Ffion and Steven Blench root their practice in the rich history of plain and decorative plasterwork. Together as Chalk Plaster, they work on historic buildings throughout Britain and Europe, restoring decorative plaster work from as many historic periods as exist. They are voracious with their academic research, discovering and rediscovering recipes and techniques that have been lost to time. There is a fascinating alchemy to their work, which sits somewhere between chemistry and witch craft. In the hubble and bubble of various experiments, Steven admits to having made it rain in their Burntisland workshop. Their practice has recently expanded to explore opportunities for adapting historic techniques and applying them to contemporary design and ornament to riotous, exquisite ends.
What value does craft have in daily life?
What we love and value most about craft is how it quietly embodies a sense identity and place. For us, craft practices express the unique material traditions, skills and knowledge of a community. At their heart, craft objects are an invitation to explore what makes a community distinctive, encouraging us to celebrate differences and make connections.
What does Scottishness mean to you?
Scottishness is something to search for but never settled on.
Stuart A. Paterson expressed it beautifully in his poem Sanctified
“Scotland where can we find you,
where are you hiding your gallus self?
Like a tick, a sliver of living skelf,
we’ve got you under our rainproof skin,
the sweet assassin in the shortbread tin,
the slug of bubbles in the Irn Bru,
the och to the aye to the och aye the noo,
the coo that moved, the gasps between patter,
the melted chocolate under the batter.
Scotland where can we find you,
where are you coorying, are you there?
You’re more than a toe-poke from a deep midfield player,
more than a flag or unspoken complaint,
the left handed chanter, the tartan paint,
the dot on the i of Inchnadamph,
the third wally dug, the silent f in Banff,
the heel to the toe to the step ye gaily,
the pechs at the end of the holiday ceilidh...”
from Sanctified by Stuart A. Paterson.