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Elements of Design: Pargeting

June 15, 2011 4 Comments by Regina

I always love learning something new, especially when it comes to identifying an art form with the proper word.  I recently came across Pargeting — the art of creating three-dimensional raised designs on exterior walls.  The reliefs are traditionally created with sand and lime plasters.  A few pargeters today add straw or even animal hair to strengthen this mix, which harkens back to the Edwardian Era.

The Ancient House Ipswich

Ancient House in Ipswich. Here’s a more detailed image and a close-up.


A low-embossed example.


Parrots and outlined panels - a bit more dimension on this one.


Much more detail and relief work here.

Church and nature-based carvings were popular designs.  The story goes that Henry VIII brought over Italian stuccoists to work on his royal palaces. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if that work has survived.)  Later on, the art was brought to England by Flemish migrants and then local craftsmen began to learn the art with them.

Pargeting in historic Canterbury.

Pargeting in historic Canterbury.

Pargeting is traditionally done on top of a floated coat.  The designs are drawn in with small trowels and specialized tools and then built up by hand.  If it is to be a substantial relief, then wire frameworks are used.  Below, two of the most recognized authorities authorities on the craft.

Bill Sargent

Joe Pattison

If you’d like to read more about the history of pargeting, Building Conservation has an excellent article.  The Jacobean era probably saw the most call for pargeted buildings.  Although much of the work for the pargeters of today involve historic reconstruction, modern day artisans have helped reinvigorate the art.  Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Elements of Design! :)

7/30/11 UPDATE – Theresa Cheek of Art’s the Answer wrote a great post on Pargeting as well. Check it out!

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  1. Lisa McMillen
    1284 days ago

    Great info! I love learning new things! I am about to create some plaster panels for a client so this is really timely for me. The building conservation website is a goldmine!

  2. Tamra/The Gilded Barn
    1284 days ago

    Beautiful work. I love to use composites on furniture and walls to add a layer of depth and give it the look of carving, but these guys really know their stuff!

  3. PJ Hoover
    1283 days ago

    OMG You find the most amazing things, we are so lucky to have your shares. This is a Blog of Inspiration!!! I love love it!

  4. sharon leichsenring
    1282 days ago

    Thank you, thank you, Regina. I didn’t know the word for it, but I love this stuff!! You supply a sure piece of enjoyment/education,eye candy with every blog. So glad to have found you.

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