The formal name for my trade is plasterer but around the site we are often called ‘spreads’. We are responsible for preparing the walls for the plaster by making sure they are flat and true and then applying the plaster.
We ‘rough on’ a first coat to start with, which covers the wall, then ‘flatten’ it off and do a second coat called the ‘laying down’ coat that will close-up the surface. Timing is the most important thing. From the time it is mixed, the plaster is undergoing a chemical reaction and it takes a certain amount of time to set, so you have a fixed time to work it. If you have warm air or a draft it will dry more quickly. We block off the doors and windows to reduce drafts for that reason.
It is most rewarding when you have done a whole room yourself. To look at that room afterwards and know that you did that, is quite fulfilling.
I first came to Stowe as a truck driver. I hadn’t been in the building trade before. When I went to the sites I would have a look at what the different trades do. I saw that the company was growing and that there would soon be a need for more plasterers. I booked into a course in the evenings at Otley College and then approached Andrew and Damien to ask if they would give me some onsite experience. To begin with, I assisted the existing plasterers by labouring for them and carrying out small jobs. As time went on I had the opportunity to work on bigger jobs.
Personally, I am most proud of the job we did on Seagull Cottage, Felixstowe. I was working with a plasterer called Karl. He really opened-up my skills. There were some bits where I had to ‘patch in’ where we had knocked through. The aim is that you can’t see that it has been done even if you know it has.
In my spare time, I do a lot of open water swimming in the sea and I do a bit of climbing on rock and synthetic walls as well. I swim with the Felixstowe Swimscapes. Ironically, it is Seagull Cottage we use as a landmark because it is big and white and easy to see from the water.
Words and pictures by Eric Orme with thanks to Garry Cullum, Plasterer.