Experimenting with Plaster on Jute & Burlap

Years ago I purchased some oil sticks to play with, not having any idea that they would lead me here, to share my encaustic experimentation with you. Searching for information about using R&F pigment sticks with encaustic, I found All Things Encaustic and I was delighted to connect with Ruth who is from Toronto—I am also in Canada, just a little distance away in Westport.

Plaster as a Suitable Surface for EncausticPlaster surfaces and Encaustic | Plaster-Studio-Mixed-Media-Techniques-for-Painting

Recently I have been working with plaster on jute or burlap before adding layers of wax. In this post, I share my experimental work and process .

As I love to work with plaster and cement, I was delighted to find the book Plaster Studio by Stephanie Lee and Judy Wise. I have used some of their ideas as jumping off points for my own work.

“Plaster is a luscious, absorbent surface-comparable to the texture of an egg shell”   (pg 13)

Venetian plaster 

A friend recently told me about venetian plaster. This has opened up another avenue for my encaustic experimentation. Venetian plaster is a wall and ceiling finish consisting of plaster mixed with marble dust. Venetian plaster can be tinted, or colored using natural colorants and can be burnished to create a highly polished, rock-hard, marble-like finish but, when left unburnished, it has a matte finish that is rough and stone-like. [source: wikipedia]

What I love most about encaustic is the texture that can be built up in many layers. But I have also discovered that great texture can be created using a plaster on jute for a base.

My Experiments | Preparing Plaster Surfaces for Encaustic Art

Experiment One:  Plaster on Jute

I spread a sheet of 6 mil plastic on my work table as the plaster can be messy. Sometimes I use a runny plaster if i am going to adhere the jute or fabric directly to a board.  This photo shows this with the jute adhered with runny plaster to a board with canvas paper surface.

jute with thin plaster adhered to canvas paper on board
jute with thin plaster adhered to canvas paper on board

Experiment Two:  Plaster on Burlap

This panel shows a piece of burlap adhered to hardboard with wax.  The second photo shows this piece with thin plaster spread over it and some alcohol inks beginning my design. And the third photo shows a detail, look carefully and you can see the board beneath the burlap wisps.

Experiment Three: Jute & Plaster Book Cover 

Jute was laid on a piece of plastic and the back area and front cover area were coated with venetian plaster with the spine left as jute, although a bit of plaster did find its way there. Then two pieces of archival mat board were glued to the other side of the plaster covers.

Jute Book Plaster
Jute Book Cover with Venetian Plaster

Experiment Four:  Cracked Plaster on Burlap

This next surface will be for a painting, but here you will see only the beginning.  This ground is made from plaster the consistency of heavy cream to cover one side of burlap. When it was set but not too hard, I picked it up and rolled it and folded it in several directions.  I then glued it to a piece of board.

crackled plaster on burlap
crackled plaster on burlap

All these plaster surfaces will be worked with encaustic medium and alcohol inks.

Let’s discuss…

Have you used plaster as a ground for Encaustic art? I would love to hear from you about your experience. Have a question about preparing a plaster ground on jute or burlap? Add a comment below and I will be happy to respond.

About Georgia Ferrell

Designer, Artist, and Small Business Owner in Westport, Ontario, Canada

Having done art all my life I finally find myself at a place where I can devote much of my time to playing and learning and creating art that speaks me.

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5 thoughts on “Experimenting with Plaster on Jute & Burlap

    1. hi sandie
      I recommend the book by Lee and Wise. I have tried to add my own spin to their work, and recommend that you do also.

  1. Do you have to attach jute or burlap to a board or will it be strong enough to be floated in a framed after wax is cured

      1. sorry i misread your question. i would try, but i think you would have to use a fair bit of plaster backing if you did not want to attach it to a board. the plaster on burlap is fairly floppy with just the amount of plaster i use.
        so i would attach to a board with the work a wee bit larger than the board and then float the board in the frame.


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