than a traditional Mongolian yurt that uses felt and traditional materials, is not a yurt. Many yurt lovers disagree with that statement, but I do believe that this attitude has its benefits; by keeping as close as possible to traditional yurt construction techniques, designs and materials, the original structure is kept pure and rooted in its native envirnomnet. I believe his is a critical role, as many others work to modify the yurt for different environments and standards. Rene Mueller reflected these thoughts quite articulately,

"I think it requires someone like him to stick with the classics and he might even serve a greater purpose than he realizes, to maintain part of the Mongolian yurt culture, which is about to decline and vanish. As absurd as it often is, outsiders recognize the value of a culture whereas the natives already lost some of the trust in their values. At the same time, the value system of the entire world is in motion, and very few things seem to remain untouched from the changes"

Dr. Peter Andrews and Mugul Andrews
Anthropologists, Author/Illustrator of "Nomad Tent Types in the Middle East".
Peter and Mugul were a delight to meet. They shared many tales of their travels and discoveries all over the Middle East. They discussed the social relevance intertwined in the many traditions of the region and showed us countless examples of how these traditions were interwoven in the cuture's nomadic homes. Peter and Mugul started in their 20's to search for and preserve information regarding the cultural significance, actual technique and materials used in various tent-like shelters used throughout the region. Dr. Andrews states on his very informative site,

"I started, as an architect, with the simple but ambitions aim of making a survey of nomad tents throughout the Muslim world. It rapidly became obvious that if I were to understand the ethonlogical context, tribal history, technology and terminology in comparison, an architect's training was insufficient. I had to set about acquiring an orientalist's training, and an ethnographer's, if not an ethnologist's, skills"

The subject has been a shared, lifelong passion between them and the depth of their findings is staggering. Peter and Mugul have given a priceless gift to the world through their tireless preservation of this quickly disappearing knowledge.

Day 1 Events:
Presentations by Peter and Mugul
Getting to know each other
Showing of the Mongolian movie, "Tegris"

Day 2 Events:
Spirit's Intent gathering in second story of the central yurt
Slide show and discussions with Bill Coperthwaite
Circle meeting, dancing, dining and music

Day 3 Events:
Presentation and discussion with Froit Bolara
Presentation and slide show with Peter and Mugul
Construction of 'Playhouse Yurt' with Bill Coperthwaite and all attendees

Throughout the gathering, Gabrielle Willand, a film director and her film crew were present, documenting our discussions, thoughts and perspectives. This was an added windfall that Lucy and Nitsan were presented with at the last minute. Perhaps the film crew's presence caused som epeople to be a bit reserved at first, but soon it became second nature and I believe we all look forward to seeing what was captured by the willing documentation.

A wide variety of topics were discussed throughout the conference, including:
-The search for durable, affordable and eco-friendly materials
-meeting various building codes
-keeping to the nature of yurts/keeping things simple
-Incorporating sustainable/Local materials
-The benefits of predictability and permit-ability associated with the more 'engineered' yurts found in the States.
-Defining the term 'Yurt'
-Keeping yurts accessible to everyone
-Redefining mounting misconceptions surrounding the idea of "home", "shelter", "castle".

In conclusion, I left this conference with shifted paradigms, all kinds of them, all over the place. I came away with an understanding that all of us working with yurts are working on various aspects of the same puzzle. I left secure in the knowledge that we are a community, within this world community, that is waiting to be developed. Many times in this community there is competition, it is inherent in any common industry, but the underlying beauty in this particular industry, is that we are all using yurts to help facilitate positive changes in this world, a world that is primed and ready for some serious, positive change. If we can agree that this is a common goal, then there are countless ways to collaborate and work together for the benefit of all.

I invite further discussion and also want to invite all yurt makiers to check out Becky Kemery's website, She has shared news of a 'Yurt Guild' for all North American yurt companies and has included a private, 'Companies Forum' on the site as well, an ideal place for yurt companies to begin dialog and discuss industry issues. To join the forum you can register by sending your info to:

There were many people that I met that deserve special mention, but really, everyone present deserves a bit more than I'm equipped to provide here. I look forward to learning more about what each person brings to the field in the coming years.

And some surprising news! We are looking forward to hosting a future World Yurt Maker's Conference here in Hawaii. So far we are preparing for speakers, lodging and a yurt building workshop with Bill Coperthwaite. We are hopefully aiming for this time next year, but, having never pulled one of these together before, it might take an extra year to pull it together. Anyone who is interested, please get on the mailing list by emailing me

Aloha Nui Loa to you all~

Melissa Fletcher
Owner/Yurts of Hawaii, LLC

2009 World Yurt Maker's Conference Attendees:

Lucy and Nitsan/Spirit's Intent (Nomadic Yurt and tent builders/UK, France)
Peter ten Bookum (Yurt developer/researcher/Netherlands, France)
Nancy Polderman (Yurt builder of Anansi Kyrgiz yurts/Netherlands, France)
Rene Mueller (Yurt researcher/developer/Switzerland)
Mick and Polly Sams/Hearthworks (Yurt builders/UK)
Froit Bolara (Traditional Mongolian yurt builder/Netherlands, Mongolia)
Melissa Fletcher/'Yurts of Hawaii'/'Colorado Yurt'(Yurt distributor, assists in all phases of building yurts as permanent or portable dwellings/Hawaii/USA)
Bill Coperthwaite/'Yurt Foundation (Yurt pioneer, educator, designer/Maine, USA)
Paul Millard/'Red Kite Yurts' (Yurt builder/Scotland)
Peter and Mugul Andrews (Yurt, tent and nomad researchers/anthropologists/Turkey, UK)
Charles Cavanaugh (Yurt distributor, consultant for ecological solutions/Switzerland, France)

Staff of Canvas Chic:
Lodewijk van den Belt/Canvas Chic (Owner of yurt campground/France), Georgie Sworder (Artist/France, UK), Sophie Rostas (Artist/France, UK), Adam Bernstein (UK).

Film Crew:
Gabrielle Wiland (Film director, ARTE, Nomad's Land/France), Maya Rosa (Sound engineer, ARTE, Nomad's Land/France), Zoltan Hauville (Cameraman, ARTE, Nomad's Land/France).