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Simpson Plastering Featured in Birmingham Home & Garden

Inspired Living for Birmingham and Beyond

The Preservationists

Richard Riley- Simpson Plastering

“Our craftsmen are first and foremost artists,” says Simpson Plastering President Richard Riley. “They can take a glob of mud and make it look like anything. Watching them work is like watching a campfire. You just can’t take your eyes off them.

Richard speaks from hands-on experience. With a degree in economics from Auburn, he spent a year in the field learning the art of plastering before buying his father-in-law’s 60 year-old family business in 2008.

As one of the few plastering companies left in the Southeast, Richard works on projects from Oklahoma to Virginia as well as restoring such Alabama landmarks as the State Capitol, Morgan Hall at the University of Alabama, and Independent Presbyterian Church. New construction projects have included Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, for which they cast over two miles of molds, and Beeson Divinity School.

Determined to keep the dying art alive, Richard trains lathers using a 100-year old handwritten manual and describes his plaster artisans as “the best of the best of the best.” More than a dozen of the expert craftsman have been with the company for a quarter century, and two second generation employees are “taking craftsmanship to another level,” he says.“Replacement workers are getting harder and harder to find,” Richard says.

“Plastering is rarely taught anywhere, and many architects aren’t even sure how to draw the sketches for plasterwork.” He has high praise for the plastering skills being taught at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston (page 25) and employing their students and sending his own craftsmen to train. Of restoration work, Richard says, “Specialty skills are often overlooked. People usually don’t know who does this kind of work until they need it. I’m proud to have an elite class of craftsmen here.”

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