This was the second year that the World of Concrete’s Artistry in Decorative Concrete Demos incorporated a competitive element, and, for the first time, there were different winners selected for the Experts’ Choice and Attendees’ Choice awards. Ten artists brought a wide range of visions, materials, and techniques to the program, and their projects delighted and inspired the many visitors who watched and learned from their efforts. Artists and visitors alike welcomed the week of nearly ideal weather in Las Vegas, especially because the winter had been so harsh throughout much of the country. Here is a round-up of this year’s participants. (Click on select artist names for video interviews.)
Legacy Pool and Landscape, Ventura County, Calif.
Attendees’ Choice Award Winner
Returning to the demos after his selection as both Attendees’ and Experts’ Choice in 2013, Gascon and his crew built another impressive display. Using cast GFRC, lightweight concrete, and various overlay materials, they created a realistic rockscape with a functioning waterfall. The effect was enhanced by the play of multicolored lighting, and a life-sized American bald eagle carved by sculptor Mark Whitten of Earthmedium, Mason City, Iowa.
Gascon took his inspiration from an actual waterfall located on an Indian reservation in Southern California. He made latex molds from real rock formations, which he later used to cast the GFRC panels that were assembled to make up his Artistry project. The team began with a wooden platform and structural frame, to which they wire-tied the precast rocks. Once the rocks were in place, Gascon’s crew used lightweight concrete to fill in gaps and create even more natural-looking contours. Concealed PVC piping and a recirculating pump produced the effect of a waterfall and mountain pool.
“It’s really an honor to be involved in such a great event,” Gascon says. “I’ve participated in the Artistry program a couple of times before, and I’ve always enjoyed the camaraderie with the other artists. I’d go to see the demos even if I weren’t doing a project.”
Creative Construction by Design, Danville, Ill.
Experts’ Choice Award Winner
The panel of experts from the ASCC’s Decorative Concrete Council selected Neil Roach’s project as their winner. Judges Chris Klemaske and John Belarde were impressed by the creativity and range of all the artists represented, but said they were especially looking for work that was marketable—projects that concrete contractors could draw inspiration from and emulate to add to their business.
Roach and his team from Creative Construction by Design created an impressive display that combined a variety of concrete materials and techniques, including vertical walls with exposed aggregate, precast elements, stamped and stained curbing, and pattern-stamped pervious concrete. It also featured inlaid signage, water, fire, and decorative lighting. And all of these disparate pieces were brought together in a harmonious design that fit within the 10x10-foot confines required for the competition.
Roach says his goal was to set their work apart “by combining craftsmen and artists in one package.” At the same time, he says, he wanted “to create something that could actually generate income—something we could sell and reproduce.”
The project required three separate concrete placements. For the first, the team set forms to create a basin surrounded by low curbs. Two sides of the curbing were stamped and stained to look like stone, while the other two sides served as the foundation for vertical walls. For the second pour, they set the wall forms with piping embedded for the water feature. Once the wall concrete was set, they struck those forms and used a pressure washer and sandblasting to expose the aggregate. The third pour was a load of pigmented pervious concrete that formed a patio surface. The pervious concrete was pattern-stamped to resemble paving stones, and its permeable surface allowed water from decorative jets to pass right through.
Boulder Polishing, Salina, Kan.
A 2013 Concrete Surfaces Polished Concrete Award winner, Troy Vancil chose to apply his concrete polishing technique to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the World of Concrete by creating a 3D representation of the WOC logo. He connected with a group of students at a Las Vegas vocational school and had them fabricate a metal frame based on his drawings and specifications. Then, Vancil and his team formed and poured five slabs of black-pigmented concrete that would make up four sides and the top of the cubic sculpture. Channels embedded in each of the slabs were used to hang them on the metal frame.
Vancil’s team polished the black concrete slabs to a glossy finish. The yellow and white areas of the logo were produced by filling embossed sections with stucco that was painted to match the printed logo colors.
Vancil called his project “WOC and Roll,” reflecting the fact that both the show and rock music have now been around long enough to span generations. “Just like two or three generations have grown up listening to rock music and enjoying some of the same bands, there are guys who’ve been coming to World of Concrete for 40 years and who have seen their sons and grandsons come along after them,” Vancil says. He has offered to donate the piece to WOC management, for them to display at future shows.
Artistry in 3D, Las Vegas, Nev.
Ed Swarek uses concrete as a sculptural medium, often employing traditional tools to build up and carve away the material to create monumental figures. For his Artistry project, he was inspired to create a replica of “Christ the Redeemer,” the 98-foot-tall statue on Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Swarek’s version was scaled down, at about 16 feet tall, but was impressive nevertheless. He worked with his sons Kyle and Chris, building up the concrete surface over a plywood base and an expanded-metal substructure. His version was based on photographs of the original, and mimics its open-armed stance and Art Deco style. It also represents the soapstone pedestal on which the original statue rests, as well as the natural terrain at the statue’s base.
Decopro Custom Concrete Concepts, Beatrice, Neb.
Wes Behrends used stencils and dyes to emulate the half-tone printing process and create a powerful illusion. He began by applying a self-leveler to the provided slab. Because he was concerned about the prospect of cracks due to warm weather and high winds, he waited until evening to apply the self-leveling material. He was rewarded with a smooth and crack-free base for his design.
Next, Behrends and his team smoothed the slab with a 400-grit polish from Concrete Solutions. Once the surface was prepared, he laid down a stencil created by Rachel Knigge Bruce of Floor Map Stencil Designs, Rogers, Ark., that served as the base image for his project.
The finishing touches involved the use of fine paint brushes and an airbrush to apply Ameripolish acetone-based dyes. The dyes used were all in shades of black, in keeping with the half-tone design scheme. Visitors were impressed by the power of the resulting illusion.
DL Designs, Lackawanna, N.Y.
Shawn Cislo has spent years creating custom concrete floor designs with Elite-Crete Enhancer Reflector epoxy materials. One aspect of the work that appeals to him is that each project is unique, and each builds on the experience he’s gained from previous jobs.
For the 2014 Artistry in Decorative Concrete Demonstration, Cislo created “An Imperfect World,” which depicted an image of the earth as seen from outer space. He used prepared patterns to draw the map-like images, carefully applying the epoxy resins in deep, rich color tones. Layering the epoxy resulted in an unusually vivid and striking design.
“I probably spend way too much time in my shop trying out different techniques and seeing what effects they can achieve,” Cislo says, “but I’m fascinated by the artistic potential of this material.”
Concrete by Hallack, Turlock, Calif.
Julio Hallack’s Artistry project was designed to demonstrate the power and impact possible with traditional hand-crafted decorative techniques, combined with today’s material options. Hallack began with a small design sketch drawn from his imagination, which he later translated to a full-size paper plan to perfect the proper dimensions.
“We didn’t use any templates or stencils on the slab itself,” Hallack says. “It was all free-hand drawing and painting.”
The slab was first prepared with a layer of Scofield color hardener in Oyster, which provided a uniform base color. Hallack then drew his design in pencil, using string to measure and guide the arcs that were part of the mandala pattern. Hallack’s collaborator and son-in-law Joshua Martinez used a small grinder to incise the design into the surface of the slab. Both men worked together to fill in the design with vivid colors provided by L. M. Scofield Co. The final step was to apply a coat of high-quality sealer.
LuxeCrete LLC, St. George Utah
Del Turley’s project attracted a steady stream of visitors interested in the possibilities of his LuxeCrete material. Turley and his team demonstrated the product by casting, decorating, and finishing countertops, tabletops, and fire bowls to showcase a material that can simulate granite, marble, solid surfacing, and other materials, and is suitable for both interior and exterior applications. Turley says his idea was to give contractors a premium product that they can install for only about $8/square foot, compared with $30/square foot for many competitive materials. “They can use any kind of pigment available at the local paint store to produce the colors and designs they want, knowing that our chemistry will be compatible.”
The Concrete Store, Fishers, Ind.
Concrete Surfaces’ Decorative columnist Steve VandeWater opted to create a Las Vegas-themed tableau for his Artistry project. He and his crew presented a life-sized figure of a jubilant player whose slot machine has just delivered a big payoff. They began by building a sort of armature using PVC pipe, which they dressed in real work clothes and then coated with concrete. They also built a frame to serve as the base of the slot machine, covered it in concrete, and carved details into the surface.
The most striking aspect of the design, however, was the coin-covered floor. VandeWater designed and fabricated his own pattern-stamping molds using hundreds of scattered coins, then used the molds to simulate that big jackpot. The molds rendered fine details of the coins in the concrete surface, and VandeWater’s crew then enhanced the effect by applying metallic pigments.
Concreate, Midlothian, Va.
Concrete staining and polishing contractor Chad Gill used his Artistry project to demonstrate the versatility he could achieve by using various methods to embed company logos into a prepared slab. Gill’s design encompassed terrazzo-style, with multicolor infill and zinc strips, a shotblast relief, and an epoxy resin with a polished finish.
Gill is president of Concreate, Midlothian, Va., and was elected to the Concrete Polishing Association of America’s board of directors in 2013.
“I really enjoyed the Artistry program,” says Gill. “It’s nice to have a chance to do something a little different than you might do in the field—to try something that you might then propose to a customer if it goes well.”