It all starts with a magical crystal found in the quarries of Tuscany. It is a gypsum crystal, which is baked for different amounts of time, depending on what kind of chalk powder is desired. In order to obtain the correct gypsum mixture, it is necessary to mix the powder with an approximately equal amount of water. Then the processing of plaster begins, the same processing that will form frames, decorations and all else imaginable.
In the Arte del Gesso art workshop, Lisetta shows us how the almost liquid gypsum mixture is worked on the long marble bench: with patience, dedication and physical strength she manages to turn this mixture into beautiful frames. First, she spreads a release agent on the work surface, a 5-meter-long marble counter, she then distributes the plaster which she works with a sled, a special tool made of wood on which a metal disc with the negative shape of the frame is attached. Layer upon layer, Lisetta drives the sled over the marble slab, drawing new plaster over and over until the frames take shape. It takes a lot of attention and precision to carry out this job, because the smallest mistake in movement could have repercussions on all that was done prior. As the plaster is being worked on, it begins to dry, and Lisetta can detach it from the work surface to see what she has created.
Another type of processing is the modelling of gypsum using molds used to make decorations which, in addition to gypsum, require the use of sisal fibers to better densify the material. When this type of work is performed, a negative mold made by the plasterer with silicone must be used. Soft silicone molds do not have an infinite life, but can be used several times.
If you ask Mr Lupori, the owner, which plaster-related place he is most fascinated by, he talks about a villa in Vinacciano (Pistoia), which has a huge wonderful hall with incredible locally made plaster decorations. Looking around his workshop, you can see the beauty of skillful manual workmanship that is worth passing down to generations to come, as it is an aesthetic skill that should not be lost.
Perceiving the love that these people put into their work is as simple as the subtle skill of working the plaster is complex.