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Carved Plaster

This traditional form of ornamentation is an elegant complement to the intricate tilework and carved wood.

The photos in this page are from a trip I took to Fez. I was staying in a traditional inn and the plaster was spectacular.

To produce this plaster, called Tadelakt a Lime Plaster, a layer of stucco is laid down. It varies from one to over 5 or more cm. thick. The material used vary but generally is a cement or lime stucco rather than just plaster. After preparation of the wall, an area large enough to be worked is laid and a stencil is used to mark the design.

You can actually get Moroccan lime plaster in the US

Click on the smaller images to see larger versions

Moroccan Carved plasterMoroccan Carved plaster

Carved Plaster Arch and Carved Plaster Border

The stencil gets pounced with a porous bag filled with cement or other coloured material, sometimes charcoal or coloured chalk is used. Sometimes the design is drawn by hand in areas where the pattern needs to be adapted to the room. Sometimes a combination of both patterns and hand drawing. Large compass or dividers are also used. The craftsman will own stencils that he can reuse. When the stucco has began hardening the craftsman cuts out the design using a narrow chisel. It is a time consuming process.

The master craftsman called a MAALEM, modifies and adapts the design to fit the wall/column or whatever he is ornamenting.

Moroccan carved stuccoCarved plaster column

Carved plaster border and a column

After cutting the design and letting it harden the background is sometimes coloured. This is done by pouncing darker cement over the design. I expect the stucco is dampened before this is done to allow the darker gray cement to stick. The pouncing is done using a porous cloth that allows a thin dusting of cement through.

Carved plaster over a light fixture Carved plaster arch over a ceramic tile fountain

Carved plaster covering a light, coloured glass was included in the design, and carved plaster arch over a ceramic tile fountain.

The final step is painting the design. Only the outer face is painted leaving the inside carving cement coloured. Sometimes 2 colours are used on the outside face to emphasize the design.

Walls, columns, ceilings, archways and domes are likely candidates for carved stucco. Only the floor is not carved.

Carved plaster domeCarved plaster capital

Carved Plaster Dome and Carved plaster Capital

Here are some details of the Carved Plaster Dome. During the day when the sun was shining, it was lit with brilliant colours. The spaces had coloured glass behind the holes. The dome can be seen from the rooftop terrace.

Carved plaster dome Carved plaster dome seen from outside

Carved plaster dome from outside

Lovely ceiling made from Carved Moroccan plaster. Quite tedious to work upside down on a scaffold.

Carved plaster ceiling Carved plaster arch detail

Carved Plaster Ceiling and Detail of carving on an arch

2 YouTube Video of plaster carving masters.

Designs used in traditional plaster carving go back a long time. If you are interested in the patterns
check out this web page on patterns in Islamic Art It is a wonderful reference with a large number of images.


This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.

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