Blue Walls; Green Living

The News-Dispatch, Michigan City, IN
April 13, 2008
Author: Laurie Wink

Reprinted with permission.

LA PORTE - Homeowners committed to living in environmentally conscious ways are turning to sustainable, so-called green materials.

One new product in that category is American Clay Earth Plaster, made in New Mexico. It's a mix of recycled, post-industrial marble and shell waste that is crushed into sand and mixed with clay and natural pigments.

Earth Plaster is touted as non-toxic, mold-resistant, dander and dust resistant, moisture controlling, nonfading and reusable. Artist Michael Zieve, Rolling Prairie, has been working with the product for about six months. He first encountered it at a Chicago home-products store called Green Makers.

Zieve's clients value American Clay's aesthetic and environmental properties.

"People that are conscious of environmentally friendly products want to make less impact on the environment," he said.

Zieve recently worked on a major renovation and expansion of the Namasté Center for Holistic Education in La Porte. He applied Earth Plaster to walls in three treatment rooms and a restroom. Namasté founder Judian Breitenbach said the material's properties fit well with the center's mission of healing.

"In talking about the environment, we're talking about ourselves, because we're the environment," Breitenbach said. "I like knowing that clients will experience a breathing wall."

Because it's porous, the clay plaster inhales and exhales, Zieve said. It's an ideal product for bathrooms, where it absorbs moisture and reduces condensation.

It also resists fingerprints, as Zieve demonstrated by wetting a finger, pressing it against the wall and leaving an imprint that quickly disappeared. Tiny cracks or nail holes can be repaired at any time by spraying the wall with water and using a trowel to smooth the plaster over fissures.

The clay plaster can be applied in a smooth or more textured finish. Each application will be unique.

"A good part of the beauty of it is, it's going to do what it's going to do," Zieve said. "You can't predict how it's going to go on. The little inconsistencies give it an organic feel."

The plaster's recycled marble content creates sparkly bits that appear when viewed at certain angles, adding to its uniqueness. Zieve said the plaster is highly light sensitive, taking on different color tones throughout the day.

Another property Zieve appreciates is the lack of "off-gassing," referring to the release of chemical pollutants experienced with new carpeting and new car interiors.

"It's got a very soothing, natural feel to it," Zieve said. "It's a visceral quality that your body picks up on."

His enjoyment of working with Earth Clay is obvious.

"It's like playing outside in the mud," Zieve said.

Copyright 2008, The News-Dispatch, All Rights Reserved.

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