Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Plaster and Paint

Our hearth brown clay paint, wall a lighter (perhaps Lincoln clay) paint.
Looking at the photo of the mirror in the previous post my eye is drawn to the texture of the wall behind the mirror. That is clay paint, sometimes called alis. Homemade clay paint. Homemade by me (and him).

Strawbale building in a nutshell: outer walls-stacked strawbales with roof tied to foundation by steel that runs through the bales. Inner walls-some folks do some creative and labor intensive things such as wattle and daub, or cob but we chose the old standby of frame and drywall. However, I didn't want latex on drywall as the finish; too flat, too boring, too smelly.

Two slightly different clays.
After attending a workshop with Bill and Athena Steen at the Canelo Project, I decided to earthen plaster the drywall. You can buy earthen or clay plaster but it was out of our budget range and, we had lots of clay.

But that's clay paint on the walls. So what happened to the plaster? We had already plastered the outside and the interior strawbales walls and we got tired. There comes a point when building a house that you just have to finish and we had reached that point. Lets just get this done! So we bailed on the plaster and went to clay paint.

Clay paint recipe: finely sifted clay (I used the more typical brown for some walls, but purchased very fine ceramic clay, like Kaolin, for others), fine sand, finely chopped straw (or mica), water and flour paste. We also added a small amount of powdered milk to ours. The milk acts as a binder as in old-fashioned milk paint. You mix the first 5 ingredients and then slowly add the milk until it starts to thicken to the consistency of heavy cream. Then take the biggest brush you can handle and start slathering it on the walls. It's a messy process but worth it. The walls have a nice texture and the clay and sand add a small bit to the thermal mass of the house.
It did what we needed it to do.

That being said, I will plaster the walls some day as that's the look I wanted from the getgo.

I'm not sure when, but the day is getting closer.


  1. I would love to join you when that day comes, you PlasterMaster! Let me know...TWF

  2. I dearly love and appreciate the light and simplicity demonstrated by that one picture of the entry-way. You've created a masterpiece--and I'm STILL waiting to see it!

  3. That's not my entryway, just to set the record straight.

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