The Canelo Project is a small non-profit organization, that we, Bill and Athena Steen founded in 1989 and whose work centers on the theme – Connecting People, Culture and Nature.

We have developed it as a center for learning, research, demonstration and cross-cultural gatherings. Our ongoing annual activities revolve around workshops, tours, intern programs and writing. The focal point of our work is handcrafting simple, small-scale and comfortable shelter that is built primarily with local and natural materials. 

We have evolved a unique straw bale and clay wall system that is finished with beautiful clay and lime plasters, sculptural wall carvings, earthen floors and clay ovens.

We, Bill and Athena Steen, as the founding directors of The Canelo Project, have also taught and worked extensively in Mexico, taught workshops and lectured throughout Europe and the United States.

We have also become increasingly involved in museum art projects that include the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., the National Botanical Gardens – Washington D.C., the Denver Art Museum, the Ceramic Research Center – Arizona State University and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Our sons, Benito and Arjuna, on occasion, have involved themselves in our projects. They have grown up in the midst of various Canelo Project workshops and projects and in the process have developed their own individual paths. Benito has become talented in sculptural metal and artistic plaster work while Arjuna (Oso) has become a fine finish carpenter and straw bale builder.

As a non-profit organization we gladly accept donations of useful materials and tools, such as those on our Wish List.


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Canelo Project B&B

Minimum stay: 1 nightsMaximum capacity: 2 people
Food included
Guest House has two bedrooms – one king-size bed and one with two twin beds.
One bathroom with Mexican tile shower
Kitchen with refrigerator, coffee maker, stove and microwave.

1 Room Rate . . . .$100/night (up to two people).

Rates include a Southwest-style breakfast.
Dinners are often available for an extra charge upon request.
Restaurants are in Sierra Vista and Sonoita- both half an hour away.
Our site is surrounded by The Coronado National Forest, the Audubon Research Ranch and the Canelo Hills Cienega Preserve of the Nature Conservancy which, that together with their combined riparian zones, provide a rich habitat for wildlife and make it one of the most desired birding areas in the southwestern United States.

Key Stats.

Year founded


Size of project site

20 hectares

Languages spoken

  • English
  • Espanol

People on site

8 - 30

Dry season

April to October

Wet season

November to March

Living Conditions.


  • private room
  • tent camping
  • entire house

Omnivore Food

  • communally cooked meals
  • restaurant on site


  • medium: voice calls (no video)

Ongoing classes

  • permaculture
    1-2 times per week

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