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