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Re: GSBN:Reflections on Summer Plastering - A short tale

Bill -

I'm glad that Lars' comment has refreshed your plaster tale from over a
month ago.  I didn't respond initially, although I was happy as always to
read your plainly beautiful words about plastering and related matters.  The
whole story you related is very enjoyable and inspiring to read.  But when I
first read it, the link in your e-mail didn't connect me to the photos
(don't know if others had that problem) and until now I didn't go directly
to the Canelo site.

Lars is right in describing your photos as very, very beautiful.   Your
ability to capture light and place and people in a photograph is quite
remarkable.  In addition to being a pleasure to look at, your photographs
have always served straw bale and natural building very well, and I, for
one, thank you very much.  And your beautiful plaster work along with the
beautiful plaster work and exceptional artistry of Athena have also been a
pleasure to witness and have served served straw bale and natural building
equally well.  I thank both of you.

The photograph of Athena's sister's sculpture in front of the adobe tower
made an appearance in Catherine Wanek's "Worldwide Strawbale Tour" at the
ISBBC (if my memory serves correctly).  But more than a photo, we would all
love to see the two of you at a future ISBBC if you're able.  In the
meantime, simply, thanks.

Martin Hammer

> Dear Bill,
> first of all, thank you very much for sharing the story, and the very very
> beautiful photos on your homepage. Thank you.
> second, if you one day find time, then: when Jo and Asger and I get back to
> Denmark, which we will in a month's time, then we'll be looking after Asger,
> earning a bit of money, and continuing the building of our house. A big part
> of the remaining tasks is final finishes. When I look at the photos then I
> wish I had tried what Athena is doing on the photo with the text: "Athena
> carves decoration into edges of lime plaster." Can you explain how it is
> done, or where I can read about it.
> Love, Lars.
> 2006/8/29, Athena & Bill Steen absteen@...:
>> I'm not sure if this is list material, but hey, it has to do with
>> plastering and since SB buildings take a whole lot of plaster I
>> thought I would share my experience working on Athena's sister's new
>> gallery in New Mexico. The building was a four story adobe tower,
>> granted it wasn't straw bale, but since the walls were so uneven the
>> differences were minor.
>> There's been a lot of discussion about the about the advantages/
>> disadvantages of applying plaster to SB walls either by hand or
>> mechanically.  I don't have an opinion either way as to one being
>> better than the other, I think that each set of circumstances brings
>> it's own solution depending upon timing, labor force, resources, etc.
>> In my/our case, being northern New Mexico, Athena's sister still
>> living in Santa Clara Pueblo, lots of teenage kids available and
>> mostly because we don't know any better or haven't ever done it
>> differently - we mixed and applied all the plaster to the interior of
>> this building by hand.  Simply said, it's the way we love doing it.
>> I guess the reason that I am sharing this here is that the whole
>> event took on a character so different from the way things are
>> increasingly done in the age we live.  I suspect that what we did
>> wasn't much different than the way things were done a hundred years
>> ago in Northern New Mexico except that the trowels were of better
>> quality.  Anyhow, if it catches your interest, I put this out as a
>> contrasting experience.
>> Our job during the months of June and July was for Athena and I to
>> lead the plastering effort and in the process coordinate a group of
>> all ages to get the building plastering in time for a gallery opening
>> the middle of August.  The ages of our crew ranged from 6 to 75 with
>> a bunch of teenagers/early 20s types clustered in the middle.  They
>> ranged from moderate plastering skill levels to none at all.  One of
>> the great things about the mix of people was that it included
>> Athena's extended family from the Pueblo, our three boys, college age
>> interns and talented young girl from Mexico. You could sort of call
>> it North American cultural mix of sorts.
>> One major task was to develop a mix and method of application that
>> all could easily apply, wouldn't crack and give the gallery a unique
>> and beautiful feel that was consistent with what Athena's sister
>> Roxanne wanted and that was very northern New Mexican. Actually it
>> would work anywhere, but it fit the place.  What we tried to do was
>> create walls that would make her sister's work stand out, make the
>> place feel incredible and yet almost not be noticed. I think we were
>> successful.
>> All the plasters were mixed on site from a combination of local clays
>> with the exception of a lime plastered panel to be used for viewing
>> slideshows and movies.  I will say that if you haven't watched a
>> movie on a curved lime plastered wall then add it to your list of
>> things to do/make. There wasn't anything extra special about the
>> mixes, basically a blend of local clays, a little sand and chopped
>> straw.  The important thing is that they were easy for all to handle,
>> made a hard surface and didn't crack or dust. And I guess that I
>> should add that the plasters were developed from two truck loads of
>> clay soil and therefore we avoided having to pay some ridiculously
>> expensive price for commercial clay plaster.
>> It was a monumental effort, the plaster was mixed by hand in plastic
>> mixing tubs, the stairs hadn't been built so the plaster was moved to
>> different rooms via pulleys, ladders and stairs in the end. The
>> teenagers came in handy at this point. Tiny children played in the
>> sand piles, those who didn't want or know how to plaster, mixed.  The
>> hours were long and hard, but clearly a good option when it comes to
>> other forms of exercise.
>> The cost?  Plastering isn't cheap, but even paying generous wages to
>> the young kids, we came out slightly under the bid from a local
>> plastering contractor and now that I look back at what the project
>> took, he would have lost a bunch of money.
>> I guess that's enough said except that it was one of those special
>> experiences that one never forgets and makes life a whole bunch
>> richer.  Like all hard undertakings, there were difficult moments,
>> but I guess that's part of the richness of it all.
>> If you would like to see images of this process you can check into
>> our website at:
>> <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.caneloproject.com/pages/currrent%20projects/tower%";>http://www.caneloproject.com/pages/currrent%20projects/tower%</a>
>> 20gallery.html
>> Roxanne Swentzell, Athena Steen's sister, is internationally known
>> for her clay sculptures and limited bronze editions.  Her work is
>> extensively exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The
>> gallery is a four story adobe tower built in the early 1990s, never
>> finished and sat vacant til now.  Roxanne and her husband Tim Star
>> took on the task of finishing the tower and converting it into her
>> gallery. It is located at the Poeh Center of Pojoaque Pueblo, New
>> Mexico (eight miles north of Santa Fe) on the Taos/Espanola highway.
>> www.roxanneswentzelltowergalery.com
>> Bill
>> Athena &amp; Bill Steen
>> The Canelo Project
>> HC1 Box 324
>> Canelo/Elgin, AZ 85611
>> absteen@...
>> www.caneloproject.com
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> --
> Jo, Asger og jeg er pt I Australien. Vi er i Danmark igen midt november.
> Juli, august og september kan vi kun traeffes paa nedenstaaende mobilnummer,
> samt modtage post via nedenstaaende adresse.
> Jo, Asger and I are in Australia until mid November this year. July, August
> September our contacts are:
> jomorandin@...
> larskeller@...
> Lars, Jo og Asger
> 5 Crouch Street North
> Mount Gambier
> 5290 SA
> Australien
> Mobiltlf: 0061 405 366 455
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