Introduction: Huge DIY Concrete Face Garden Sculpture

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

My garden is my paradise, so I love to add some interesting sculpture to it. Contrary to what you make think, sculpting is not as difficult as you may think if you give yourself a chance.

I’ll provide you with a few key points to keep in mind and then you too can also add ‘sculptor’ to your resumé and make your own Concrete Face Garden Sculpture.

Step 1: Make a Plan:

I fell in love with the huge faces by Igor Mitoraj! They are not complete, somewhat flat and can be placed just about anywhere. It’s a great idea as it does not need to be so perfect or so complete.

As I usually do, I make some sketches to keep track of those many visions in my mind’s eye. This was not going to be a vessel or planter so it was really quite easy… Since it is a mask shape (halloween has many masks right now) you could possibly find one to make this project even simpler

Step 2: Create a Substructure

Some memories of college crept back into my mind, drawing the planes of the face and basic proportions. You can always make an interpretation; be your own Picasso!

  • notice that the face is 5 ‘eyes’ wide.
  • the nose ends about 1/2 way from eyes to the chin.
  • the lips are about 1/3 from nose to chin.
  • Take note of side view as well for comparison of depth

To give myself a starting structure that is light and sturdy, easy to manipulate (no heavy duty tools) I used styrofoam. I used that type meant for home insulation and comes in large sheets as I find it cuts cleaner than the white type used in packaging. Plan the basic proportions on the styrofoam sheet. It cuts easily with a large exacto knife and glues quite well with a lower temperature glue gun. It was quite fun cutting and gluing, adding layers to also create the height of the facial features.

I wanted this DIY Concrete Face Garden Sculpture to be larger than life-size for maximum effect. Mine is about twice life-size; about 14″ wide by 18″ tall.

Cut and glue and cut and glue, slowly getting more details. The face is symmetrical, and can be broken into planes. Think of the flat planes first and then add the smaller details.

Step 3: Add the Concrete ‘Skin’

Once I had the rough ‘face’, I needed to decide how this was going to go further… My plan was to be able to make a mold of the final sculpture, so I needed something that would harden without baking (styrofoam melts). Well, air dry clay recipes did not make me feel confident that they would be quite workable. So, I fell back to my usual, RapidSet concrete. If you are new to concrete I have a lot of help on my site.

A true sculptor would argue with me, as it is a medium that does not allow subtractive work. But it sets quick, can be manipulated and is darn hard when done. So it was fine for me…

Mix up small amounts of the RapidSet Cementall (or similar quick setting cement, see info about different mixes here) so that it does not set before you can use it up. It should be of a stiffer consistency that allows it to stay put. After about half a minute it will be a soft pliable ‘icing-like’ consistency. If you need to continue and it has dried somewhat make sure to wet it (spray bottle works well) before adding wet concrete to it.

This was like putting the ‘skin’ on since the basics were already done. Smooth it on, use the gloved hands, trowel, palette knife, plastic utensils, popsicle sticks, whatever you can scrounge up.

It is just a matter of filling in the features. I was not that concerned that it was super smooth as I like the look of aged and pitted concrete as then it looks more like an ancient deteriorating sculpture of an old master artist… If you need some reference, grab a simple cheap Halloween mask to look at, all artists use reference materials.

Step 4: The Details

Those are some big lips! It was also easier to sculpt since it was so large.

Eye lids, simple open eyes, remember eye balls are round… There are so many different noses out there! Pointy, squared, up-turned… whatever you like.

Step 5: Not Done Yet!

Use an old brush to get rid of any crumbles or brush on a thin layer to even out roughness.

Whew, the face is sculpted! It will still be light and the concrete holds quite tight to the styrofoam. You could keep it like this, however I did not want the bulk of the back so I will take it to the next level.

This will become the ‘master shape’ for the mold!

Step 6: Make a Mold to Make More...

Why not be able to share your great designs by making a mold from them?! My huge face sculpture will now be able to be duplicated as I’m sure you have a few spots in your garden that could use a bit of ‘personality’! Each one will be unique even though they are cast from the same mold.

DIY Concrete Face Mold Supplies:

  • Your original ‘Sculpture’
  • Large (non precious) bowl
  • 100% Silicone Caulking (I used 3 tubes)
  • Corn Starch (3 boxes)
  • Caulking gun & xacto knife
  • rubber/nitrile gloves
  • rolling pin

Get the form ready
I have not added any release agent such as grease or spray to my original shape. (yes I like to live dangerously sometimes) However feel free if you suspect that your surface is going to be sticking. This concrete is somewhat rough but I also did not like the idea of greasy film on either piece. IF, you would like to add some, I would NOT suggest any cooking spray. I like using a stiff mixture of beeswax and petroleum jelly (vaseline), and scrubbing it in with a stiff brush if you want a release agent.

Make your Molding material
I have had much success with this method of mixing 100% silicone caulking with cornstarch. It will create a rather stiff but still flexible reusable mold. Squeeze about as much as you think you will need (may mix up more to add if needed) This large mask used about 3 tubes total. DO make sure that you have good ventilation for this as the fumes from the caulking (vinegar smell) is quite strong.

Work the cornstarch into the caulking gently and keeping it as one mound. Try to keep starch between your fingers and the caulking (like working with bread dough) so that it doesn't become a BIG STICKY mess! Keep adding and working until it starts to lose its' stickiness. It will set fairly quickly once it does is incorporated so be ready...

Step 7: Getting It On:

To make covering this large area easier I rolled the ‘dough’ with a rolling pin. A thickness of about 1/4″ – 3/8″ was my goal. Feels almost like making a pie…Give the mix a good kneading to make a consistent dough (yes, I used to work at a bakery). You do not have a large amount of time as it starts to set very quickly! If you are nervous,do a tiny test run.

I then transfer the slab to the shape and work it into the details. You will feel if you are thinning it too much and edges start to poke through, manipulate the ‘dough’ to cover.

I had run out of caulking and had to go to the store (duh, not the best idea) and then added more afterward. It joined quite well. However if there is a repair or join that you need to make use some of the caulking directly as a ‘glue’.

Once it is set it does not ‘squish’ when poked, it has cured. Start to peel back the edges and carefully work around all directions. It was quite ‘attached’ since I used no release agent but I was able to slowly pull it up without breaking.

Step 8: Casting the Concrete

Casting the concrete

Since this mold is fairly thin you will need to provide some support for it. I dumped a couple bags of sand on the ground and wetted it. I can then nestle the mold nicely into it and it will hold the shape. FYI; historically, sandcasting was used quite often, even with molten iron.

I casted quite a few ‘faces’… I used the Rapidset Cementall entirely, a mix with reinforcing fibres and a mix with some peat moss. All castings worked successfully. There are qute a few ready mixes on the market; choose wisely and here is some help choosing.

I like the rustic textured concrete look so I added some peat into the concrete mix. It is already a very strong concrete to this did not weaken it too much and makes it a bit more like 'hyper tufa'.

I have also used some colour to add some ‘age’ to the really white concrete. You can customize as you like.

To distribute the concrete, just plop an even amount around the mold. The goal is to have the edges look broken, as if it was part of an ancient old sculpture that fallen to the ground. Varying the edges will also create different looks.

Smooth it into the crevices and aim for about 1/4″ – 3/8″ thickness. I am not too concerned about bubbles as it adds to the rustic texture. I wanted a 'broken' looking edge detail, not perfect shaped mask. Then also each one will look different.

I have not used a mold release (again) so gently work to peel it out of the mold. When I used to use the spray it left residue that I did not like at all. It may take a bit more manipulating however it will be clean!

Step 9:

There! I like the shapes, the broken edges, and the old-looking texture!

However… I want moss on them! It is crazy hard to get mold to grow on new concrete! To get some aging I antiqued it with some very fluid acrylic paint. If it does not last forever, no one will notice as it is not a full coating. No finish lasts forever so the more close to 'naked concrete' the better. As a way to get some green, I used flocking like the kind for model railroads in the 'valleys'. (details here) I used a bit of acrylic medium as the glue, simple quick 'green moss'. It will eventually fade but maybe by then it will have 'patina' of it's own.

Garden art should look like it ‘belongs’ to the setting. It should feel natural, related to the media and colours… Like a pondering ‘rock’. Hide it between the ivy, under the shadows of that tree.

Enjoy! Check out more concrete projects here

Step 10:

Sculpting Challenge

First Prize in the
Sculpting Challenge