The Search for the Perfect Plaster.

I am a huge fan of wall plastering!  Anyone who knows me, knows that I was a huge fan of the now defunct Safra products.  I started using the Safra products in the late 90's.  It was a sad day for me and many others when they decided to stop manufacturing the plasters.  Hard economic times had hit Europe.  For years I have been looking for a replacement plaster.  Some came close to the lime and resin plasters I used from Safra, but not close enough for me to stop trying new ones.  Well, not until I tried Cadoro Plasters that is. 

I should back up and say that I use a lot of different plasters and brands depending on the job/decorative finish I am doing.  For some jobs the need for a very high quality plaster isn't needed.  Maybe it is something I am going to glaze over or my clients want a lower cost alternative, aka lower quality product.  Different plasters can and do achieve different looks.  However, for a mid to highly polished plaster, a Marmorino or Tadelakt, I would definitely use Cadoro. 

Cadoro Plasters was developed by Darrell Morrison of Vancouver. Darrell was first introduced to plaster finishings during a plastering apprenticeship in Phoenix, Arizona. He was immediately taken with plaster’s artful quality and endless creative potential. Fast-forward Seventeen years and over 500 masterpieces later. From luxury, multi-million dollar penthouses to retail outlets and doctor’s offices, Morrison’s artistry can be seen throughout the Lower Mainland at locations like Versace (Thulow/Alberni), Chambar Restaurant, Hope Hospital and many more places.  Because of his own hands-on experience with plasters, Darrell had the expertise to create the finest plasters. 

I was fortunate to have recently taken a class with Darrell in Italy as part of Faux Retreat.  Although Darrell has been using plasters for many years, has numerous YouTube "how to" videos, this was Darrell's debut class.  Overwhelming success was echoed by each of his students.  I have taken many plaster classes, but I can honestly say that Darrell brought to the class information that I have never heard an instructor give.  You can teach an old dog new tricks!!!

For more information on the Cadoro Plasters go to  Darrell is also a distributor of CO.ME Tools.  The maker of the finest stainless steel trowels.

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The art of Parget

Someone recently told me about a class they took many years ago with a woman by the name of Diana Durand.  The more she told me about her art, the more curious and fascinated I became.  I started to research this woman and found among other things, that Diana was a modern innovator of plastering and mold making, having started almost 40 years ago.  Very rare for a woman back then.

Diana has designed, sculpted, and pargeted her way across California and beyond.  Working as an independent artisan, a union shophand, and a journeyman plasterer and with noted craftsmen Michael H. Casey and RFJ Meiswinkle Co., she has completed over 30 private commissions including original parget ceiling designs and restored portions of significant historical buildings.  Diana's work has taken her to Hollywood where she worked with plaster and fiberglass resin in the staff shops of movie studios.  She installed the parget ceiling in the Executive Suites Lobby at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas and designed and installed a four-walled botanical mural in a dining room in a private residence in Nassau, Bahamas.  Diana was one of the highly skilled artisans that restored the parget ceilings and friezes from remnants and old photos at the California State Capital.

I have recently written her and requested more information about her and her art for this blog post.  I will add the information when I have it.  Diana lives in California and on occasion does still teach. 

Secretary of State building.

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ArtFusion Event 2017

The hippest International event of the year for Decorative Finishers, Artists, and Designers is back, and this year scheduled for September 20 - 24, 2017 in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Join us for four days of workshops, product and tool demonstrations, exhibitors, public art sale and event parties.  The best part is exploring the latest trends and tools in the industry while meeting and connecting with others in an atmosphere of friendship, sharing and learning.

Although this event was created for Professional Decorative Finishers, this is the fusion of multi art forms and artists, in the hope that we will all grow our skills, portfolio, and most importantly, ourselves. Professionals as well as interested newcomers are welcome to attend.

We are going to stir things up with over 20 workshops!  

Wednesday, September 20

 Day classes
 Ellie Ellis – Bas Relief  - day 1 of 2  $350
 Ali Kay - Painting with Reactives  - day 1 of 2  $400
 Ande Crenshaw and Henri Menendez – Cabinets - day 1 of 2  $475  Technique/Spraying/Production  finishing
 Morey Dunbar – Rollers and foils  $180  Decorative painting

Evening Classes
Igor Turovskiy – Art Resin (day 1 of 2)  $250  Epoxy resin art
Beki VanMeter - Flo-Fusion $150  Acrylic flow techniques
Lora Murphy - Oil and Cold Wax (day 1 of 2) $195  Encaustic

Thursday, September 21

Day Classes
Ellie Ellis – Bas Relief - day 2   
Ali Kay – Painting with Reactives - day 2
Ande Crenshaw and Henri Menendez - day 2
Debbie Hayes - Reverse Psychology: Painting On Glass  $250  Metal reactives+ glass techniques
Sandra Gonzalez – From Walls to Canvas  $210  Decorative painting

Evening classes
Igor – Art Resin (day 2) 
Shauna Gallagher - Multi-Media Abstract Landscape  $150  Canvas art
Lora Murphy - Oil and Cold Wax (day 2) 
Trish McKinney - Wanderlust Watermedia  $175  Watercolor

Friday, September 22

Day classes
Bryan King – Mural Painting  $250  Beginning mural techniques
Sheri Zeman - Modern Finishing  $225  Decorative painting
Beki VanMeter – ArtScapes by Beki  $200  Art Resin
Lora Murphy - Encaustic, a whirlwind trip  $240

Friday Evening Festivities

Exhibitors and demos

Fauxtini Party - Live music - and surprises!

Saturday, September 23

Cindee Lundin – World Class Concrete Tile and Innovative New Concepts in Concrete- day 1 of 2 $450  Carved concrete
Dean Sickler - Mastering Plastering  $250  Italian/Venetian plaster
Patti Halstead - Coastal Coordinates  $225  Cabinet and wall finishes
Oscar Urruela -  "Scagliola" from the Italian baroque to the present day.  $375 Wet plaster techniques

Saturday evening
Michelle Simpson  - Think outside the ink  $100  Alcohol ink
Trish McKinney – You Should be Gellin  $175  Gel stains

Saturday evening entertainment

B I N G O  Come dressed as your favorite artist.  Prize for best costume!

Sunday, September 24

Cindee Lundin – World Class Concrete Tile and Innovative New Concepts in Concrete- day 2
Camille Caballero – Cali Love!  $175  Decorative painting
Cynthia Davis - Stunning Canvas Art with Unusual Stencils  $255  Canvas art
Aliya Riaz - Way Beyond Gilding  $225  Gold leaf techniques

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Bryan King

Bryan King the owner of Artifice Inc. graduated with a B.F.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1979, and an M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1981. He has been working  as a decorative artisan and muralist since 1986. As well as the thirty years of experience Bryan has acquired in the decorative arts, he has a passion for mural and trompe-l’oeil work which has allowed him to further a lifelong interest in a representational style of painting and architectural perspective.

He has been a past instructor of mural painting for the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associate Program and a member of the Salon, an international organization of the finest decorative artisans working today.   Additionally his decorative painting work has included many prestigious projects including the intricate faux finishes for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Bryan promises to be personally engaged with all commissions that Artifice Inc. is hired to complete.

Bryan will be teaching a mural class at the 2017 ArtFusion Event in North Carolina.

Painting after Gericault, 40in x 24in.

Trompe-l’oeil coffered ceiling, Grand Central Restaurant, Washington, DC.

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Camille Caballero

Do you know Camille Caballero?  Camille has been teaching with Faux Masters, a Faux Effects, Inc. distributor and training center since 2007.  Camille says, "It started by accident—I really just fell into faux finishing but sometimes that's the way life works when it directs you to your passion. I really love what is possible with this specialized type of painting. My passion is creating new finishes, exploring new ways of using the classics or just thinking outside of the box. I have dedicated countless hours to product research and developing new techniques by staying informed and educated with the ever-evolving design trends."

Stemming from a strong background in ceramics, Camille has a detail-oriented and hands-on approach to all her projects, which has only helped her thrive in faux finishing & decorative painting.

Camille's work has been featured in published literature (Author Jeanette Fisher, Design Psychologist), television (Flip That House, TLC Network), galleries, and many homes all throughout the U.S.

Social media:


Camille will be teaching at the ArtFusion Event for the first time September 2017.

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Why scagliola is better than marble

Left: Elisabetta Bianchi and Silvia Berlincioni in the workshop; Right: Alessandro Bianchi, master scagliolist, uses a chisel and mallet to engrave a centrepiece © Michele Borzoni/TerraProject

APRIL 22, 2016 by: Jonathan Foyle

Scagliola, or “scal-yo-lah”, is a fine word, with all the flourish of a flamenco dancer. Yet the ancient technique of creating this imitation stone is very much Italian, having re-emerged from workshops in the centre of the country centuries ago. Ever since Giorgio Vasari wrote Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1550), Florence has been sold as the crucible in which the Renaissance was stirred, reviving the arts of the classical world. Yet there is no doubt that scagliola makers are at home in this city of grand medieval buildings with marble façades.

Just east of the city, in Pontassieve, is the workshop of master scagliolist Alessandro Bianchi. Scagliola was described by Vitruvius in the first century BC, and its revival was a later achievement of the Renaissance. The finest ancient Roman columns were of genuine rose marble, purple porphyry and green serpentine — finite supplies that had been lugged at huge effort from Egypt and Greece — and many of these columns were chopped up in the middle ages. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the best available blue stone, Afghan lapis lazuli, was more expensive than gold. So Italians carved a market in pietra dure, the craft of cutting and cementing small pieces of colourful marble for tabletops and cabinets. In Emilia, artisans found a way of making ground marble dust into pastes that would set firmly into precisely cut holes in stone furniture and fittings. Scagliola had returned. A late 17th-century scagliola fireplace can be found in Ham House, Richmond upon Thames, south-west London. Though diverse examples were exported across Europe, its patronage and manufacture held a special relationship with Britain. The man credited with transforming the craft into an art form was Enrico Hugford, a monk of English extraction from Vallombrosa, an abbey 20 miles south-east of Florence. He experimented with crushed stones and powders of coloured oxides, mixed with clay and glue to depict landscapes and scenes, four of which were exhibited in 1737 in the Florentine church of Santissima Annunziata. His pupil, Lamberti Gori, took the technique into the city, beginning the tradition that Bianchi upholds today.

Restoring an 18th-century altarpiece © Michele Borzoni/TerraProject

Bianchi’s father, Bianco, founded his eponymous business in the early 1950s after war had racked Florence but left its prime monuments and art collections fairly intact. Bianchi, now the owner of Bianco Bianchi, explains how his father was “absorbed” by the display of Hugford’s work in the Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence and the monastery in Vallombrosa. “He studied the 18th-century materials and techniques, then opened a workshop to make tables and panels inlaid in marble and scagliola,” he says.

Bianchi remembers well his father’s workshop, where he spent time out of school drawing, carving and incising “graffito” patterns into tabletops, panels, fireplaces and decorative floors. He retains his early appreciation for the material’s qualities. “Scagliola is a warmer material than marble and stones,” he says. “It is possible to make detailed and intricate patterns that cannot be made with marble. And to create many gradations of colours.”

The warmth he mentions is literal. Scagliola is a compound material with much greater thermal insulation than natural marble. This makes it well suited to floors and bathrooms, but it is also an easy way to touch-test what at first sight appears to be cool stone. The raw material Bianchi uses is selenite, a gypsum that is ground to a powder and mixed with natural coloured oxides and earth from a range of yellow ochre, terra di Siena, natural yellow oxide, warm red ochre, Pompeiian red and ultramarine. The tinted stone powder is bound with fine clays and casein (a protein derived from milk) or gum arabic from the acacia tree, following his father’s recipe.

So far, Bianchi’s explanation of materials and methods respects the traditions of scagliola that found favour during the age of the Grand Tour in the century after about 1715, when the British milordi trundled across Europe in search of antiquities. Beholding the great marble columns of a lost golden age, tourists demanded reflected glories in their own hallways and dining rooms from Scotland to Cornwall.

Oscar Urruela

Scagliolists achieved the look of ancient Roman marble monoliths by spreading a gypsum base around columns of brick or lath-and-plaster, adding a coloured layer with chips of alabaster and further colour or veining effects by wiping a web of silk threads dipped in pigment, polished to a glossy finish. Some effects were improbable: John Nash had blue columns imitate cylinders of lapis lazuli in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace. Nor was he the first. Such commissions encouraged not just Florentine pride, but a university chair in scagliola techniques at the city’s Accademia di Belle Arti.

Bianchi sees history and tradition as very important, but no less so than innovation because scagliola is still relatively unknown outside Italy, and the company’s marketplace has changed. Some of his own work can be found in a tabletop at Kensington Palace, it is true, but other pieces were commissioned by fashion houses such as Versace and Céline. The Sultan of Brunei is also a client, plus numerous architects with site-specific commissions. To evolve the craft, Bianchi has recently juxtaposed scagliola with other materials such as wood, Plexiglas and gold. Bianchi’s aim is to produce pieces that are detailed and more refined than those of his workshop’s competitors. “[A lot of scagliola] is made with synthetic resins, not natural materials, using cheap workers with a very poor artistic value,” he says. He leads by example: “We have a very important collection of antique scagliola works dated between the 17th and 19th centuries that can be visited by appointment — a unique museum in the world.” Take that as an invitation.

Oscar Urruela will be traveling from Spain for a demonstrative class on the art and method of Scagliola.   Saturday, September 23, 2017

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