Oh decisions decisions, even when it comes to finishing our concrete! Let's take a close…
Don’t you just hate it when you see so much repetition on the ‘net?! Yes, I like to be unique… but sometimes it feels like it will be the end of me; ‘death by blog’. So, with much effort this concrete draping project is not your usual ‘dip-the-clothes-in-concrete’ type. Won’t you entertain my fancy with this Unique Draped Concrete Planter?!
I’ve been fascinated by what I’ve seen ‘dipped’ in concrete. I’ve used this same concept when making my Step Spook & Witch and realized that the choice of fabric is quite important. Not all types of weaves and textures will absorb the concrete. I’ve often wondered how a thin cotton shirt will hold enough concrete to be stable and hard once cured. After making the effort it needs to be strong, does it not!?
For that reason I tend to use ‘wooly’ or fuzzy types as they will allow more of the mix to get stuck in the fibres. But that will also contribute to the texture of the end product, so it’s a compromise. Polyester apparently will last for years, rather than a natural fibre like cotton which may rot. But for me strength does win out… I used a polyester fuzzy polar fleece.
By no way are you limited to just having a circle-on-a-bucket shape. I’ve seen many tall draped planters but I also know toppling can be a problem. Make sure that the vessel has a bit of taper so that removal will that bit easier. It should also sit well and is strong enough to carry the weight since the concrete will be heavy.
Since the fabric ‘steals’ all the water from the concrete mix it should be dampened before dipping into the premixed concrete.
The concrete mix should be mixed to more of a fluid consistency so that you can ‘massage’ the mix into the fibres. And here again is the issue. Most mixes have some form of sand or granular material in it, and that will tend not to get absorbed into the fabric.
The portland cement and other matter than is fluid will sink in and the sand will just sit on the outside. That is ok as long as you can keep it attached since it will help bulk it up and make the strength… follow me?
You do have the option of just using portland cement and the fabric but it will be much thinner and of different strength. I’m pretty sure the concrete traditionalists would think that is wrong… but my Ghouls have sat out in the elements of canadian winters for years now and seem quite strong.
Pat the ‘sandy’ fabric and manipulate it as you want the draping to hang. Try to keep the sand attached and smooth it out.
To aid in the smoothing it helps to brush some more runny mix on and flatten the fuzzy fibres of this polyester polar fleece. It may seem tedious but I am sure that the thin fabric dips would need additional layers since it would not hold up stiff enough.
What makes this Different:
Anyone can dip stuff into concrete… but here’s the unique part; I’ve used my favourite natural element to accent. There’s usually an abundance and they are free and as interesting as you can find; leaves.
Use the same mix at a thicker consistency and it will become somewhat clay-like. Plop a bit on the underside of the leaf (better veins) and then quickly flip-and-attach to the side.
It’s a thin layer and the texture of the fabric will hold it there. Be random with the placement or more structured.
This mix sets up so quickly especially in the warm summer that the draping will probably already be hardening – perfect.
Self doubt is the enemy of creative expression!
I understand that many don’t think they have the artistic skills needed so this allows anyone to make a unique piece. It’s easy and will allow it to look finished without any need for paint or stain.
Look how wonderful and thick it is! ‘Popped off the bucket quite easily.
If you find there are any ‘soft’ parts you can dampen it (any time you add new concrete) and brush on some more mix. Also if the texture is too rough to your liking, you can brush another layer and it will fill the divots.
The Question about Drainage:
I like to have the option of using these in the house without a dish so I don’t put a drainage hole. When used outside they do fill with rain but the hot summers usually evaporate them quite quickly as well.
If you do want drainage it’s quite simple since the bottom is accessible. Possibly put a piece of plastic tubing to hold the hole open (fabric cut) until cured and then easily pull it out.
The Question about alkalinity:
Yes, concrete is very alkaline. Once cured (this mix is quick – 24 hours) you can soak it in a large bucket of water and leach out the alkalinity I leave it for days and change the water. To quicken you can add 1/4 cup vinegar (acid) to one gallon water to counteract the alkalinity.
The Question about Sealing/Finishing:
I had all intention of testing some sealers and realized that this mix is so dense that water did not leach through for days and days. So until I formulate a non-toxic sealer I leave them natural. If you determined, use a food safe concrete counter-top sealer.
I try to avoid painting concrete. Like sealed driveways, they eventually fail and do need continuous redoing or they look awful. On a vertical surface water does not sit so I feel it does not need it. For aesthetics if colour is desired than keep it to a minimum. Slight dry-brushing or antiquing lets the concrete breathe and does not show much as it does wear. I have those visions of the concrete ‘Elvis’ that is painted with thick bright paints – ugh.
How can you go wrong with the help of ‘Mother Nature’?! Go check your pile of cast offs and create something. No mold needed… the plants will thank you.