Nurturing the craft of the artisan
Nurturing the craft of the artisan
There is a good reason why ROCKCOTE refers to people who work with our natural materials as artisans. Working with natural building materials is a highly skilled process that requires comprehensive knowledge of building systems, application techniques and an understanding of individual products.
But there’s a lot more than that to being an artisan. Wikipedia defines an artisan as “a skilled craft worker who makes or creates things by hands that may be functional or strictly decorative. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist.”
There’s a passion, an acknowledgement of the craft as something much more than a trade, an intimate relationship between the artisan, the products and the tools used to create unique and beautiful finishes.
ROCKCOTE’s two-day Natural Materials workshop gives tradespeople and building professionals an opportunity to learn more about our natural finishes. Following the completion of the workshop, tradespeople interested in working with natural materials can obtain artisan certification once an on-the-job experience component is satisfied.
A recent workshop in the Blue Mountains hosted by ROCKCOTE and Jason Dash from Mud & Straw Concepts enabled artisans in training to learn on a project underway.
The home under construction and designed by Jason Dash is a hybrid of various natural construction techniques with straw bale walls and some earth rendered light straw walls. The exterior is a combination of corrugated iron and earth render. Jason and his team built the foundations and homeowner, Mary Gleeson and her family have completed much of the additional building under their guidance.
The packed two-day workshop program included the application of Marrakesh and Venetian Plaster to several walls in the kitchen, Lime Plaster Basecote on the exterior and sample boards of Otsumigaki and other products.
According to ROCKCOTE Natural Materials specialist, Tony Thorogood, the cold and damp weather required some careful planning to complete all of the finishes required over two days.
“The preparation and application of Marrakesh was the first priority,” said Tony. “Due to the rainy, cold weather and the area we needed to cover, the Marrakesh was taught first allowing it to dry overnight and be finished on the Saturday morning,” Tony said.
Marrakesh was applied on splashbacks in the kitchen, with an initial 2mm coat left to sit for 20 minutes. A second coat of 2-3mm was then applied and finished to a smooth face using soft stainless steel trowels. Tony said that the polishing process surprised both Mary and the workshop participants.
“When Marrakesh is applied, it appears to be a dull, white plaster. It wasn’t until the next day when the polishing took place and we applied the black soap that the soft, undulated patina effect really brought the wall to life,” Tony explained.
The application of Lime Plaster Basecote on the exterior on Saturday saw everyone swapping jobs so all participants had a turn at mixing, applying and finishing. The exterior had been prepared in advance with two coats of site mix clay and the Lime Plaster Basecote was applied straight over the surface, tinted to a colour selected by Mary.
“The finish sought was a soft, smooth Japanese trowel finish,” explained Tony. “We started with a small section of wall about 5-6 metres but ended up completing about 20 metres because everyone was enjoying it so much.”
There was an enthusiastic response to Tony’s explanation of finishing the Venetian Plaster that was used on kitchen cupboards and drawers. The Venetian Plaster was used in its natural colour and polished with a Japanese trowel.
“During the application of the final coat using a very fine Japanese polishing trowel, you have to learn to feel what the trowel is doing, made easier by the trowel’s fine blade. You actually have to listen to the trowel and you will hear the pitch changing as the level of polish increases – from a scratchy, dragging sound to a smoother, even, softer noise. That’s what you need to listen for,” he explained.
Among the biggest highlights of the weekend were the communal meals including sushi made by one of the Mud & Straw team’s family members.
One workshop participant was so enthralled by the information presented on natural building systems that he went home on the Friday night and researched the negative impacts of modern buildings. The next day he shared his findings with the group and his surprise at the poor health outcomes of current building systems compared with those using natural building materials.
“Attending a Natural Materials workshop paves the way for applicators to become professional artisans, delivering superb finishes for a range of decorative and functional purposes using ROCKCOTE’s high quality materials. For many, it is a life changing experience, offering the opportunity to add value to their business as well as motivate them to make healthier choices in their own lives,” Tony said.