Egg and dart moulding, plaster, made by T Grounds & Sons, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1900-1940
The Grounds Studio models and moulds were used to produce architectural decoration in fibrous plaster. During the first half of the twentieth century, fibrous plaster was the main means of interior cladding and decoration for Australian homes.
In contrast to the 'lath and plaster' interiors of the 1800s, fibrous plaster sheets and decorative mouldings were produced entirely off-site. Binding plaster of paris with sisal fibre, fibrous plaster made increasingly redundant the skill and labour associated with costly on-site wet plaster techniques.
In numerous small studios and modelling shops, a mix of sisal and plaster would be poured onto a greased table and then smoothed over with trowels. Once set the ceiling and wall sheets were hung up to dry; they could then be taken to the building site for which they were made-to-measure. The sisal was imported from Indonesia, the relative proximity of which may help to explain why Australia and New Zealand were first countries where fibrous plaster was made on a large scale. However this Australian innovation was copied in England and elsewhere from the 1920s.
As well as flat panels, patterns were cast into sheets. More complex elements, such as brackets and capitals, were moulded separately.
By the 1950s the advent of plasterboard (plaster reinforced with paper) and Modernist rejection of applied decoration coincided to reduce the demand for fibrous plaster.