Plaster of Paris

So we took a trip to France

Stone mad Irish abroad was coordinated by conservation mason Tom Pollard

  • First stop was a gypsum plant

Gypsum is calcium sulfate – or lime sulfate, a sedimentary rock. Otherwise known as alabaster, or in old English ‘spearstone’.  Like limestone, gypsum is quarried then burnt to create a material reactive to water, in this case ‘Plaster of Paris’

kilns

 Situated in Val d’Oise, a southern suburb of Paris, the company Platre Vieujot was founded in 1880 and remains the last French independent gypsum manufacturer.

 With six massive kilns, all working at different temperatures and specifications, they produce high quality material for both restoration and modern builds . Up until the 1960s the company sold 50,000 tonnes of gypsum per year. Like lime, it was also used as a soil additive.

  Gypsum comes in plaster and block form, but also exterior plasters and stucco.

warehsegypum

(Tour guide and traditional mason Olivier Labesse shows us around the sample storehouse)

I was stunned to learn that over  6,000 bespoke & individual mixes are categorized here in the samples warehouse, each with unique decorative and insulating properties

Glass bead plaster

Cherry seed mix

A skilled technician carefully weighs pigments

colouredgyspum

We tried our hand at sgraffito – a technique of scraping plaster which became popular in Renaissance Europe

gypsumscapers

Cork mason Jim Fahy under the watchful eye of Marc Potin, company director at Platre

graveyardGypumWall

(Pat Hickey, conservation mason from Wexford)

As the sun goes down on our first day in France, we visit an old graveyard in the village of Luzancy. Gypsum, a wonderful material of centuries of reliability, stays with us.

cross

11 thoughts on “Plaster of Paris

  1. what delectable pictures Louise

    1 Thank you. “Plaster of Paris” used to be ubiquitous (hospitals set bone with it……sculptors used it for cast-making) without thinking about its provenance. I look forward to Days 2 and 3!

    1. Hello Marie – indeed a whole world of building material opened up, used by the Egyptians as render in the pyramids – and in modern day on an industrial scale in board form, as is fire resistant!
      Thanks for dropping by. Yes further French report to come.

  2. Thank you for posting this Louise. It is a magnificent account of a truly educational experience shared by a great group of people. What a memorable trip this was for all of us. Well done also to Olivier Labesse for organising the extensive itinerary and for providing an adventurous transport service! C’est la vie.

    1. Yes it was the most incredible experience of my life and with the most enjoyable company. We have to thank everyone we met on this trip for sharing with us their great skills and their love for the crafts they are involved in. When is the next one aloisia

    2. Olivier Labesse certainly deserves a heartfelt thanks, and indeed everyone we met, but especially Olivier. There are at least two further articles on the trip to come, given the wonderful locations Olivier brought us to! This trip was ”authentic tourism” at its best, discovering places we would never have otherwise known, if it weren’t for Olivier and Carole.

  3. Great article Louise and your photography is excellent. Marc gave such a great tour and his time and hospitality was fantastic. Olivier was as accomodating also not to mention his wife Carole.
    I strongly think Italy should be next, currently visiting and the level of restoration works ongoing here in Florence is inspiring. Hopefully visiting the restoration workshops at the Santa Maria del Fiore home of Brunellescis Dome on Weds.

  4. A wonderful evocation of a once ubiquitous material, so beautiful and full of possibilities.
    It is almost like clothing for stone.
    I look forward to the next chapters of this peregrination.

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