stucco veneziano part two

I’ve finished the plastering and the blue color is beautiful against the brick wall (see part 1 for an inexpensive DIY venetian plaster recipe). The complementary color makes the brick pop. The final step is the coating that you put over the plaster. When you see photos of venetian plaster walls, you often see walls that are very shiny – Vegas looking. I don’t like that look. I apply a top coat to my plaster using one very simple ingredient – Ivory soap. I’ve never tried this with any other brand of soap. I’ve not felt the need to experiment because it works so perfectly. The Ivory soap does not change the color of the plaster and it lasts. I have venetian plaster walls in my home that are twelve years old and the soap finish looks like it was put on yesterday. Here is how to do it yourself:

Soak a bar or two of Ivory soap overnight.

Put the soap with some of the water into a food processor and blend it (adding water if needed) until it is the consistency of whipped cream.

The whipped soap should be thick and not runny or watery. Apply it with a small spatula as if it were a wax.

The soap coating brings out the luster of the plaster and the layers of color.

When it drys, it gives the plaster a silky matte finish. A beautiful luster.

stucco veneziano part one

We’re going bold and complimentary to the brick with a teal venetian plaster. I love to create and apply the plaster. The art is ancient, from before the Romans, who as usual, copied it from the Greeks. The mixing is time consuming and meditative. I mix the plaster by hand in the same bucket I was given as an apprentice when we first stucco’d our building’s hallways in the early 1990’s. I’ve kept that stucco bucket all these years and I carefully scrap and clean it and put it away after each use. It is stained with the patina of all the colors I’ve ever mixed in it starting with the first butter yellow of our hallways.

I don’t know where this recipe originated. I’m sure that if venetian plaster artisans ever saw  it, they would either snicker or groan. The ancient recipes include lime and marble dust. This is the recipe that was taught me so that I could help do our building’s hallways and it is the recipe that I have always used. It works, it holds up. The hallway stucco is twenty years old and it has only been refreshed once.

stucco veneziano in our hallway 1996

Here is the recipe: Mix 1 part flat paint and 1 part water. Add a dollop of wallpaper paste (the natural kind, called wheat paste). Mix in plaster of paris little by little as if you were mixing cake batter till smooth. Finish by adding a splash of milk to keep the plaster from hardening too quickly. Only mix a little at a time at first till you get the hang of the time it takes to harden and how fast you can get it up. Use a real stucco knife imported from Italy. You will not be able to get it smooth enough with any other tool. If you want to repost this recipe, please link back to this post. 

It’s really hard to find the old-fashioned wallpaper paste that was made out of wheat. Now what they sell is full of chemicals. I had to make my own. I found this recipe. It was very easy and it is a good recipe to have if you ever need to make papier mache.

adding the plaster to the paint mixture

it feels like a cake batter

add a splash of milk to keep it from hardening too quickly

applying the plaster with a stucco knife

Next up will be the finishing touches and the “after photos”. Stay tuned.