Materials to design a more sustainable future | Clayworks

When it comes to curating sustainable homes and interiors, material matters. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that a healthy material palette is, in fact, what lays strong foundations for a non-toxic home. In most residential cases, gypsum and cement tends to be the go-to for plaster applications, but if you’re after something that breathes, something that absorbs toxins and something that is 100% natural – well turn your gaze to clay.

Clayworks, the pioneering plaster studio set up by Adam Weismann and his wife Katy Bryce, offer a ready-mix blend of unfired clays, minerals and pigments that tick all the boxes when it comes to a low carbon finish for your walls or ceilings. “They are recyclable, compostable, reusable, and contain no toxic ingredients, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or synthetics.” Tick, tick, tick.

Beyond its natural roots, Clayworks’ clay plaster also rises to the top when it comes to performance; regulating humidity and temperature, absorbing toxins, odours and sounds, and despite being highly durable, is also easily repairable.

Though clay finishes are having a real aesthetic moment (and one we love!), we caught up with Clayworks’ founder Adam to delve beyond the trend and into why clay plaster is the alternative that architects, designers and home builders alike have been craving.

Photo by Edmund Sumner

Start from the beginning, what’s the story behind Clayworks?

“My wife Katy and I fell in love with building with clay back in 2001 after doing an apprenticeship in natural building in Oregon with the Cob Cottage Company. We then moved to Cornwall and ran a natural building and sensitive restoration company from 2001 to 2010. During this time we wrote two books, ‘Building with Cob‘ and ‘Clay and lime based plasters, renders and paints‘, and really got involved with on-site clay plastering for our clients.”

“We would dig the clay on site – process and mix – and then apply. We became more and more passionate about clay plasters and started experimenting with creating a bagged product for over four years. In 2010 we launched our product and have released various new products every year since. Sustainability is at the heart of our business and why we have dedicated our lives to using non toxic and low carbon building materials.”

What are your clay plasters made from? How are these produced?

“They are a mix of clays and minerals. We manufacture at our factory and HQ in Cornwall.”

Can you use these both internally and externally?

“We have both internal and external finishes available. They’re both very durable. Impact resistance is the same as gypsum plaster.”

Design by HUTCH Architects | Photos by Helen Cathcart

Tell us more about your bespoke sampling. What’s the difference between your classic and custom finishes?

“We create new finishes for our clients on a weekly basis. If a client comes to us with an image or idea of a certain texture and colour we will dedicate a few days to translating this into a sample. We have our classic finish samples in stock and can be sent out on the days, and our custom samples take around a week to create.”

How do you change the colour tone of the clay?

“This is through the different minerals we use, as well as application techniques.”

Looking beyond the aesthetic, what are the functional benefits to using clay plaster in design work?

“It’s non-toxic, an internal humidity regulator, has a low carbon footprint, no off gassing, etc.”

Is this a sustainable treatment then?

“We have carried out LCA ( life cycle analysis) tests and EPD ( environmental product declaration) on our products and yes, this is a very sustainable wall finish compared to what is on the market. It’s a very simple material.”

Design by HUTCH Architects | Photos by Helen Cathcart

Can you tell us more about your rammed earth finishes?

“Our rammed earth finish was developed as an alternative to building monolithic rammed earth walls (which are very expensive, very heavy (and hence need a very good foundation) and labour intensive). Our rammed earth is less than one tenth of the price. It is also more lightweight and uses the exact same materials as a rammed earth wall.”

What type of project do you feel a Clayworks finish best suits?

“I really like the work of Riccardo Boffil, Simon Astridge, Michaelis Boyd and Axel Vervooordt to name a few, and feel that our finishes work well in this type of design environment.”

Design by Studio McW | Photos by Lorenzo Zandri

What does your client base look like?

“We work with private home owners often to create finishes specific to their house. Often, we do the walls and ceilings of whole houses to give a ‘cocooning’ feel when you are surrounded by the clay. We also work with architects and designers of hotels, restaurants and retail stores to develop unique aesthetic solutions. We enjoy working the A and D community as well as private home owners.”

Photo by Edmund Sumner

Why do you think the clay look is having a moment?

“I think designers are now educated about alternatives to gypsum, lime and microcement. Clay has the ability to change the ‘feel’ of a space. Light hits clay in a different way compared to harsher materials. I think designers are now seeing how this can inform their design and overall aesthetic of a space.”

“Within the residential/domestic sector, people are unconsciously and emotionally more attracted to natural materials that maybe they have not seen on offer before. As designers are developing more affordable products, we are turning to real stone, real wood, real hand painted tiles, real and raw materials because I believe that is in our human nature.”

Design by Studio McW | Photos by Lorenzo Zandri

“I can’t speak for everyone but the people we work with love to see the depth, and the honesty in the surface and tones. With clay for example, we see warmth when we look at it. And there is also a tonal shift across the surface that is reminiscent of the natural world. Even the way light interacts with its surface is special. It is also impactful enough that you do not need to over decorate elsewhere.”

“Within the commercial and hospitality sectors, designers are choosing clay for all reasons previously mentioned. Practically, it is a very simple and effective way to fully transform a space, it gives a richness and unique quality you cannot find elsewhere and it lends itself to scale really well. It is also very versatile for each client, the colours are endless. Clay has been used for centuries globally, we are just carrying on the journey.”

Photo by Anton Rodriguez

Keen to see more from Clayworks? Click here to head straight to its website.

Fancy dipping into more interviews? Head to our Meet the Maker page.

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