Sunday, December 13, 2009

Suitcases of Concrete

A Case History, Concrete, Liverpool. Credit: That James on Flickr (cc)

What appears at first glance to be a pile of old suitcases on a street in Liverpool turns out to be a concrete sculpture installed by artist John King in 1997. The Hope Street sculpture is labelled with the names of famous Liverpool residents from the past. Titled "A Case History", the piece is a great example of public art, almost indestructible, which adds to the culture of an interesting area of Liverpool.

Other images:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Underwater Concrete Sculptures

What a wonderful idea this is: to combine art with environmental conservation, to combine beauty with science. More than 400 concrete sculptures are to be installed underwater off the shores of Cancun, Mexico. The project's idea is to divert underwater tourists away from the more sensitive reef areas in the Marine National Park.

The sculptures are being created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor on four-metre square bases which will be lifted into the ocean. They feature life-size human figures based on real people. By April, 2010, about 250 of the sculptures should be installed.

Facebook page:

de Caires Taylor's own web site:
Check out the the two videos of previous installations linked from this page.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Katherine Stanek, Sculptor

Katherine Stanek is a New Jersey sculptor working in concrete and bronze. This is a video showing work from a recent exhibition in Philadelphia:

Guardian, 2008, concrete with marble aggregate

Her own web site has more images:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Concrete Lace Tiles

Jethro Macey is a UK-based designer who works in a range of media and function, from wood stools to steel to tiles. His concrete tiles are inspired by traditional lace patterns.

Digital processes (e.g. CNC milling) were used to make the original tile, then silicone molds were made from that master to cast the tiles.
Macey's web site is here:
You can also see more of his tiles at:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Concrete Dome, Nuclear Waste

This may not be art, but it's an interesting use of concrete. Or perhaps the art is unintentional?

The Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific contains one small island called Runit. Between 1977 and 1980 the U.S. government buried almost 85,000 cubic meters of radioactive debri from earlier nuclear tests. The debri was dumped into a crater on Runit left over from a 1958 blast—mixed with Portland cement—then covered with the concrete dome shown in the photograph. The dome is about 18" thick and 350 feet wide.
Credit: Defense Special Weapons Agency

Yes, those are people walking on the dome. More information here:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Soweto Concrete Sculpture

A young Soweto artist has been awarded an honour by having a concrete sculptor piece chosen for his President's residence. Lwandiso Njara, a third year student at Tshwane University of Technology, had just been named a runner-up in the Young Concrete Sculptor Awards. The sculptor portrays nine Metro bus drivers on a journey in aid of a wage increase.

The PPC Young Concrete Sculptor Awards has been running for 18 years and is one of South Africa's most prestigious art competitions. Young artists submit sculptures using concrete. It is open to anyone with or without formal training.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lavassa Furniture: Peter Harrison

One of my favourite magazines is Dwell, a contemporary architecture magazine with an interesting bias towards both modernist and green design. At the back of the magazine I discovered an ad for a furniture designer who works near Saratoga Springs, NY. Peter Harrison uses combinations of concrete, wood and stainless steel.

I like that way that he uses concrete as simply another material in a vocabulary of materials. It seems entirely appropriate where it is used in each individual piece. Often designers seem to do one of two things with concrete: either disguise it—making it look like stone for example—or brag about its rough, urban appearance. Here it's just another material for constructing functional, simple but beautiful objects. It's made into shelves, columns and even corner connectors.

Harrison's work is at

Dwell magazine also has an extensive web site at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Garden Sculptures: Pieter Doef

As a visitor on a recent studio tour around Merrickville, Ontario, I discovered the work of Pieter Doef. His human figures are about half life size, modelled in clay, then cast in concrete from a plaster mould of the form. Most of the sculptures in the gardens of his rural property are of people, but there are also some abstracts forms.

Pieter explained that he uses a simple mix: one half builder's sand and one half cement. He's also a prolific painter.

There are more images on a Facebook group started for him:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More on Green

Portland cement production is said to account for about 5% of greenhouse gas (CO2) production in the world. One company is working on a cement that actually absorbs greenhouse gases and emits less in its production.

Novacem (U.K.) won an award in January of this year, the Rushlight Award, for innovation and environmental benefits in the development of this new type of cement. Quoting from Novacem's press release:

"In contrast to Portland cement, the Novacem process causes minimal CO2 emissions. It then hardens by absorbing CO2 and so locks atmospheric CO2 into construction materials. This means that for every tonne of Portland cement replaced by Novacem cement, ~1 tonne of CO2 is captured and stored indefinitely. This will transform the cement industry from a significant emitter to a significant absorber of CO2."

The recyclable cement system is based on magnesium oxide and special mineral additives.

The sooner this product is in production, the sooner we can feel better about using cement, both in the construction industry and our own artwork.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fame in Turkey

A magazine published in Istanbul, Turkey, called BetonArt, has published several articles about contemporary concrete design. Unfortunately I don't speak Turkish, but the pictures are worth looking at. I've uploaded a PDF file (1 MB) to the GoogleGroups ArtConcrete web site if anyone wants to take a look. (You have to join the group before you can look, but maybe it's a group you'd be interested in joining?)

They used some of my concrete jewellery in one article: page 57 images 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7. The magazine's mandate is about promoting concrete to the architecture community. The articles cover such topics as furniture, Litracon, bowls, jewellery.

Here's a quick link: then click on Betanart23.pdf. If you're not a member of ArtConcrete you'll have to subscribe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Veijo Rönkkönen Concrete Figures

Photo: Veli Granö, from the book Self-Made Man, by Veli Granö

Veijo Rönkkönen is a Finnish artist who lives near the Russian border. On his small farm near Parikkala he has created almost 500 life-sized human figures in concrete, many of them exercising and stretching. His sculpture park is apparently open to the public.

There are two good sets of images to look through on Flickr:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mountainous Molding Project

MuseumRock Products from Louisville KY have made what may very well be the largest molded concrete object ever made. They made the mold in California, shipped it to Hawaii, and poured in hundreds of thousands of pounds of colored grout over a matrix of steel rebar. The finished "rock" measures 136 feet long and 22 feet high. It is part of an educational and interpretive Navajo Indian Memorial located in Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden and Sculpture Park which is slated to be open to the public in 2010.

The mold was made of rubber coated EPS styrofoam. 17,000 pounds of pigment was used to colour the concrete.

Forest Boone of MuseumRock says: "My mix was just a standard grout mix 4,500 psi... one part course manufactured sand and two parts dune sand from Asia mixing in an auger mixer. I poured it in about 20 different lifts, changing colors each lift."

Photo credits: MuseumRock

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Concrete Camera Parts...

Lens pins. 2009. 3.5 cm (1.5"). Concrete, pigment, gold leaf.

This is an extension of the ideas I was writing about in my previous blog about the concrete cameras. I used the same silicone mold, but only cast small parts of it in the medium of concrete. As I mentioned before, the process of seeing is what interests me, so I have gold-leafed what would be the glass lens in these pieces. I'm still exploring the contrast between precious and non-precious in the jewelry world, so concrete and gold leaf are perfect to express that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Concrete Cameras

Concrete Camera 1

This is a concept I have been thinking about for some time and am now beginning to resolve, having cast and finished the first two in the series. The concept is that "seeing" is the important part of the creative process; it's perception, not the objects or the media that we use to express our ideas. The central truths of the creative process are in the seeing, or to put it another way, in our points of view.

A concrete camera somehow gets closer to this truth. It has weight and presence. We want to pick it up to see if it works, if we can see through it to capture an image – but we can't. In the first camera (cast from a mold I made of a 1949 Leica, an archetype camera if there ever was one) even the lens is concrete. Nothing is functional, but it reminds us of the process of taking pictures, of seeing, of choosing a subject. My initial idea was to make a lot of these and leave them as artifacts at scenic locations in the countryside, like fossilized records of what we used to record things.

In the second camera I cast a lens in place. (I had earlier applied gold leaf to the back of the lens.) I like the fact that the clarity of the lens connects with the purity of the idea of seeing – and contrasts with the crudeness of the concrete – even though the light goes nowhere, never exposes film, never records anything.

Concrete Camera 2

I'm not sure where the series is going now. A local camera store was able to give me some old lenses that they didn't want, so I have been taking them apart for parts, so I have no shortage of those. I have also been making small concrete pins by casting into parts and corners of the mold.

The concrete mix in these pieces is half sand, half grey Portland cement with the usual additives like stone dust and fibres. The mold is a two-part silicone material that I have written about in other blog postings. The finish is an acrylic colour rubbed into the surface, then a flat clear acrylic spray as a sealer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Concrete Arches from 1910

Former water filtration plant in Owen Sound, Ontario

Last weekend in an Open Doors tour in my local town of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, I discovered what few people even know exists: the abandoned water filtration plant. It was built in 1910 of poured concrete and you can still see the wood grain on the boards that were used to form the graceful arch structure which makes up two 'rooms' each 160' X 80'. Water from the Sydenham River was let into the chambers where it was filtered through a two-foot depth of sand, then through a 12" pipe six miles to the small town. A crew of 400 took two years to build the filter system.

Every couple of months the sand had to be removed and washed, then put back in the rooms through round holes in the roof. The entire structure was buried in earth and grass grown on the top. Over 2,000,000 gallons of water a day was treated by the system.

The filtration system has been closed since the 1960's and due to vandalism is only open to the public on special occasions. You can still walk over the grass on top of the structure and peek in one locked gate by following a trail in the Inglis Falls Conservation area. Owen Sound and Shallow Lake were early centres for Portland cement production from the 1880's.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Timelessness and Concrete

Thinking about concrete and timelessness, I came across a reference from The Long Now about a web site that archives "the most fascinating abandoned man-made creations." The site is called Artificial Owl and is a wonderful collection of photographs of abandoned man-made creations from around the world. Here I stumbled on this image of a large concrete face sculpture of Ferdinand Marcos; the photograph was taken following an explosion in 2002 that defaced it. There are more images here, with some "before" photographs.

Two comments:
First, it makes one think about how long most concrete art will be around, unless it is willfully destroyed, and even then the rubble will be around for a long time. One of the appeals of concrete for artists is this timelessness.
Second, this makes a great example of how to build a large-scale ferrocement sculpture... Notice the strong armature made from reinforced concrete pillars. The armature has been wrapped and overlaid with steel rebar, and a concrete mix applied to that. The concrete has been applied in sections, whether that is to imitate stone blocks or to control cracking I'm not sure. It looks like the interior space is large enough to be a room - shades of the movie Being Jon Malkovich.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Girli Concrete

Concrete and linen from Tactility Factory

Girli Concrete has just announced their new web site, called Tactility Factory:

The company's aim is to make more "tactile" concrete, which means adding fabric to the surface of concrete, usually through casting it in place. The web site explains that Tactility Factory both works on specific commissions/installations and also partners with the concrete industry to produce larger quantities of precast objects such as tiles.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

'Green' Fibres for Concrete

Here's another way to make concrete a 'greener' material. Instead of using newly manufactured polypropylene or nylon fibres in the mix, you can now get nylon fibers made entirely from recycled used carpeting.

Chopped plastic strands added to concrete prevent or reduce the amount of shrinkage cracking in the initial set. This leads to greater overall strength in the final concrete. In small-scale concrete artwork, fibres make a more workable mix with less separation, easier to apply to vertical surfaces–more clay-like. The fibres improve tensile strength and in some cases can be used to replace or reduce steel reinforcing.

Nycon in Westerly, RI, has developed the technology of harvesting old carpets. This not only saves carpets from going into landfill, but also means fewer petrochemicals are used. Their brand of recycled nylon fibre is called NyconG. One variety called "ConTrol-G-CounterTop" is recommended for applications including castings such as statuary and countertops.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Concrete Art Conflict

An interesting conflict is developing in a community near Liverpool, UK, where a huge concrete sculpture in the shape of a head will be built on a former slag heap. Read an article online here for a description of this all-too-familiar discussion.

Local residents say the project is "bonkers" and that the 2 million pounds could have been better spent helping the 5000 people in the region who are unemployed, or helping local industries through difficult times.

In contrast, this culture website praises the project as "a gateway feature between Liverpool and Manchester." The sculpture "Dream" will stand 66 feet high and is to be constructed of blocks of white concrete. Spanish sculptor Jaume Plesna was commissioned to do the work after a panel of ex-miners chose the design. "We wanted something that was more than just another mining monument. Thanks to this fantastic artist I believe we have a piece of artwork that not only reflects the past heritage of the site but also projects it into the future."

It's interesting to compare the articles in these two web sites: one slams public art as being imposed on the community from outside, the other argues that members of the public have chosen and commissioned the work and were involved at all stages. It's hard to believe they're talking about the same project. Construction is already under way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Girli Concrete

Two women from Northern Ireland have partnered to experiment with combining concrete and softness, two seemingly opposed concepts.
New link (April 16, 2009)

"Girli Concrete is an R&D project (for Tactility Factory) that aims to create innovative ‘soft’ building surfaces. It challenges the perception of textiles as the ‘dressing’ to structure and instead integrates textile technologies into the production of building products. Tactility Factory is a collaboration between Belford (textiles) and Morrow (architecture). Its conceptual challenge is MAINSTREAMING TACTILITY in the Built Environment. "

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dragonfly Wings

This is a reduced image of the dragonfly wings I used in the obelisk sculpture shown in the last blog entry. You may have noticed that I've been using images of flight, wings and bird bones, in some of these recent pieces. I like the contrast between the weight of the concrete and the idea of flight. The brass wings were made by photo-transferring this image onto the brass and acid etching the image right through to the other side.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2nd in the Series

In my last post I showed an image of an obleisk-shaped sculpture. Here's the second in that series. The concrete is made with white Portland cement. The dragonfly wings that hang in the open spaces are photo-etched brass, but left in the acid long enough that the etch goes right through. The image of the wings came from a macro photo of a blue darner's dragonfly wings (road-killed) that I manipulated so that they are about 7" long. The brass is patinated black. Again, I appplied gold leaf to all the interior spaces to reflect light.

Wing Obelisk. Concrete, brass, gold leaf. 22" tall. 2009. Copyright Andrew Goss.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New sculptures

In preparation for a small show at Harbinger Gallery in Waterloo, ON, I've just completed two concrete sculptures based on an obelisk shape. They are about 22" high, and cast with the same molding process–which is basically 1X6's, some old panelling, nails and styrofoam. The foam (to make the negative spaces) was cut on an electric jigsaw and put together with double-sided tape. Then it was cast in place in the wooden mold, removing it later by breaking it apart and pulling out the pieces. The wider base was cast around the vertical form a couple of days later.

The concrete is similar to a mortar mix: sand to cement 2:1, metakaolin (about 8% by weight to the cement), PVA fibers, stone dust, water reducer, black pigment. Over a few days I sanded the piece, filled in holes, resanded, and finally added a very fine skim coat which was wet sanded. Gold leaf was applied to all the interior surfaces to reflect light on to the bone form, which was cast with a mix of white Portland cement and light coloured sand. The mold for this was made from a two-part silicone putty that I wrote about in an earlier blog. The original bone from which the copy was made, is the long wing bone from a seagull.

The show of my new work is at Harbinger Gallery, Waterloo, ON, February 28 to March 21, 2009, and is a combination of recent jewellery and sculpture.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Concrete Sculpture Reduces Air Pollution

Recent research into cement has produced concretes that actually reduce air pollution by chemically combining with some of those pollutants. These are called photocatalytic cements. On the scale of small sculpture this will not make a difference to the world's air quality, but in Dundee, Scotland, two artists have used the idea in a large outdoor sculpture in their city centre.

The sculpture is in the form of a car draped in a blanket, but the whole concrete form is white. As a conceptual piece, the sculpture is brilliant. It's as if the last car car in the world has been covered to protect it as a museum piece. At the same time it is healing the air, literally, through exposure to light which triggers a photocatalyst in the cement, which in turn decomposes certain toxic substances in the air such as nitrous oxide.

Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion are the two artists who designed the sculpture which was commissioned by Dundee City Council. It uses TX Aria cement which was first developed in Italy.

One of the ironies of the sculpture is that cement production itself generates large amounts of CO2, one of our primary greenhouse gases.

More information at:
Photo at:

Essroc Cement has brought this material (along with TX Arca cement, which is self cleaning) to North America. Concrete Decor has archived an article here:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Small Scale Duplicate Castings

I've recently completed a short series of wall-mounted pins (brooches), playing on the idea that things–jewelery objects in particular–really change when the material changes, even if the form is identical. It's interesting to compare the value we place on precious metals compared to more utilitarian materials. The sets of three pins are based on one original pod-like form made from fusing silver sheet and wire. This is a technique where you are working with the silver in it's "slush phase", the red-heat temperature range where the silver is above a solid, but below a liquid. You can fuse pieces of silver together, scrape texture into the surface, break pieces off, melt wire into the surface. After immersing in acid to remove oxides, the surface is burnished, but a lot of the roughness and spontaneity of the process remains. Here's a picture of one of the sets:

The silver pin is the one in the middle. On the left, I used a black-pigmented cement mixed with stone dust and additives. On the right, I used white Portland cement with stone dust and additives, and after it was set I rubbed in a thin slurry of pigmented cement, which was mostly then rubbed off.

After some research I discovered the ideal molding material. It's a two-part silicone called Knead-a-Mold. (There are other brands as well.) You take equal parts and mix the putty-like substance together with your fingers–it's completely non-toxic and can even be used for food molds–until the colours are blended completely, then push it against and around the object you want to duplicate. I did this with the silver pin, let it set, then cast plaster around that to give the mold support, then took all the components apart. I mixed up the cement and packed it into the empty silicone mold backed by the plaster. I had previously made pin back assemblies which I embedded into the cement before it set.

The concrete pins are dentical in every way to the original silver one, except in the material itself. Every detail of the metal's fused texture is visible. These two-part non-toxic silicones have amazing potential. I mounted the pins onto a matte white acrylic sheet so they could be placed on a wall when not being worn.