The free forms of concrete.
Utilizing materials made to be strong, long-lasting, and durable, craftsman Jerry Sanbothe shows us how we can implement concrete in so many beautiful ways.
What is your process when creating concrete art?
We always start from scratch once we find out what the customer wants as far as size and style. We make everything from building the form, pouring [the concrete] in, and doing all the wet polishing. Everything is one of a kind.
What materials do you use?
We can use a combination of basic sand, Portland cement, and a lot of different mixtures and variables.
For our basic colors of Portland are only white and gray. These two can be mixed to get a lighter gray, but to make other colors I can also color the concrete as I put it together during the mixing process. There are a lot of different avenues to get the look you’re going for.
For our molds, we use a combination of different things, such as melamine, steel, wood, or custom rubber molds. All depends on the desired end result you’re looking for.
For some pieces, I’ve used a combination of stamps and hand carving to create a rock texture. But if there’s a certain texture that I want, then I can create a mold from something like an existing rock or a wood beam, and then that, in turn, becomes my mold for making it look like what I want.
What inspires you when creating your art?
When I was young I always wanted to be a mechanic. I found a job doing foundations in 1991. Never crossed my mind how foundation walls came to be, but I knew after just two weeks I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It still amazes me every day how much you can do with concrete, and there is so much more to learn.
What do you like about working with this art medium?
Concrete can look like anything, and I enjoy the challenge of it. It doesn’t matter what it is — if you have the money and time, I can make anything out of concrete! I don’t have to worry about cutting, bending, or melting it to make it. I just have to have my form right for it to take on the effects of what I want.
What challenges do you face working with concrete?
Timing. The timing of when to pour, when to add texture, when to add color, or how much color to add is very important. It’s all very tedious. Timing and measurements can change the whole outcome, so the challenge is getting the recipe exactly right.
What is concrete made of?
A lot of people call concrete and cement the same thing, and that makes concrete people cringe. Cement isn’t concrete, but cement is used to make concrete. Portland cement is one of the key ingredients used to make concrete as well as aggregate, sand, and water.
How do you transport your pieces?
This depends on the size of the piece. Sometimes my pieces have to be installed with equipment, but in most cases, they can be wheeled in or carried in.
What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about concrete or designing with concrete?
I think everyone should know how cool it is! You can go completely modern or go as rustic as you want. It’s adaptable to any style of decor that you want to go with, and it’s so versatile. It’s been around since the beginning of time, and that’s my lure to it. It’s not just for driveways anymore.
The art of concrete is mesmerizing to me, and people are finding out more and more what you can do with it. My house is a testament to this — I have posts, barrels, rocks, flowerpots, and even the walls and countertops made of concrete. That’s what I like about it. You can do almost anything with it.