Somewhere in the midst of the Algerian desert an old man sits carefully re-decorating his village house. Like every other year he moulds the soil in his hands and skilfully applies it to the wall. Patiently applying layer over layer, for the final touch he takes his carving tool and skilfully starts to carve out a design removing parts of the final layer. A few master strokes later he looks at his work and knows well that is house is now ready for the harsh desert climate. He knows not of his masterpiece, he does just as his father did and his ancestors before him.
Introducing Scraffito(Scraffiti plural) – The method of removing layers of plaster in order to expose the interior layer/layers in a desired pattern ( commonly done in earth or lime plasters).
This technique has been traditionally practiced in the African sub-continent and was widely used in the neoclassical architecture in Europe. Normally each layer of earth plaster is done in contrasting colours to the other making the final result an interesting play of colours. This simple technique of deliberate subtraction of plaster finds a rebirth in the contemporary earth homes today.
My experiments with scrafitto has been nothing short of pleasurable leaving me with beautiful custom designed earth plastered walls.
This image shows one that was done as a wall hanging during the international mud festival at Ville fontaine, France. A simple 2 layers of earth plaster done on a wooden frame and a wattle base.
A fusion of Indian “Warli” in design and scraffito in technique.
Read on if you would like more details on how this technique can be applied to your walls.
The scraffito D.I.Y
- Apply the first layer of earth plaster with a colour of your choice and allow it to dry
- Once dry, apply the second coat with the earth colour of choice in a very thin layer (2-3mm) and leave it to semi-dry
- Meanwhile choose the pattern you would like replicated onto your wall and transfer it onto a waterproof paper
- Make holes along the lines of the pattern in order to be able to trace the pattern on the wall.
- Prepare a colour swab with a cotton cloth filled with coloured powder or ash.
- Carefully place the paper onto your semi-dried coat of plaster and tap the colour swab over it.
- Remove the paper, the dots will have transferred the pattern to the wall.
- Take a scalpel or carving tools of pottery and scrape along the traced pattern exposing the inner layer of plaster.
Patience, accuracy and a few hours later …Voila! Your very own customised wall art. The beauty of it being that it is completely natural, safe and easy to execute.
A note of caution would be that this technique works best on earth or lime plasters (cement or other industrial products are too had to be reworked on after initial hardening takes place)
If this technique interests you and you wish to know more about it, do not hesitate to leave us a comment. Happy plastering!!