Making Concreted Fabric Art
Updated: Sep 15
Where this Crazy Idea Began
Growing up I was a little girl who loved to get dirty, play in the mud, and build things. Several decades later, I am still that kid, just bigger, wiser, and able to make much larger messes than before! Along the path, I discovered that making things with concrete was very similar to making things out of mud, and it was just was fun to play with as mud! When I was 15 years old, I got my first opportunity to build something creative out of concrete. It was a Noah's Ark play structure in a school yard in Israel that I helped build while participating in a study abroad program. It was nothing fancy but I remember the process being so fun.
Fast forward to Covid quarantine and boom, my love for playing with things like mud and concrete was rekindled! One night while enjoying a few cocktails and an evening smoke, I decided to stiffen a piece of fabric and attach it to a board in a rippley-type manner. I liked the way it looked so much I started thinking about other ways to harden fabric that would be weather resistant and that is when it came to me! Why not soak a piece of fabric in concrete and ripple it the same way I did with the piece soaked in fabric stiffener.
No Idea Where to Begin
Typical of me, the next morning I woke up early and all excited to soak some fabric in concrete! But wait, what was I going to use? what was the best type of fabric? What was the best type of concrete to use? Where would I do this project at? After bombarding my patient husband with all these questions first thing in the morning, I set off to buy a bag of Portland cement and a piece of hardibacker, it was time to get messy and have some fun!
Putting a Plan Together
I decided to put the fabric inside a steel frame I had in my yard that was just sitting there waiting to become some I type of art project. I cut the hardibacker to fit the area I wanted to fill and masked off the frame. Then I made up a batch of loose watery cement, soaked the fabric, and went for it!
Here's what I got. Not too bad! It was fun to make and I liked the way it turned out. Well, there was concrete left in the pan, I had oodles of scrap fabrics in my project closet, and there was a big piece of hardibacker left so I kept the fun going and made some more pieces! I was hooked! I could not wait to start making art pieces! I had no idea what I wanted to make or what I would do with them all but that did not matter at all!
Everything is Better in Color
Having to wait for the concrete to setup sucked. I felt like a kid staring at giant bag of candy and being told, "you have to wait until later to have that". I unhappily waited 24 hours for it cure before bringing the it life with some color.
I found the painting process to be very therapeutic as I blended colors and painted freely, letting the colors just guide me. Through the process, I discovered the best outcome came by letting go and not planning where and what colors to use. I made a conscious effort to allow my Id to run free. I had to let go of my Ego and Superego, and paint as if I was a child, free from intention. The process was enlightening. Since I have a Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology, it was very easy to see the therapeutic potential of this art form and I began having visions of sharing it as an art therapy technique.
Notice the differences in the painting as I played with my focus and intention. At this stage in the painting process, I was feeling frustrated that things were not blending well and there were too many different techniques visible. After trying to correct things I felt were "wrong" and making them "worse" I realized my thought process was my own worst enemy. Once I let go of my judgements and intentions, I was able to freely flow in color.
Inspired to Create More
I was inspired, enlightened, and feeling ready to master a new craft! The following Saturday, I was up early again as usual, rearing to go! I headed out to the Cypress Swap Meet at the crack of dawn ready to find some great flea market items I could use as bases for new concrete projects. Boy, did I find some great stuff! By the time I headed home, I had a wagon full of project starters and a mind overflowing with ideas. I bought several wooden trays and tables to fill with concreted fabric that I then wanted to coat with a deeply poured resin to create a flat surface so the trays and tables could be used.
My vision excited me because it was something so new, something I had never seen before, and was pretty sure would look amazing!
As soon as I got home from the swap meet, I sent straight to work. I played out my hardiboard, masked off the trays and tables I bought, picked out my fabrics, mixed up some concrete and went to work! It was so fun! I felt like I was playing with mud like a kid and making some really cool art at the same time! By the end of the day I had 5 new art pieces to paint and cover in resin.
Protecting My Art
Next step…. Order resin. Having never ordered pouring resin before, I was a bit taken back by the prices to say the least! In fact, if I didn’t have such an exciting vision in my head, I would have likely abandoned my projects at this point. $200 a gallon, wow! Convinced I was on to something though, I decided to bite the bullet and buy it anyway; and, I am so glad that I did!
Yes, as a resin rookie, I definitely made some mistakes… and one really big expensive one, but all in all, I could see my vision come to light. Ultimately my vision did come to reality and I love what I made!
These first 5 pieces have spawned a whole new avenue for me and I am loving this journey. It has been one year since the day I ran off to the swap meet full of inspiration. I have created many new pieces since that day and each one has taught me more. I am just as inspired today as I was on that beautiful Saturday morning last July and I am excited to share with art form with the world.
Sharing this Artform
Join me as I share all my lessons learned and I will teach you to make amazing art using concrete and fabric! You can also check out my gallery to see images of the pieces I have made. If you like what you see, my art is for sale at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Dreamsomethingnew. You can also see them in person by taking a trip to Idiom’s Retreat, our glamping property on the coast in beautiful Trinidad, California where many of my pieces are featured in the garden. If you are interested in learning more about using this art form for therapy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.