Let me show you one of the easiest art techniques - really! Since it's already…
New ideas pop into my brain while I’m working on other projects. That’s how this idea was born; when I was working on the burlap Witch. Who would have thought these burlap & leaves concrete bowls would be so easy for great effect!
I have done fabric tests for concrete draping and thought burlap didn’t have much luck. Well, I was pleasantly surprised that it worked so well when I made the Witch Ghoul. The best part was the great texture that it gives. Being an artist/illustrator for decades I know there are many elements of design; texture is one, as well as line, shape, space, colour & pattern. This ticks off a few on the list!
I know there are different burlap types and I am using the kind available for the garden, which has more open space.
What Shape do you like?
You will need some type of shape like a bowl or such to provide the shape for you. I always prefer plastic when working with concrete since it does not stick to it and is mostly flexible. If using metal put a layer of plastic film in between as concrete loves to stick to metal!
The issue with burlap is it sometimes likes to fray. The landscape type does especially fray so I gave it a quick ‘zigzag’ with my sewing machine. If you do not have that option a fine bead of some glue will also suffice. Be sparing though as the concrete will possible repel. The perfect squares will nicely adjust across the form and lay flat since they can stretch diagonally. Test fitting is always good…
The Fun ‘Messy’ part:
In my experience of concrete draping I have come to the conclusion that the sand does not like to get absorbed by the fabric so I do not include sand anymore. I use only regular portland cement ( the active ingredient in most concrete mixes) and it becomes quite a muddy mix with water.
The consistency should be thin enough to be able to get absorbed by the burlap and not run off too much. You can dampen your fabric first but I often don’t. I may use a slightly runnier consistency like ‘melted ice cream’ and really work it into the fibre. If the burlap ‘steals’ the water from the mix then add a touch more. Make sure the slurry is getting into every fibre…
Knead it, squeeze and knead some more. Remember those mud-pies as a child?! If there are any parts that do not get the mx they will end up ‘soft’ later.
The Shaping and Texture:
Since I am using the burlap for the texture I do not want it all clogged up with the slurry. I squeeze excess out gently and also have an old paint brush handy to even out the texture in between the fibres. I even like to brush out the fringes… It almost looks like hand-woven fabric.
Adding some leaves (of course)
I’ve been known to some as the crazy ‘leaf lady’ since I can be seen bent over picking up leaves of all types. These ones are not that dear to me since they are an invasive specie in Ontario; Buckthorn. I like the simple shape but good vein definition on the underside. I have used these often for my concrete leaf projects like the Faux Bois chair and Lacy Leaf Circles.
The Special leaves:
Once the bowl shapes have cured nicely (keep damp for stronger finished strength) you can add the leaves. Pop the shapes off the forms carefully. If you think they are too fragile or soft you can mix a thinner Portland cement slurry and paint it on the bowls to make them stronger.
The concrete that I use for the leaves is Rapidset Cementall. It is like an instant concrete mix. It starts to set quite quickly and is very hard after 1 hour. To get it to a workable consistency mix it to a sour cream consistency and wait a minute. It will then be more moldable. Plop some onto the back of a leaf and then start to place your design on the bowl which have been dampened. Any ‘new’ addition to ‘older’ concrete should have it well dampened so it does not ‘steal’ the moisture from the new concrete. The concrete does not stick to the leaves so no mold release is needed.
You can plan to reinforce the edges or be completely unique and asymmetrical with the placement. I made a few versions of different designs. The leaves can be added to the inside or the outside, or both.
This one has the leaves inside & out and is quite nicely finished at the edges.
Take a close look at the textures, how amazingly well they go together. The Rapidset Cementall is a very fine mix with no aggregate, and it is really much stronger than the usual concrete so it can be quite thin. Do not mix too much at a time as it will harden quickly, but that is also what I love about it.
I would say these are all about texture! I especially like the way the burlap is not solid and lets some light through. The contrasts of nature-made and man-made textures is also very interesting.
But is it strong?
Well, the ones I made are really stiff for how thin they are. They are not soft at all but they would need to be treated similarly to how you would treat glass. You can’t throw them around! I would say these are statement pieces. The rustic texture pairs well with live edge or contrasts to sleek modern decor. I did not put any feet as I like the option of possibly placing them on an angle and I do not like being too conventional!
As for weathering outdoors, I think they would withstand the elements as long as they are not wet for lengths of time. The Witch ghoul has been happily sitting on a stump through our canadian climate with no ill effects. The only issue with the bowls is that they may hold water, which can lead to freezing and cracking. Either invert them or take them in. I plan to use as ornamental bowls mostly indoors.
The Burlap & Leaves Concrete Bowls finish:
This is how I have finished some of them and a new post to explain the best way to paint concrete. In the mean time, dream up some designs of your own. Enjoy the start of summer and take time to look at the leaves.