Hessian Scratching Finery
In the Hessian regions of “Schwalm” and “Hessisches Hinterland”, house landscapes are in many places characterized by historical half-timbered houses, which are decorated with complex truss-renderings. “Hessischer Kratzputz” is a colloquial term for a historical rendering-technique typical in rural construction tradition, which dates back to the 17th century. This craftsmanship and design technique describes the decoration of half-timbered house-facades with ornamented renderings, which is actively practiced especially in Hessen to this day. Half-timbered houses decorated with such truss-renderings are also to be found in Lower Franconia, Thuringia, and in the region of Vierlanden near Hamburg.
Truss-renderings carry designs like figures, flowers, symbols and simple graphics. They have a relief-like, flat structure, which give the surface of a house a lively touch. The decorations are either carved, engraved with stamps, nail boards or bundles of branches on a previously smoothed fresh plaster base, or sculptured with smoothing tools made of wood or iron. The base is lime plaster mixed with animal hair or herbal fiber.
Nowadays, only few small businesses are dedicated to the craftsmanship of “Kratzputz”. In addition, various institutions such as e.g. the “Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen”, the “Freilichtmuseum Hessenpark” or an elementary school are dedicated to the preservation of this craftsmanship. In that sense, a 30-minute documentary film called “Kratzputz in Hessen” was produced. Practical seminars are also held with the intention to convey the techniques of “Kratzputz”, as well as the importance and possibilities for the conservation and restoration of endangered historical renderings.