At 19, Ryan Chivers began working in a relative’s drywall finishing company in his hometown of Salt Lake City until he moved to Colorado in search of more eco-friendly building methods.
Frustrated by the standard practice of finishing straw-bale homes with spray-on cement stucco and latex-painted drywall, he became obsessed with the potential of earth and lime-based plasters. Through trial and error and with intrepid, faithful clients, he researched, tested, and revived this ancient technology, which is now in common practice for straw-bale structures in the western United States.
Ryan’s focus sharpened to development of lime as a high-end decorative finish. He observed that importation of European lime-based plasters at high cost was the norm, and he endeavored to source local materials that could also be applied over drywall.
The early days of the internet allowed Ryan to discover the polished, waterproof, and ancient Moroccan Tadelakt, the ultimate in lime plasters. He scoured the resources available, which were mostly in French and German, and eventually journeyed to Marrakech for training in their traditional techniques.
Ryan was determined to achieve a similar finish with North American materials, experimenting with hydrated lime and limestone/marble mixtures. The correct ratios resulted in chemistry closely related to the Moroccan lime, and he became a busy craftsman and employer adept in the technique.
Ryan’s sought-after skillset led him to Mexico, where he taught a group of local artisans the Tadelakt technique and learned that lime-based materials could be found in the area; in fact, this elemental material could be found almost anywhere. Using locally sourced lime at every location, he has since shared this knowledge across the U.S. and Canada, and as far afield as Colombia, Costa Rica, and New Zealand.
Making plasters from scratch isn’t for everyone, and Ryan’s dream to make available a line of high-quality lime products that were affordable and local came to fruition when he returned to Utah. Colleague Stan Petersen had collaborated with Hess Pumice to create a lime-pumice plaster, LimeStrong. Ryan utilized the locally sourced pumice to formulate and add interior products to create the LimeStrong Artisan line, playing a key role in the product’s development, promotion, and technical support. Ryan also manages a thriving plaster-application business in Salt Lake City and continues to train plaster artisans across the world.