The art of Venetian plaster gained popularity in the 14th century with the movement of the Renaissance period. The Renaissance brought a greater appreciation for the arts with the work of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, among others. Venetian plaster originated in Italy, invented for Venice, an Italian city built entirely on water, to decrease the penetration of water on above ground structures. Today, stucco is produced throughout the world but the true Venetian plasters or “Stucco Veneziano” are still only produced in a small region of Northern Italy.
Sarasota, Fla.-based FirmoLux distributes natural Venetian plaster, made from lime and marble, as has been done in the country for centuries. And due to the nature of these plasters, they are mildew and mold resistant, contain low VOCs and are resistant to water damage, making them a natural “green” product. Tony Fiocco, executive director and senior partner of FirmoLux, saw an opportunity to educate the right people-designers, specifiers, architects, and contractors-on techniques for applying the plaster.
“I have been collaborating over the past several months in forming a joint partnership to develop an educational division,” Fiocco says.
He brought in Kevin Walsh, president of Walsh Decorative Finishes to collaborate with him on the project of creating a training program that would fulfill this objective. “It is exciting for me to have someone of Kevin’s caliber, and who is passionate about his work as a master craftsman join our company. He can do incredible things with plaster that pushes the envelope,” Fiocco says.
As an experienced finisher, Walsh worked as a faux painter for several years before deciding he wanted to switch to naturals. He wanted to improve his craft and had an interest in working with natural materials, so Walsh went to Italy to study the art of Venetian plaster under artist and renowned plasterer Carlo Vittorio Mori.
“Carlo opened the Italian Venetian plaster world to me, introducing me to his teachers and opening doors to suppliers long before American plasterers sought out Italian plaster,” says Walsh. “He has studied with the best.”
After his return from Europe, Walsh started working more extensively with Venetian plasters. He had been using FirmoLux’s products and upon putting them through extensive wear on applications, found that they were durable. Learning how to work with the product is one of the skills taught by the training program.
Scheduled to open in July, the training program provides techniques for applied arts and the basics for applying Venetian plaster. Another goal of the training program is to provide the practical experience necessary to work in a team.
“Learning the basics is important to the technique of applying naturals. The plaster reacts differently depending on whether you’re using a spatula or trowel,” notes Walsh.
“The trowels allow for the application/plaster to get into crevices to level it and secure the bond,” explains Fiocco. Trainees will learn these techniques and how the products can work in conjunction with one another. “It’s an art,” says Walsh. And who better to teach the fine art of Italian plastering, Walsh thought, then Carlo Mori? So upon recommendation from Walsh, Fiocco brought Mori into the United States to conduct the training courses.
“Carlo received a visa to come to the U.S. and teach for at least five years,” says Fiocco. “He will be educating wherever needed.”
Training is offered to anyone with any level of experience and FirmoLux travels to the requested location. Training is also customized to the individual learner depending on what kind of experience they have. “Courses and seminars are customized according to the number of people and the purpose of the assistance requested,” says Mori.
The training course spans from three to five days long. In addition, trainees will go through the different procedures, which may vary depending on whether the application is used for exterior or interior projects, and will use different products to demonstrate that they know how to use the tools properly.
“The student will be followed from the initial handling of the tools (trowels) until a sufficient mastering of the application procedures,” explains Mori, “both on single drywall panels first and subsequently on vertical panels to simulate the application method on walls and horizontal panels as in ceilings, if necessary.”
Walsh and Mori recently returned from a training session in the Caribbean. “The project management team wanted us to come and train up to 20 of their workers that were doing other plaster work there. Our distributor put together training sessions for the contractors there so they [could] send their employees to learn new techniques and product application,” Walsh says. “If people are not trained properly with our system, than there is too much latitude for failure.
“This is both a creative field and a trade,” says Walsh. “The beauty has created a demand for the product.” And working with this product can give contractors an increased edge, which is needed in this competitive industry. W&C