Sylvia Thompson-Dias, Master Artisan and Owner of Sylvia T. Designs

Sylvia has been a decorative artist for  25 years. With her wealth of experience, Sylvia has fashioned creative techniques in her finishes producing depth and dimension to the walls, ceilings, and floors on which she and her team of talented artists work. She regularly attends workshops to learn the latest finish techniques and products continuously enhancing what Sylvia T Designs offers to clients.

The breadth of what Sylvia T. Designs offers – plaster restoration, decorative plaster finishes, functional plaster finishes, faux finishes, cabinetry & furniture finishes, murals, custom signage, color consultation, and more – will bring your project to life!

Much of Sylvia T. Designs’ work in the greater New Orleans area has involved projects in historic properties. With care and dedication, we can expertly restore flat wall and ceiling lime plaster, medallions, and crown molding. We area also the region’s experts in restoring and refinishing furniture and cabinetry.

Sylvia T. Designs is committed to working with designers and owners to gain an understanding of their concepts and needs. With that information, we delve into the creative process to produce exciting decorative finishes bringing their vision to fruition. We deliver this top caliber work within budget and on time.

We work both residential and commercial projects, small and large-scale, historic and new construction. With our extensive experience, we’re able to effectively manage projects from the initial planning and design phase through execution and completion.

“I have been drawn to the arts since I was a young child. As a teenager, I began taking classes from a local artist where I learned about color and painting techniques. At Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, I studied design and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. After an internship in the field, I went back to my first love – art. And, with this love of the arts and training, I started my decorative arts business.” ~ Sylvia T.

Sylvia Thompson-Dias was recognized as the 2022 “Design Master” for the decorative arts by New Orleans Homes Magazine.

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”

Jess Pottker, artisan apprentice of Sylvia T. Designs. New Orleans, Louisiana.

Jess Pottker, Lead Artisan

Jess joined the Sylvia T Designs team in October 2019. She started from the beginning and quickly, through dedication and natural talent, worked her way to “artisan apprentice.” She has become a valued and critical part of the Sylvia T Designs family!

Originally, hailing from Oregon, she was raised in Eugene growing up in the same house and attending the same elementary, middle, and high schools that her mother did. After some college and considering a path towards marine biology, Jess moved into a career of baking and dessert decorating. This would greatly inform her move into the decorative arts with us!

She worked at the most awarded Pâtisserie in Eugene for 9 years then moved on to assist a peer open a new shop in the area. This bakery sought to source all their ingredients from within one hundred miles. This taught Jess much about sustainability and supporting local. After a few years, she left the baking world and worked on a friend’s farm. The environment was entrepreneurial and very hands-on with a wide variety of the tasks needed for the farm’s operation. This included building shelters and greenhouses, painting and remodeling, planting and harvesting crops, and even making chocolate!

She then moved to New Orleans and worked for a spell in the city’s famed hospitality industry. Not soon after, she joined Sylvia T Designs. She enjoys the varied project work, the multi-tasking it requires, problem solving, being a part of a community, and doing work with a purpose.

Though she enjoys working with and on all the services we offer, applying plaster finishes is at the top of the list! “It uses many of the same techniques as baking and decorating desserts but with a much more lasting effect!” She said. “The tools to apply frosting to confection were similar, in many ways, to what we use now. Both are about creating something beautiful! But unlike with frosting, I might see the plaster I mixed and troweled 50 years later or even long after I am gone, someone might be enjoying that same artful pattern I helped create.”

“Working and living in a 300-year-old city, I have the privilege to see and respect this sort of thing on a daily basis,” she continued. “I’m grateful to learn from and work alongside Sylvia, giving me a role in the past as well as the future of New Orleans and the wider region.”

Jess was promoted to “Artisan” in 2022. She is now handling a larger management role with company while she continues to be a stellar decorative arts applicator! We’re lucky to have Jess as part of the Sylvia T Designs family! We look forward to her ever-increasing contributions to the company and growth as an Artisan!

PS – If you see her on the job site, ask her why she’s sometimes called “Lima Bean!”

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”

Sylvia T Designs - Tess Riehlmann

Tess Riehlmann, Artisan

Tess joined our all-female decorative arts applicator team in May 2020. She was born and raised in New Orleans and comes from a family that boasts several members who have worked in the construction industry.

She graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in International Relations. She has always had an inclination and interest in the arts. Her education and interests led to her spending a year living in Milan, Italy. While there, she became inspired by the decorative arts that were all around her in the historic city.

“I like to think that experience led me to this career not only because I was in such a creative environment but also being in a foreign country all by myself at a young age forced me out of my comfort zone. It pushed me to apply for a job like this while also making me an adaptable person, which I think is very important in a career like this,” she says.

Tess has always loved painting and exploring working with new mediums. She has experience working in art markets, created original paintings and drawings, and t-shirt design for friends’ business ventures. Since joining Sylvia T Designs, Tess has greatly enjoyed the wide array of decorative arts we offer with faux finishes being her favorite.

“It’s really fun to be handed something and then making it look like something completely different by the end,” she notes. “Like making something look really old even though it’s brand new.”

“Working for Sylvia in this field is important to me. Since growing up in New Orleans, I’ve always been told how special this place is and how lucky I am to live here. So being able to contribute to its beauty in all these tiny ways has made me feel like I’m really a part of it by playing a role in its uniqueness!” She continued.

Tess started as an “Artisan Assistant” when joining our team and was quickly promoted to “Artisan Apprentice” after just 6 months (the minimum we require) on the job. After successfully completing her stint as an “Artisan Apprentice,” She was promoted to full “Artisan” in July 2023. She continues to demonstrate exceptional artistic skill, attention to detail, and a stellar work ethic. Coming from a family steeped in the construction world, she feels like she is following that path but in her own creative way. Indeed!

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”

Anna Putnam - Sylvia T Designs - New Orleans, Louisiana

Anna Putnam, Artisan Apprentice

Anna joined our team in January of 2023 after we met them at an event with our friends at BuildStrong Academy. With a life-long interest in the arts, Anna centered on photography and studied that at Bard College in Upstate New York. Their father encouraged Anna to attend a liberal arts school because, as he said, “all great artists had to think deeply about the work they produced.” Good one, dad!

As part of Anna’s experience at Bard, they participated in a service program called the “Children’s Expressive Art Project” that brought them to New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina. The program offered support and provided deeply needed and under-offered mental health services in the aftermath of the storm. “I quickly fell in love with the essence and chaos and richness of New Orleans and became deeply curious about the quickly changing politics of the New Orleans public school system,” said Anna.

Bard allowed Anna to pursue a degree in Human Rights that focused on the evolving education system in NOLA. This led to repeated trips to the city and deepened their connection to it. During one foray down here, Anna even had the opportunity to participate in the rebuild of the iconic “Mother-in-Law Lounge” working alongside the widow of Ernie K-Doe (the lounge’s founder and legendary musician), Antoinette K-Doe. This experience stirred something up in Anna. “I didn’t know that learning to put up sheetrock, tiling floors, and building a stage would be something that I would return to later in life.”

After graduation, Anna moved to the city they loved and continued their path in education, working in Special Education with high need students. Their work also emphasized arts therapy and encouraging the ongoing integration of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into the school’s policies. As with many people, the pandemic had a profound effect on Anna and teaching through it, even more so. After spending a lot of time working on their newly purchased house, Anna firmly decided to change career paths and attend the BuildStrong Academy in the fall of 2022. In short, this terrific 12-week program teaches students from all walks of life the skills needed to work successfully in the construction industry.

We, here at Sylvia T Designs, were fortunate to meet Anna when we gave a talk to the Academy on our work. Anna was inspired to see what the decorative arts could mean for a career connecting their various skills, talents, and interests. They are particularly drawn to decorative plaster (including tadelakt), mural work, and much more. “I feel incredibly honored to have been chosen to work with Sylvia and this team of amazing people! I immediately felt like I was part of the family,” said Anna.

We’re honored to have Anna as part of our team/family, too! Anna was promoted to Artisan Apprentice in August of 2023 and continues to shine in everything they do for us!

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”

Eilise Gancarz-Davies - Sylvia T Designs - New Orleans, Louisiana

Eilise Gancarz-Davies, Artisan Apprentice

Eilise came on-board Sylvia T Designs in February of 2023. Originally hailing from New Orleans, they grew up here and developed an active interest in organic farms and gardens. Eilise worked in this realm in numerous capacities for 10 years. As agriculture can be unpredictable, this experience taught them the ability to adaptability and comfort with change – both of which are useful and needed in the decorative arts and on project sites!

Moving on with their education, Eilise went to Goucher College in Baltimore and completed a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies along with minors in Psychology and Spanish. Their degree strengthened their listening abilities and increased their reflection and critical thinking skills. All of this is also very valuable working in the decorative arts as part of a team and in a dynamic, changing landscape. Spanish skills certainly don’t hurt on the jobsite, as well!

Eilise then moved into education teaching fourth graders Earth Science with “T.R.E.E.” in Jean Lafitte National Park. They also worked in a bakery making and decorating pastries. Anyone who has baked as well as worked with plaster realizes the necessary connection between the precision of measurements and timing that lead to the desired result! “Working in education taught me invaluable lessons in organizing tasks for everyone’s success, having realistic goals and expectations, and how to think quickly under pressure, as well as lots of practice with communication,” they said.

With schools shutting down during the pandemic, Eilise investigated a new career path – construction and natural building. They took an internship in Moab, Utah with Community Rebuilds working on new homes and developing skills in straw bale construction, plastering, framing, drywall, and more. They were particularly inspired by earthen and lime plasters and utilizing local materials to construct home environments. “The sculptural and storytelling aspects of plaster captivated my imagination and allowed me to explore the artistic side of building more deeply,” said Eilise.

Eilise also gained experience in roofing, carpentry, repair work, and stormwater management. As you can tell, Eilise brings some terrific broad-based and specific experiences to the table here at Sylvia T Designs. These experiences and joining our team/family has opened their eyes how important plaster and the decorative arts are to New Orleans and the regions where we work. Eilise was promoted to Artisan Apprentice in October 2023 and continues to shine with us!

“I gravitate towards planet and people-loving work and work cultures,” said Eilise. “I am very excited to be a part of Sylvia T Designs and to continue to explore plaster and the decorative arts back here in Louisiana with an incredible team of talented artists!”

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”


Sylvia T Designs is proud to be a firm dedicated to building careers for females in the decorative arts! New team members start as an “Artisan Assistant.” Then, after demonstrating certain skills, knowledge, and consistent quality of work, they are eligible for promotion to “Artisan Apprentice.” From there, after continued success, increased product knowledge, expanded technique, and jobsite management ability, team members can achieve the title of full “Artisan.” This process is important in building confidence and competent, talented artisans. It is also a firm nod to the time-honored trades that built New Orleans and so many other areas around our region. Sylvia T Designs is always “Honoring Tradition and Progress” on every project, every day!

Contact Sylvia T. Designs for your next project and “make your space a work of art!”

Our all-female artisan applicator team at Sylvia T Designs (from left) – Sylvia Thompson-Dias, Master Artisan and Owner, Tess Riehlmann, Artisan Apprentice, and Jess Pottker, Artisan.

Our all-female artisan applicator team at Sylvia T Designs (from left) – Sylvia Thompson-Dias, Master Artisan and Owner, Tess Riehlmann, Artisan, and Jess Pottker, Lead Artisan.

Our all-female artisan team at Sylvia T Designs and Gulf Coast Plaster Artisans - Sylvia Thompson-Dias, Owner and Master Artisan, Jess Pottker, Lead Artisan, Eilise Gancarz-Davies, Artisan Assistant, Tess Riehlmann, Artisan, and Anna Putnam, Artisan Apprentice.

Pictured above from left – our amazing artisan team at Sylvia T Designs and Gulf Coast Plaster Artisans – Sylvia Thompson-Dias, Owner and Master Artisan, Jess Pottker, Lead Artisan, Eilise Gancarz-Davies, Artisan Assistant, Tess Riehlmann, Artisan, and Anna Putnam, Artisan Apprentice.

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