Tadelakt Transcendence

A union of friendship, creativity, and distance.
Jeremy Mistretta
April 7, 2022
5 min

The first rule of tadelakt? You don’t talk about tadelakt. The second rule of tadelakt? You DO NOT talk about tadelakt. It’s ironic that this plaster tradition has been shrouded in mystery for years even though its primary origins are verbal. This hydrophobic plaster technique dates back over two thousand years and has become the longest standing tradition in the plaster world. It’s a multistep process that relies on keen awareness of your surroundings, engagement of your senses and carefully selected grades of lime.

Over the past decade, this technique has become en-vogue throughout the world of architecture and design. There is no finer expression of plaster anywhere on earth.

I am fortunate to have learned the coveted technique here in the US and in Morocco from native craftsmen. Since every project is diverse, there is no way to create an automated system for a tadelakt install. The plasterer must adapt to their surroundings along every step of the way. This adaptation makes it virtually impossible for a student to learn without the help of a true master.

While it’s amazing that this tradition is so mysterious, it’s also sad. Several manufacturers have created and promoted fake blends of the material that widely stray from the original hydraulic roots of the process.

True Moroccan tadelakt is a blend of Marrakech lime and minor impurities from the burning lime cycle process. The plaster is applied with a wood float, slicked with a margin trowel, polished with a smooth stone, and integrally sealed with black olive soap. Many companies have jumped on the tadelakt bandwagon marketing imposter acrylic and topically sealed lime plaster as true and authentic.

Tadelakt evolution at New Age Artisans -

Our phone rings constantly with requests from designers, architects, and installers from around the world to teach them our process. We were honored to be called upon to teach the art form however, were forced to respectfully decline due to the time involved walking the student through the journey. That is to say, we DID decline until an old friend from Vermont called and asked for guidance. This old friend, Josiah Jackson and I had originally met in college in 1998. We formed a deep friendship that has lasted more than twenty years. We speak the same coded jargon and are cut from the same raw cloth.

Jeremy and Jo at Phish 2012

Montana to Vermont

Josiah aka “Jo” has timber-framing roots and a very sharp understanding of the construction trade. He was already armed with most of the knowledge needed to plaster, he just needed some guidance assembling the Tadelakt puzzle. I happily obliged to teach him. There is over two thousand miles of distance between Vermont and Montana, so we relied on the internet to aid in our communication.

I carefully walked him through surface prep, and the base coats over a series of four Zoom calls stressing the importance of flat walls and tight inside corners. We then had an in-depth mixing conversation and we Facetimed for the finish coat on his first wall. I carried on with my Montana day sporadically checking on the Vermont drying process. When the plaster “tack” had subsided, I instructed Jo on dilution and application of soap. I watched and listened on my phone as he carefully polished the olive oil into his curing lime wall cautioning him on over-saturating the surface in spots and instructing him to polish harder in others. Having started at 8 a.m. that morning, he was conveniently slicking and soaping just after 5 p.m.

Our finished result was beautiful. We marveled at our cross-country achievement. My knowledge had transcended thousands of miles and had come to fruition through his hands on the walls of his new Tadelakt cave. 

Our NEW offering -

The innovative experience sparked an internal desire to craft more tadelakt creations just like Josiah’s. Our process has now become our product. We are thrilled to offer a 10-step consultation program that walks students through the entire plastering process from framed walls to a finished render. We are grateful for the Moroccan artisans and the value their culture has placed on the technique. Through modern capabilities, we are now able to keep a small part of their tradition alive around the world forever.

We are elated to teach and talk about tadelakt with anyone.

Take a peek at our course to find out more