Since the age of 12, Jean-Francois Furieri has worked with plaster, an ancient medium made from blending lime, fine sand and gypsum with water. His father was a master plasterer, and so was his grandfather, and it was in Cannes, that Jean-Francois would acquire first, a solid foundation, and then, over the next four decades, a wealth of knowledge in an ancient craft. It’s a precious heirloom he’s passing on to the fourth generation of Furieri’s.
At 65, nursing a slight limp – an old judo injury – passing the torch to daughter, Magali, is a chance to see where his third act will take him; most likely back to his second love, sculpture. “My first love was judo,” said Jean-Francois. “It was a way for me to escape the plaster shop when I was young, and I really threw myself into it. I was a top competitor, I was on the road to the Olympics. Now, I’m a grandfather and all my old judo injuries have caught up with me, so it’s the perfect time to get back into sculpting.”
His full and impressive title is Architectural Master Craftsman and Heritage Plaster Consultant, and he founded Toronto-based company, Iconoplast, in 1986. Being one of only a small handful of craftsmen with his credentials, his work has taken him to venerable old theatres on Broadway and King Street; to old hospitals and banks, museums, hotels and the Prime Minister’s office; to contemporary projects such as the elaborate ceilings, arches, mouldings and capitals of One King West; all over Europe and across North America.
It’s a legacy Magali, is learning to live up to.
At 29, and the youngest of his four daughters, Magali was always creative. She studied arts, humanities and film at the University of Toronto, but it wasn’t until a short stint at Willowbank, a school of heritage conservation in Niagara, Ontario, that she tried stone carving and then found her calling.
“Willowbank was great,” recalls Magali. “But after being on-site with my dad, getting my hands dirty, learning so much, I couldn’t go back to a desk.”
She knew she wanted to work in a creative field, leaning toward film editing, until her first summer internship with her dad at the Macdonell-Williamson House, circa 1817, in Pointe-Fortune, Ontario. Slated for demolition until it was purchased by Ontario Heritage Foundation, Iconoplast was called in to restore the plaster detailing to its former glory.
“After working on Macdonell House,” recalled Magali. “I was like, ‘This is it!’”
“The house had sat abandoned for so long,” said Magali. “Squatters had been in there, and vandals. The walls were kicked-in in places, pieces had been stolen; we spotted one of the fireplace mantles hanging on someone’s garage door down …….