It’s abrasive, dense and very, very heavy. So why, exactly, would anyone want to work with concrete? Perhaps it’s because nothing says forever like a hunk of concrete, right? I love it. I mean, it is one of the most ancient and most versatile materials out there, which is pretty much the reason that I like it so much. With that said, I thought I’d share a little bit of how I get from a pile of powder, rock and sand to a solid, finessed shape. So here goes.
First of all, in order to get a good-looking result, I found that you need to start with some good materials. That basically meant coming up with my own mixes and recipes for the concrete I used. Since concrete is made up of two basic materials (Portland cement and an aggregate), it wasn’t too hard to get going. So, I experimented with different aggregates. Really, anything with sand works: fine sand, crushed glass, fertilizers, metal…you name it!
Okay, so now I had something to pour into the mold…mold? Yep, a mold (preferably reusable) is what came next. Molds are tricky too because planter molds aren’t like stepping stone molds, where you can just pour and extract. Instead, they have a hollow center that has to be extracted. So I had to keep all of that in mind. In fact, most of my molds start as sketches or diagrams because eventually I have to be able to build it.
Alright, now it’s time for the fun—pouring the concrete! I just mixed up all those dry ingredients with water, poured them into my mold (upside down), gave it a few good shakes to settle things in and waited. Okay, that’s not everything, but it’s close enough.
After I checked the clock a few hundred times—I am not that patient—it was time to remove the piece from its shell. Depending on how well I made that mold, it should come right out. Oh, and don’t think this is the last step, because there is one more, very important thing you have to do before it’s all done. Once the concrete piece is out of the mold, you have to wet it down and keep it moist for a few days. This helps the concrete set up. I mean, the planters I make aren’t in need of a great amount of structural support. I’ve put wire meshes and re-bar in them, but I think that’s a bit over kill for the size and end use. So, once it’s all cured, just clean everything up and repeat.
This may be a little too much “how to” for everyone, but there really isn’t any secret to using a bit of concrete and a mold. It really comes down to perfecting the making process and your own ideas. Personally I really like the idea of creating something that is simple, elegant and timeless. In fact, I don’t even like to use existing objects for mold creation. I really like the idea that every piece I make is unique to me. You can’t just go find a Styrofoam container and repeat the process. Along those lines, I also like the idea of making the molds upside down to get a more square, more perfect end result. Everything you see in the final product was molded on each side as opposed to troweled or smoothed by hand. As I keep developing new molds and new combinations, I keep the idea of simple and elegant in mind. I mean, who said something elegant can’t be elegant and very, very heavy!
And here’s what happens when everything doesn’t go as planned: