Decorative Stencil Replication: Fairhaven Unitarian

Fairhaven, Massachusetts

The Gothic Revival Unitarian Church, designed by Charles Brigham, contains a series of very sophisticated wall stencils made to imitate silk fabric.  Located in the Lady’s Parlor, now the Church Office, water infiltration had dampened the plaster and caused the decorative paint on the walls to fail.  Due to its complexity, Blackburn was required to experiment to determine exactly how the artist created the design.  We began by mixing a white paint, thickened with plaster to recreate the grained look of the original.  To this we applied a green base coat, which was lightly sanded when dry creating the look of raw silk.  Next we copied and cut the stencil patterns for the panel borders, which were highlighted by free hand brushwork.  The panels had a series of stylized lions, which we also replicated with stencils and brushwork. To complete the panels, we applied a thin glaze to imitate the sheen of the original.