Canning Studios at Traditional Building Conference

Traditional Building and Restore Media recently held a two-day symposium in Boston entitled "Building Well: Traditional Design, Materials and Methods". Canning Studios was pleased to be on the docket, presenting a session entitled “Complexity & Collaboration

Online PR News – 03-October-2012 – Cheshire, CT – It was great to see those of you who attended. If you couldn’t make it, give one of us a call and we’ll tell you about it, or even find a way to give you the short version. There were three of us in tag team format, John Canning and David Riccio joined by Bill Barry, the newest member of Canning Studios.
Let’s take a minute to introduce Bill to those who don’t know him yet. We’ve known him for many years. John and Bill first met when Bill was project architect for the restoration of Charles McKim’s Boston Public Library. As our Director of Preservation, Bill is bringing over thirty years of experience and a unique perspective. For over twenty years his architectural practice at Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott focused on the heritage structures and collections of institutional clients. He then provided independent consulting to a variety of institutions such as the Mount Auburn Cemetery, where he wound up joining the administration and becoming an institutional building owner spending four years as Vice President of Preservation & Facilities.
Having gained the perspective of both architect and owner, we now welcome Bill to the builder’s side of things, where he is enhancing our ability to serve general contractors, architects and owners alike – whether executing the work of our specialty trades, or providing valuable early advice as consultants. We’re pleased to have Bill with us. Give him a call at 617-543-8530, or drop him a line at, or find him on LinkedIn at
Now back to our presentation at Traditional Building. We packed a lot into ninety minutes, each of us touching on several different themes:
- Bill set the stage by citing examples of valuable collaborations past and present, and the importance of strategic team building, early consulting and documents preparation.
- John picked up on the value of early consultation and discussed the importance of the practical knowledge of the artisan in interpretation of historic interiors, and used several case studies to illustrate the four essential aspects of a proper decorative paint study:
o Archival Research
o Scientific Analysis
o Site Investigation
o Interpretation.

- David focused on how some traditional time-tested materials and techniques are still applicable today, telling the story of our work on Garrett Hall at the University of Virginia with Christman Construction where the historic decorative plaster ceiling was reattached and secured using traditional plaster wad technology.

- John then concluded our presentation showing some of Canning Studios’ current and recent ecclesiastic decoration and art in both existing historic churches as well as the all new Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI, by architect Duncan Stroik.

The program was full of interesting sessions. Among them we particularly enjopyed, as you can imagine, a session entitled “Why Paints Fail: Identifying Common Paint Problems”. This informative and well-presented session on paint technology was given by Raymond Tschoepe, director of conservation at Fairmont Park Historic Preservation Trust in Philadelphia, PA.

Among a number of awards presented as part of the conference, we were pleased to see Jean Carroon, principal at Goody Clancy Associates in Boston, MA honored with the 2012 Clem Lebine Award for her long-standing and ongoing commitment to finding the synergies between sustainability and preservation.

Traditional Building and Restore Media continue to provide quality publications, and valuable conferences, and this year, the John Canning Studios is happy to be a sponsor. Good work needs to be supported, so we encourage you to attend, and if you can, sponsor their work. You know where they are: or


1-The Boston Public Library - Collaboration Then and Now
2-The Boston Public Library - Collaboration Then and Now
This historic example of artistic collaboration between Charles McKim and the artists like John Singer Sargent whose works were integrated into the very fabric of the building required a hundred years later a complex collaboration of architects, artisans and conservators in its restoration.

3-Site Investigations Uncovering Hidden Evidence
4-Site Investigations Chemical-Mechanical Exposures
As one of the most important steps in an historic paint study, site investigations reveal important archaeological evidence – whether by simply uncovering long protected examples of earlier decoration, or by more complex techniques of making chemical or mechanical exposures. This aspect of a study as well as the final step of interpreting all of the findings, warrants the involvement of an experienced artisan/conservator.

5-Hemp Reinforced Plaster the Key to Plaster Wad Technology
6-Installing New Plaster Wad Hangers
7-Existing Ceiling Joist Missing Most of Its Plaster Wad Hangers
8-New Ceiling Support by Restored Plaster Wad Hangers
Traditional technologies are sometimes still considered the best application today, like the use of plaster wads to tie historic ceiling elements together and support them from the structure. The use of hemp reinforced plaster introduces a like material that can readily spread the loads involved rather than fasteners that often create problematic stresses through dissimilar movement and introduce concentrated point loads that fracture the plaster.

9-Existing Church Transformation Before
10-Existing Church Transformation After
11-New Church Interiors Faux Marble
12-New Church Interiors Metal Leaf
Our ecclesiastic work at Canning Studios includes architectural decoration and fine art murals being designed and installed in existing historic churches as well as new interiors designed and installed in the building of a new church. We often work in partnership with architects and we always find that our work involves a process of discovery that the building and client are best served by a collaborative effort.