A Plaster Extravaganza

The Setup

Over the past 3 1/2 months we have worked diligently to put together a fine strawbale house. As of the beginning of last week, we had cleared, formed, poured, nailed, screwed, and plastered our way to a pretty clean looking building.

But, we were still pretty brown on the inside. So what did we do? We called in the experts. Responding to our invitation, Bill and Athena Steen of The Canelo Project and earthen plaster fame and Ryan Chivers of Artesano Plaster (Boulder, CO) joined us on the jobsite to help us apply our finish plasters.

The Lineup

The CR crew – y’all know us

The CR instructors – y’all know them

CR homies – Jessica Retka, CR organizational intern extraordinaire; Jason Pronovo, former CR intern/current CR board member; Sandy – a rad lady from Bluff who connected CR with the Steens

Ryan Chivers – Plaster master from Boulder, CO, Ryan has been doing traditional plasters for 15 years. He does everything from earthen (clay) plasters to traditional lime and gypsum plasters. But the real reason we called him in is that Ryan specializes in a traditional Moroccan plaster called tadelakt. Tadelakt is a polished waterproof plaster that we wanted to use in our showers and Ryan was the guy to help us.

Bill and Athena Steen – These guys have been plastering since before I was born – way before I was born. Athena grew up doing traditional plasters and built one of the first strawbale houses in the modern era (post-1970). Bill has been building and plastering for almost as long and together the two have been building and plastering together as The Canelo Project for over 20 years. Check out their website and you will see why we were psyched that they agreed to come help us plaster our walls.

Here’s a picture of all of us together:

IMG_3627

The Game

Plaster all of our interior walls with a variety of pigmented earthen plasters.

Earthen plaster color samples

Earthen plaster color samples

Tadelakt the shower stalls in both the guest and master bathrooms.

Tadelakt color samples from Ryan's website.

Tadelakt color samples from Ryan’s website.

How it Played Out

Bill and Athena headed up the interior finish plaster crew and taught us the theory and practice behind earthen plasters. Our earthen plasters were a combination of clay, sand, straw, pigment, and water. On some walls in the house we were fortunate enough to be able to use naturally-colored, locally-sourced clay with little or no pigment added. We mixed it up and then came the lesson on application. This is what we learned: get the plaster on the wall quickly, making sure to fully coat the wall; come back and level out the surface with broad strokes, moving plaster around to fill in any low points; then, in multiple steps as the plaster goes from wet to dry, come back and smooth it out to a sleek finish. The key to this whole process is to act methodically with an eye on the end result. Our end result was a house full of beautifully colored walls, smooth to the touch and soft on the eyes. Though there is much more to know about earthen plasters, for now you will simply have to enjoy these photos!

Our first walls.

Our first walls.

Color patterns

Color patterns

The kitchen before.

The kitchen before.

The kitchen after.

The kitchen after.

Look at them go.

Look at them go.

Simultaneous to the finish plasterfest, Ryan Chivers directed a crew through the intricacies of tadelakt. Since there were 8 of us interns and 2 shower stalls to work, we split into two teams of 4, each team getting the opportunity to tadelakt one of the showers. Tadelakt is at once a material and a technique, originating from Morocco where it was first used to waterproof cisterns. It is a mixture of lime, sand, and water that is applied in multiple thin layers over a substrate (sheetrock and cement stucco in our case), then burnished very smooth with a steel trowel, then burnished even smoother with a smooth rock, then soaped with olive oil soap to create a waxy coating, and then burnished smoother still with the rock to a polished waterproof finish. Intense! Ryan skillfully guided us through this process and, in the end, we had two beautifully smooth shower stalls. Tadelakt!

Ryan putting it on.

Ryan putting it on.

Sean and Becca, puttin' it on.

Sean and Becca, puttin’ it on.

Austin, Jeff, and Jenna stoning it out.

Austin, Jeff, and Jenna stoning it out.

Ryan feeling it out.

Ryan feeling it out.

Ooh, tadelakt!

Ooh, tadelakt!

and let’s not forget…The Plaster Game Face

I haven’t plastered very much in my life, but I noticed a common occurrence during this delightfully long week of plastering. It comes in many shapes and sizes and is near impossible to miss. It is the plaster game face. Also known as the face of fury, it is a look of determination and effort that comes onto the face of a very focused plasterer. The plaster game face abounded last week as we worked our way through the interior of the house with buckets of beautifully colored plasters. No more words are needed, as this array of photos speaks for itself.

Plaster game faces.

Plaster game faces.

Jason's game face

Jason’s game face

Becca's game face

Becca’s game face

Ryan's game face

Ryan’s game face

Bill's game face

Bill’s game face

Kate's game face

Kate’s game face

Ah! My game face.

Ah! My game face.

You can tell from the back of his head that Sean has his game face on.

You can tell from the back of his head that Sean has his game face on.

For more photos, visit the Community Rebuilds facebook page.

Thank you greatly to Bill and Athena Steen and Ryan Chivers! We appreciate your time, your willingness to share, and your patience to teach us. May good things follow you everywhere!

Comments
One Response to “A Plaster Extravaganza”
  1. Eddy Winko says:

    I’d love to see more photos 🙂

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