People who have seen my polished concrete have little difficulty understanding why I’m attracted to this medium. It’s beauty is evident. But a few have wondered aloud about the difficulty of handling the weight of larger pieces and seem to think that I could find an easier, more convenient medium. After all, wood is beautiful and versatile. And the same could be said for many other materials. Why favour a material that’s so heavy?
I could go into a list of qualities that make concrete “worth the trouble.” Yes, it can be treated many different ways to create a wide range of effects, but the point for me is that the weight is part of the appeal.
So much of design today is about disguising the identity of materials. When I look around the room right now, I see particle board covered in veneer, laminate printed with wood grain, pot metal cabinet hardware tinted to look like copper, and so on. It’s just part of modern life: the materials around us aren’t what they appear to be.
The weight of concrete contradicts this trend. I’ve known for years that people feel compelled to touch polished concrete. Once it catches their eye, they reflexively reach out and touch it. But it didn’t occur to me for awhile that people were also pushing against the pieces and sometimes even hefting them. They evidently enjoyed feeling the weight. I like to think they’re getting the same thing out of this that I do: the feeling of substance that weight gives. This strong sense of physical substance clearly deepens the appeal of the piece.
In fact, I’ve come to realise that all the work I put into designing my pieces is informed by my unconscious understanding that this is a heavy material. I don’t think a design that’s light or whimsical has ever occurred to me. Of course, those qualities would be hard to express in concrete anyway. But it’s my appreciation of the material’s “gravity” that inclines me toward designs reflecting that quality.
Like most artists and artisans, I try to apply quality to my work in layers, the most basic being layers of design, execution, and material selection and use. The idea is to produce quality that is deep instead of superficial–in other words, quality that is real. The weight of concrete emphasises this sense of substance and reality.