In the course of a year, it seems that I spend many of my Saturdays doing something to further my craft. In the past it has been discovering new sources for artisans, antique dealers, artists, or vendors. This past Saturday, while John was off enjoying his “Day in Italy”, I spent the afternoon discovering the capabilities of Boston Ornament Company. They make plaster crown moldings, figures, brackets, and more, the old fashioned way. I’m a member of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classic America (ICA&CA), and with this group I was able to watch a new crown molding being made for a grand palace on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
First we can see the basic shape of the molding, against which they will pour liquid plaster (ground lime, etc.) and then run their custom made “knife” across it to form the shape.
They do this over and over again. Each layer dries pretty quickly. After a few layers, they add material to help hold the molding together.
They added a sheet of thin fiberglass, and some straw-like material. In the old days it was straw, now it’s a synthetic. Then more and more layers of plaster, until all the air bubbles are out and they have a smooth shape.
I would guess that there are about 8 layers. After only about 5 minutes of drying time, they can pop the molding loose from the backer – and Voila!
Now this molding is pretty plain – it provides the basic shape. With our friend, Sheldon Kostelecky looking on, we see Clayton Austin (owner, Boston Ornament) in the process of adding 5 more “embellishments”; egg and dart, dentils, modillion blocks, and lambs tongue to create a rich and complex crown molding.
It was so interesting to see how this process is done. It certainly gives me a greater appreciation for the incredible craftsmanship that these moldings represent.