Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
HATFIELD, Manchester:JOSEPH BLAKE has returned to Jamaica with a mission to spread an innovation, which adds a more artistic approach to building construction and interior decorating, using the ancient fibrous plastering arts, a practice which is popular in Europe.
Blake was born in Jamaica in Mount Maria, St Ann, but migrated to England in the late 1960s.
After starting out in art school, he later made a switch to a career in fibrous plastering, which he has been doing for the last 25 years. "Well, I did a plastering interior decoration course in England, and I realised that there was more to it than just rendering, but there was a decorative part of it, which I found interesting," Blake explained.
"I was really impressed, so I first did an apprenticeship and later decided to make a career of it," he told The Gleaner.
The fibrous plastering arts originated with the Egyptians and the Greeks and spread across Europe from Italy during the Roman Empire.
"It started in England right after the end of World War I and later became a standard part of interior decoration in every house there," Blake disclosed.
"The material used is what we call fine casting plaster, which is a lime-based product, and heisian, which we call crocus bag. We make the items from a mould," he said.
Blake returned to Jamaica three years ago and set up his workshop in Hatfield, Manchester, about a year ago, where he makes various items using the fibrous plastering method.
"We basically make things such as cornices to decorate between the ceiling and the walls, or to break the line between ceiling and wall. The skirting, wall plaques, as well as rosettes, are ceiling centres for making chandeliers," Blake said. "We also do custom-made items. If you have a particular design, we can make it for you. I have done ceilings arches, window arches, lots more things."
teach the craft
Blake said his ultimate goal is to start a school. "I want to have a school where I can introduce this to the younger generation," he said.
So far, he has taught a young man from the Hatfield comm-unity, Dowashan Vaccianna, who he said is now capable of working on his own. "It's nice, very interesting, and different. I enjoy doing it," the apprentice said.
"I am in dialogue with HEART Trust National Training Agency to teach the art of fibrous plaster at the school," Blake said. "They are looking at incorporating this into one of their construction projects, so we are working things out, which I am really looking forward to. I really think it's the way for me to go in order to develop the younger generation. It is a big phenomenon in England, and I do see it getting very big in Jamaica in the near future."