Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: Concrete Crafts, Alan Wycheck

Concrete Crafts: Making Modern Accessories for the Home and Garden is a new book about creating simple concrete objects. The subtitle: Making Modern Accessories for the Home and Garden pretty well summarizes what the book is trying to do.

Briefly, the book covers such items as pavers, tiles, tabletops, stepping stones, planters and bowls, all in a a step-by-step format using clear colour photographs. This is a really useful way to learn; you feel like you have stepped into the author's own backyard and watched him make the pieces. The instructions are simple and straight forward, nothing fancy here. If you haven't made wooden forms with plywood and lumber, the book shows you how. The strength of the  book is that if you are a complete beginner in concrete craft it gives you enough information and confidence to start. If you wanted to make some simple production molds for geometrically based production work there is also some good information. And there is good precautionary safety advice about wearing gloves, dust masks and protective glasses when necessary.

But don't look for much creative inspiration, advanced techniques or mixes here. The shapes and forms that Wycheck uses are in keeping with an introductory book. If you've been making concrete garden accessories or sculptures for some time, there's not much you can learn. (Although I did learn that two-part polyester makes a great wood sealer for forms that you want to use repeatedly, and I was reminded that vegetable oil makes a good non-toxic release agent.) My summary of the book is that it is useful for beginners, not so useful for experienced concrete artists.

Concrete Crafts: Making Modern Accessories for the Home and Garden
Alan Wycheck
Stackpole Books, 2010, 155 pp

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Concrete Arc Table

This links to a picture of a beautifully simple table shown at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2010 in Milan. It's a catenary arc made from concrete. Other than that I don't know much about it, except that it comes from Foster and Partners, a London-based architecture and design firm. 

Thanks to Dwell magazine's Tweet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The "Other" Concrete Art

If you search for "concrete art" on the web, as I often do, you'll find yourself stumbling across another type of concrete art. I've never been quite sure of what it meant, so I thought I'd investigate it further and come up with a summary.

This other "concrete art" developed in the 1930s in Europe, and was a form of visual art, in particular a form of abstract art. But in this abstract art nothing stood for or represented anything else. Nothing was symbolic; the shapes and colours of the work were simple lines and rectangles, primary colours. Max Bill, a Swiss artist and designer, was part of this movement.

The term came from the first and only issue of a magazine called Art Concret. "There was nothing more concrete or more real than a line, a colour, or a plane  (a flat area of colour)." [Quote from] The idea was to create new works of art from simple forms and colours, yet having nothing to do with any symbolic or representational meaning. The strength of the work would be in this simplicity which Art Concret said would "represent abstract thoughts in a sensuous and tangible form."

Concrete art was closely related to constructivism, an earlier movement that tried to reflect the industrial world by constructing art or sculpture through processes similar to what industry might have used. "Constructivism is a purely technical mastery and organisation of materials," said a 1923 manifesto. You can understand how constructivism influenced concrete art in the avoidance of meaning and symbolism.

This image is  Max Bill's sculpture, Endless Ribbon, granite, 1953. You can see it's origins in the concrete art and constructivist movements.