Sculptural Walls

The wonderful thing about natural plaster, whether it be on a cob wall or on straw bale walls, is the potential for creative sculpture. Cob is even more so, as 3-D shaping can be accentuated into the depth of the wall, while with straw bale, the sculpture tends to be more on the surface (unless one wants to cut into the bales). In the bedrooms and the hallway, we added some sculptural elements before applying the final plaster.

In the hallway, we had rather lumpy bales, which I managed to make less lumpy with the rough coats of plaster, but there still were definite hills. Either side of the opening that leads to the upper level of the house were really rather bulgy because of the small cavity within the framing that we rather awkwardly stuffed mini-bales into. We decided to build up a kind of crossing of flowing ribbonish lines that would frame the sides of the opening and go up and over the arch we had built at the top. These lines also widened out around the staircase landing, and down the length of the hallway. We drew lines on the wall with chalk and then used water and some clay slip to moisten the wall before beginning to add the cob.

In the bedrooms, each of the kids wanted to design and create their own sculptures, so we have a bird above one window, and a tree in the corner of the other room. We built a small half moon shaped shelf in our room that is wide enough to hold a tea light candle.

The sculptures look so much more effective when the final plaster is done, but that will have to be another post! The additions of the sculptures definitely makes the work of the final plaster a lot slower and more tedious, but in the end, having these personal touches of creativity enhances the intimacy of the house. Too much sculpture, I think, can be visually overwhelming, so finding a balance between a nice smoothly finished wall and a specific placement of sculptural detail is good to consider. However, considering how much work it is to build a house in the first place, I think it is equally important to take the creative opportunities when they arise- and cob/natural plaster is a wonderful way to incorporate such creative moments.

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