I woke up this morning not realizing it was Saturday, or realizing where I was. And then in a nanosecond, I realized I was at home. And I didn’t have to get up and go to work (although I really don’t mind getting up to go to work these days – now that my work is all about creating art and beauty in people’s homes.)
As I lay in bed, thinking of how I’ve woken up for work in Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and too many places to mention, I felt a deep sense of gratitude that my work has afforded such amazing opportunities to meet people from all around the country and experience the world. It also struck me, in that nanosecond of not realizing where I was, that my favorite place in all the world to wake up for work is Tuscany. It’s my home away from home. It’s my dream of all dreams. And through Veneshe, I get to experience this every year, and share it with others.
No matter where I wake up, be it home with my family or Panzano in Chianti, I’m grateful to wake up where my heart is. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
Search "Venetian Plaster DIY" or "How to Apply Venetian Plaster" on Google, and you'll find results touting "Venetian Plaster Painting" or "Faux finishing" or the latest synthetic plasters promising a Venetian Plaster "look."
Here are some product descriptions for these finishes: "The heavy-bodied paint adds depth and dimension to your interior walls and complements your decor," or "a tintable acrylic plaster finishing system that can develop a beautiful, high polished appearance." But read the fine print: "Delayed effect from long term exposure: Cancer Hazard. Crystalline silica may cause lung damage and cancer. Risk depends upon duration and level of exposure to dust generated from sanding surfaces or spray mist."
Remarkably, these imitation, paint-based, toxic finishes cost over $40-$55 a gallon - they're not cheap! Over time, like any painted surface, the colors dull, the finish fades, and the look begins to lose its luster. And a cancer hazard for your home - really? Is it worth it?
Before I knew about real Venetian Plaster, I tried the synthetic brands. In my own home. For clients. Until I knew what "real" Italian plaster looked and felt like, I thought the synthetics offered a pretty cool faux finishing technique to add to my repertoire as a painter. But after visiting Italy for the first time, it didn't take me long to realize what I was missing. Real Venetian plaster, made of natural imported lime from Italy, has a completely different look and feel than the American faux products which promise the "look for less" (and actually, don't cost a whole lot less than the real deal). Authentic Venetian and Italian plasters are natural, organic finishes that breathe - they are duarable, timeless, fade-resistant and their beauty can not be imitated. They are a pleasure to touch. They're healthy for you. They're healthy for the environment,
So, really, why settle for faux? I can sell you authentic Italian plaster, teach you to apply it, or handle the whole job for you. Now that's what I call a real deal!
I have to admit that when we met Suzie and Phelan Black on a trip to Mondaino in 2009, I was as taken with their work restoring homes as I was with their work as artists. Having restored my own 18th century farmhouse in Pennsylvania, I felt an immediate connection, made deeper by our common love of Italy, and my own dream to one day restore a home in Italy.
Donnamarie and I were fascinated by their current restoration project – a medieval era home in the village of Saludecio with a view of the Adriatic from the upper story balcony. Time had not been kind to the structure, which had required extensive restorations to become habitable, and to remove centuries of decorating crimes – like cement layers and wall to wall carpeting hiding beautiful terra cotta floors, and cement layers on the walls that had to be carefully chipped away to reveal fresco decorations on the original plaster walls and ceilings. As fragments of the original designs and colors were revealed, Phelan and Suzie carefully recreated them, preserving the beauty and authenticity of what was once a relatively noble country home for the time.
When Phelan expressed an interest in Veneshe’s custom Venetian plaster finishes, we jumped at the opportunity to hold our October Venetian plaster training and restoration project at the house in Saludecio. To be invited to be a small part of bringing this amazing structure back to life, using all natural, Italian lime plasters and decorative techniques was an honor - and to be able to teach an Italian plastering class to do it was even more amazing. I’ll always remember the thrill of teaching and working together to turn the plain, freshly plastered rough walls into smooth and polished surfaces alive with movement, and the laughter, and the friendships we formed in Mondaino.
Do you have a restoration project to share? I'd love to hear about it!
I've been at the Bucks County Designer House nearly every day now. Today is finally a day off. This is the most I’ve seen of what most of the world considers a “real job” in 4 years! I'm used to structuring my day around what my medium - plaster- and my customers need, not by the clock. I have to be there by 10, and not leave until all the customers have left and it’s time for me to turn off the fountains, music and lights. It’s kind of weird and exhausting to be back in the world of 9-5.
So it's my first day away from the Meditation Room, and I am heading off to a funeral. Which has me meditating on life and friendship.
A very good friend of mine died of cancer on Thursday. She was only 57. She was very supportive when I was first starting out in 1990, finding things for me to paint that really didn’t need to be painted, bushes that just had to be trimmed, and even walking her dog Holly. Then she moved on and bought a new house, and found things for me to paint in there as well. Later she became my trainer at the utility company when I first got a job there, but I would still paint for her now and then because I never gave up the painting business. I think she always saw in me a person who needed to do more to express myself.
I will miss her, even though we lost touch in the last few years, my having moved on from my corporate job to plaster full time, and she having also moved on doing lots of community service things and being more and more involved at work. I would think about her often, remembering her love for her dog Holly and how heartbreaking it was when Holly passed away. I made a picture collage for her and she cried when I gave it to her. Then she got a new dog Mickey who from what I last heard, chewed on just about everything. I was wondering when she’d be calling me to replace her molding in her new house. I will always have fond memories of Linda and her laugh and smile and always having kind word for everyone. She was a special person in my life.
So today, even though the music, fountain and lights that were Linda have been turned off, I will never forget her wonderful presence. Goodbye Linda, it was a pleasure to know you and work for you all those years. Thank you for believing in me, and for being a part of my life.
I've been going to the Bucks County Designer Show House nearly every day now, greeting visitors to the Personal Retreat Room and explaining the techniques and materials we used to create all the Italian plaster finishes. On opening day, we got such an unbelievable and overwhelming response as people wanted to know everything, and the time went by so quickly I didn’t even know it was time to go home. When Holly and I were working on the room, time seemed to stand still, too. I would be finished working on whatever we were doing that day, and not want to leave. The room just seemed to have an incredibly soothing and powerful effect on me.
I hear these comments from people every day: “The room drew me in” or “I felt immediate peace upon entering.” That's just the effect we were after. We even asked our friend and Yoga-Bodhi instructor Ruth to facilitate a room blessing ceremony a few days before opening, just to be extra certain that visitors would feel the peaceful energy of the space. My suspicion is that it’s working!
I think one of the things that is so unique and memorable about the room is that even though it is full of art and design, it also has a kind of emptiness or simplicity about it. Sitting in the room, I can't help but reflect on my life path and what's most important to me.
I invite you to experience this wonderful space for yourself! I'll be the other meditating figure in the room....
So hello all, welcome to my blog. After a long, tiring and seemingly endless wait, the new site is finally here. I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed watching it being built. It takes a truly a special person to make something like this happen. Thank you Donnamarie, for being so diligent and patient! And thank you for your talent to make this happen!
While I'm on the subject of thanks, a big thank you to Rick from Concentric Elements, for his guidance, expertise and for being there every step of the way as we rebuilt our site on a new platform. You rock!
So, this is my space to write about what's happening in the plaster world, the things I think about as I meet with a client or burnish a wall, or what runs through my head as I transform a room from a space without character to something with purpose and beauty (the 2010 Bucks County Show House Personal Retreat Room comes immediately to mind).
What interests you? What would you like to talk about?