The Ornamental Plasterer

20 Jan

Ken Barley

Ornamental plasterers working in film production are skilled craftsmen, with traditional solid craft abilities as well as being skilled fibrous plasterers. They are able to make complex moulds and model casts from solid plaster or fibreglass.  The job requires extensive experience, combined with creative skills and the ability to work under pressure and to strict deadlines. Film Ornamental Plasterers have usually progressed to this role after spending some time working as domestic plasterers and most will have accredited qualifications, such as the Intermediate Construction Award, or CITB NVQ in Plastering.

This is from an article written by Ken Barley in Network Nine News. If you want further information contact me through

When people think of plastering they don’t always realise how many different disciplines are involved. To start with, we work with at least 8 or 10 different types of plaster and aggregates plus various vermiculites to get all different textures – this is a hard thing to be able to do.

My supervisor and good friend Michael Gardiner is, without a doubt, the best texturer I have seen. Not everybody can do texturing – it’s an art and you either can do it well or you can’t – and he can! On ‘Sweeney Todd’ he did it on his own just using photographs, every brick and stone finish carved and moulded. He’s never won an Oscar but he sure helped Mr. Dante Ferretti to get one for that film!

We use many types of foam rubber, silicone, fibreglass – all different kinds – mattings, translucent glass for ice etc. In one of the ‘Bond’ films, an ice set was built entirely by plasterers – I know because I cast the bar in the ice hotel!

The first job I did in silicone was on ‘Alien’ in 1978 when I moulded the clay alien sculpture for H R Giger, the ‘alien’ designer. For the first suit mould we used a 7ft man, now of course there is CGI and motion capture. From the mould the first prototype suit was made in a translucent resin, again by the plasterers. 

We use lots of methods for textures and have to turn metal into wood, plastic into concrete etc on a regular basis. On ‘Stardust’ we textured a whole set on smooth ply to make it look really olde-worlde, which saved some of the budget.

I’ve worked on far too many films to remember in this article. Working abroad for me is such a great experience. The films I’ve worked on overseas that I’d like to specially mention for the quality of the architectural work are ‘Michael Collins’, ‘Timeline’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘Mummy III’.

For me the industry has changed over the years, apprentices now do only three years and that’s just not long enough – I’m still learning, so I think that I’ve just finished my 47th year as an apprentice!!  I worry that in ten years time the Heads of Department are going to find it difficult to get craftsmen with enough experience and range of talents to service all the films of the future, unless something positive is done about the situation. Budgets seem to be tighter and tighter with less time to do the job properly without the right training.

Recently I had the pleasure of working on ‘The Prince of Persia’ – what a fantastic job. All the plasterers did fabulous work and the sets were the best, architecturally, I have ever been involved with. Construction Manager Brian Neighbour and the team on that film should be very proud of their achievement. Construction crews don’t get the credit they deserve – all those amazing sets you see on the screen wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the many people working behind the scenes.

Prince of Persia - Sky Chamber

I hope that the next generation enjoy their life in the industry as much as I have. It’s an exciting career with new challenges every day – and you never know where and what your next film will be – but be prepared to have lots of time out without film work, it’s the nature of the beast.

Ken Barley’s credits include: ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, ‘Hugo’, ‘Green Zone’, ‘Prince of Persia’, ‘Mummy III’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Stardust’, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Star Wars I, II & III’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘Michael Collins’, ‘Fifth Element’, ‘The Witches’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’, ‘Star Wars – Return of the Jedi’, ‘Dark Crystal’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, ‘American Werewolf in London’, ‘A Bridge Too Far’, ‘The Man Who Would be King’.


Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Set Construction


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9 responses to “The Ornamental Plasterer

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    May 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content.
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  2. Meath Plasterers

    November 3, 2013 at 11:56 am

  3. David Brouhaud

    February 23, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    I am David, French ornamental plasterer with experience, and holder of 2 good Parisian diplomas. I am able to create any fiber plaster ornament. I lost my job in Geneva last summer. I always dreamed to work in move décor. I am seeking for a job all over the world; just in case I can email my work file (resume, diplomas, pictures etc…)

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    September 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Amazing! Its genuinely awesome article, I have got much clear idea concerning from this piece of writing.

  5. david brouhaud

    October 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    About ornamental plasterers, write on google:

    More easy: flickr galerie_david_brouhaud_107

  6. bob wood

    November 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Wish id got into this. Im city and guilds plasterer. I love ornate work and crafting

  7. g

    June 16, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Howdy! This article couldn’t be written much better! Looking through this
    article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching
    about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him.
    Fairly certain he’s going to have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Brendan

    February 5, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    I am a time served plaster from shop work to laying on. Worked in pinewood studio and
    worked as a studio plaster all what you talk about was part of are day to day job, when pinewood closed and when free lance. No problem getting work as we we’re though to
    Do this work. We’ll I move to Somerset and work on listed building in limes, any way I came
    Back this part of the world and when I looked for work in this job I couldn’t find any.

  9. Lucas Goodchild

    September 25, 2022 at 9:10 am

    Kenny Barley was the first HOD l worked under in the film industry he is a very knowledgeable man.He went out of his way with me and my work and fine tuned me for the industry,even setting up a meeting with my favourite actor,Sir Christopher Lee something l will never forget.On that job l spent a lot of time with Mick Gardiner another artisan and model human being, he showed me the basics of texturing and l have never ever forgotten this. I always think of him when l am at it.Thanks guys a lot of you rubbed off on me that was the best working experience l have ever had.


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