Issue 33 web - Flipbook - Page 25
The word craft which was in my mind when I started this
article is described in the Oxford dictionary as “an activity
involving a special skill at making things with your
When we look at our three periods of plasterwork and
consider craft what we see is a gradual erosion of the level
of craft used through each period.
To create an Early English plaster ceiling the craftsmen
would hand carve timber moulds to be used and then
form the ceiling freehand perhaps using shaped boards to
enable the relatively precise laying out of the pattern to
The amount of hair used in the plaster was huge so as to
stabilise a plaster rich in lime and containing usually fine
and dirty aggregates often just stone or chalk.
Above, new enriched Jacobean style rib work 2019
Decorative elements might sometimes be modelled in situ
by hand or if viable a repeat element could be pressed into
the timber moulds before being pressed into place on the
ceiling and hand finished whilst still wet.
To facilitate this materials and methods have to be
The amount of hair in the mortar is greatly reduced in
order to facilitate the use of timber straight edges which
are used to flatten the plaster to a level not desirable in
the Early English period.
The whole ceiling would present as a beautiful soft and
slightly irregular finished piece and it is this that we love
about this period of plasterwork and this simply represents
the level of craft employed in its construction.
Every piece of the process shaped by hand.
This reduction in the amount of hair leaves the mortar
unstable so to correct that more sand is used making it
coarser and more stable but also looser which lends itself
to the use of the straight edges.
After 1700 the fashion changes to those designs of
Andrea Palladio and his contemporaries which require a
more precise and rigid approach than that employed
during the Early English period.
Onto these very flat surfaces are formed cornices and
other mouldings made straight by the use of timber guides.
Above, a new Georgian ceiling being ran in situ and enriched 2019.
Conservation & Heritage Journal