Intro: Leafy Concrete Openwork
I am always dreaming up more unique ways to make things; especially with concrete! Once you move past the typical 'pour-in-a-mold' you realize there so many ways to work with shapes! This one combines some exterior mold and texture casting to create one of a kind results.
Can you remember the good ol’ days of playing ‘patty-cake-patty-cake’ in the sand box? It was such a delight to slap that sand into some imagined cake. Well, this concrete circle has quite a bit of that same ‘slapping’ but the results are quite amazing. And you can make the final product into whatever you like. It's quite fun as DIY projects should be! Concrete is not as scary as you may think; if you are new to concrete this may help....
Step 1: What You Need:
Yup, that’s what this girl gets for her birthday… And I am quite fine with that! Flowers wilt but concrete lasts forever.
To make the Leafy Openwork Concrete:
You will need:
- fresh leaves with a good vein pattern
- RapidSet Cementall
- Rubber gloves & Dust mask
- Mixing container, utensil,
- waterballoons or other deflatable ball
- drywall mesh
- ‘Sharpie’ Marking Pen
- xacto knife/butane lighter
- bucket or pot to use as a base holder
I like to use fresh leaves and have found a bush with nice vein patterns that is not that dear to me. You do not want to completely strip a plant as that will jeopardize it. Roadside weeds can work too...
Step 2: Setting Up
As with many of my sphere projects (ya, I’m a bit obsessed) you start with a deflatable form, this time it’s a balloon. To make this project unique I have decided to not complete the entire sphere and only make a ring shape.
Decide how much of a sphere you’d like and mark your form with the ‘Sharpie’. You will need some sort of vessel to hold the form while you work on it. A bucket or bowl works well.
Hint: If your balloon keeps flying away, add water before you blow it up (ya, ask me why I know that…)
Once marked, cut strips of drywall mesh and zigzag them across the form. They do not need to entirely cover but should overlap quite well. My initial trial was made without any mesh and did not hold up that well. You could substitute some other type of string as well since it will be embedded in concrete. Since this mix does not have any coarse aggregate the mesh acts as a reinforcer.
Step 3: The Concrete Mix
I have used this RapidSet Mix quite a bit and it is great! It does mix a bit differently than most though. I add the water first and then the dry mix until I have the consistency that I like; something that does not run away.
Once you have a consistency of pancake batter, let it sit for half a minute and it will already have changed to about ‘soft ice cream’ consistency. Plop a bit on the BACK of the leaf and slightly spread to cover it.
Mix small quantities as it has a very quick working time of less that 10 minutes, so be ready.
Step 4: Slapping Time!
Slap that leaf on to the form before the concrete falls off. It’s really not that difficult. Press it a bit to spread the concrete to the edges. Ta-da! One leaf done…
Step 5: Keep Going
Keep adding leaves working from the top and outwards. They stay quite nicely since the mesh prevents them from sliding. When overlapping for strength, lift the leaf edge so the concrete is not on top to provide good adhesion between them.
Hint: Make sure that you have a good overlapping structure. That will give it more stability. (You can add more later on if you would need another layer, after leaves removed)
The shape of a leaf is perfect for turning and making a lacy affect with plenty of empty parts. The concrete picks up great detail form them as well.
The thickness is about 1/8″ to 3/16″ as this mix is quite strong.
Since the mix sets quickly, you can take a quick break and then continue on to the adjacent sides. It will be a hard set after one hour (24 hour cure) but I would continue as soon as it was hard enough to gently turn the form.
If you let it set hard before continuing, spritz with some water before you add more concrete for good adhesion.
Step 6: Checking Out the Magic
This Lacy Leaves Concrete circle project is one of my favourites as it is such small steps. It could be an entire sphere, just a ring, or even a bowl.
Once you have the form as you like, let it cure for 24 hours and then burst the balloon and peel the leaves off.
It is a bit tedious to get all the bits out, soaking in water can help as well as a stiff brush. I have a set of dentist tools that helps or toothpicks can also work.
Any areas that have mesh visible can be cut or singed off with a lighter or butane mini-torch. (use the lighter with caution, however concrete does not burn).
Step 7: Finishing
You have many options here but I like the look of concrete so I use only minimal finishes. Concrete is absorbent so if you use less paint it will stick better than many thick layers.
As with my leaf trivet the dry-brushing technique is the best since it accentuates the wonderful texture. The above circle only has a bit of silver dry-brushing of acrylic ink to bring out the texture and add some subtle shine. If it gets the elements like rain/snow and outdoor acrylic paint works well.
Step 8: Admire and Use Your Handywork
We really can’t compare with what ‘Mother nature’ makes! Each shape has such character.
Use as a vessel for candle surrounds and it will throw interesting light patterns.
Concrete is weather resistant and does not burn. If you would like to start super-simple try this orb project first.
Or you can use it as planter cover… Endless possibilities. If you cover the entire balloon it will be an awesome garden orb! Add different specimens of leaves, you are only limited by your imagination... Happy concreting! Dazzle your friends… I know you can.
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