Saturday, August 21, 2010

Carving Concrete

A couple of weekends ago, I headed to Seattle to attend a workshop taught by Elder G. Jones , an artist who carves wet concrete into beautiful garden art.  His work is featured throughout my three books on making concrete forms, so it was an exciting opportunity for me.  I have big ideas for making sculpture, incorporating trash, inlaying mosaic, and generally expanding my skills.

The workshop was great, and I was very happy with the pot that I carved.

So, for my first project at home, I decided to go with the most technically challenging possibility.  Mike has been building a wood-fired pizza oven, and the exterior is unfinished.  For my first trick, I wanted to enclose the hideous chimney assembly in carved concrete, which meant building a form around an existing structure on an uneven surface.
Above: the chimney before, and then right after I removed the form, made of aluminum sheeting.  The towel hanging down in front was used to hold the concrete in at the base, but I had to carve it out of the partially cured block.

The form is removed when the concrete is firm enough to hold its shape, but soft enough to carve into.  At this point, it feels like carving into a very stiff sand sculpture.  You have to be very gentle, or it will come away in chunks.  But, it quickly begins to harden, so from here, you just work steadily until it sets up completely, which is about 5-6 hours.  (No breaks!)
I've been enamored by the phoenix image lately, and it seemed like a fitting symbol for the top of a wood-fired oven.  The front is the body and head, and the wings wrap around, meeting in the back.
I know concrete doesn't really fit the "sustainable art" description, but really, on this level, it is pretty harmless compared to entire city blocks, overpasses, and campuses.  My next step is to find local sandblasters who want to unload used sand, which comprises 3/4 of the mix.  And, as I become more skilled, my plan is to create sculptures that have a core of plastic garbage; the bottle caps, adhesive tubes, and random packaging that I can't seem to keep out of my trash.  This way, they will become part of a permanent, solid object that is functional and beautiful, instead of floating around in the ocean, slowly breaking down, being ingested by sea animals over and over and over for all of eternity. 
Yes, I obsess about these things.

1 comment:

  1. Did the concrete blow up do to the heat of the pipe?