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.

doorways and fresh starts

The entryway is your first impression. It should smell good when you open the door. That will be what people notice first. The entryway should be friendly and welcoming. When someone walks in, they should feel that it is a respite from the outdoors. It should feel warm and cozy when it is cold outside and cool and refreshing when it is hot. There should be a feeling of refuge as you enter, of peace and love and home.

Our entryway is the next thing to tackle in the apartment. It has been a disaster for years. The very opposite of refuge, it is a cluttered and claustrophobic space. With the New Year, it feels like a good place to make the mark for a fresh start.

My favorite entryway is my friend Anne’s. There is wallpaper in cobalt blue with a big painterly white pattern. There are framed pencil and charcoal drawings on the walls along with black and white photographs of the family. On her little table where she puts her mail and her keys, there is a bowl of opalescent stones that she got in Chinatown. They are as big as eggs and they are luminous. They call out for you to touch them, smooth them around in your hand like a worry bead as you look over your mail. I am going to copy Anne and find those opal eggs in Chinatown.