When it came to restoring the gloriously Baroque moldings in the chapel of the Château de Plessis-Blutière in Anjou, the experts turned to plâtrier, staffeur and stucateur Eric Leblanc. As a young Compagnon du Devoir, Leblanc spent ten years crisscrossing France in his quest for knowledge and mastery of his métier. He also studied with master craftsmen in Venice before finally setting up his own atelier Les Métiers du Plâtre in Brain-sur-l’Authion, in the Loire region, in 1997.

Specializing in the restoration of 18th- and 19th-century plaster and stucco using traditional techniques, Leblanc is the 21st-century magic behind the interiors of many a château and hôtel particulier. Working with replicas of antique tools, he recreates the gestures of the past to exquisite effect. He has breathed new life into forgotten techniques such as carton pierre, a variation of papier mâché that imitates stone, which fell from favor in the late 19th century. Determined not to let his art die out, Leblanc works energetically to pass his skills on to the next generation.

Qui peut le plus, peut le moins, recounts an old saying—he who can do the difficult can easily do the simple. No real surprise, then, to learn that this master of plaster is as comfortable striking out into contemporary avant garde territory as he is with renovations and replicas of the past—one of his own ceiling designs was inspired by folded paper. Designated as a member of France’s Patrimoine Vivant, Leblanc won the 2007 Prix SEMA Pro, and this year scooped up the coveted Liliane Bettencourt prize.

Les Métiers du Plâtre, 10 route de Narcé, Brain-sur-L’Authion,

Originally published in the December 2009 issue of France Today