Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Concrete Garden Sculptures

Rhu, the original cement lady, made by my sister Kathy, watches over a garden in Churchs Ferry, North Dakota.

See Kathy's other garden art here. I liked them so much I wanted to make one with her.

In September 2009, I travelled to Wolford, North Dakota, where Kathy lives to make a cement lady.

Step 1 - Prepare the molds. These are plastic lingerie mannequins bought on ebay. We greased the inside with vaseline.

Step 2 - Look for treasures to line the molds. I wanted rusty stuff and we found rusty farm equipment parts, rusty screen, rusted wire and rusted metal.

Step 3 - Choose what to line the molds with. In addition to the rusty metal stuff we found we added dried leaves and a bit of dirt.

Step 4 - Get the Mortar and the Concrete. This is my sister Kathy bringing the bags of mortar and concrete.

Step 5 - Measure and Mix the Mortar. Since we didn't need a lot of mortar we mixed it in a bowl. If I remember correctly the consistency of the mixed mortar should be similar to sour cream.

Step 6 - The Mortar goes in first to hold the treasures in place. Mortar is smoother than concrete (who knew?), so Kathy recommends the ladies have a first layer of mortar before the concrete.

Step 7 - Mix the Concrete in the Mixer. I suppose the concrete could be mixed by hand in a bowl too, but if you or your sister has your own cement mixer, you may as well use it.

Step 8 - Add the cement to the mold. Although I wanted to call them poured concrete sculptures, we didn't really pour the concrete - we spooned it into the molds with a wooden paddle.

Step 9 - Let the mold sit and set. Smaller molds may take 24 hours to set. This size should take 48 hours.

Step 10 - Turn the mold upside down to slip the sculpture out. The cement had set quickly - probably because it was quite hot. We turned out the sculpture about 36 hours after filling.

Step 11 - Scrape into some of the objects and add a bit more rusty wire. The surprise was that rusted screen reacted to the mortar and was cleaned by it - coming out as silver rather than rusty - it's ok it will rust again. Also a nice surprise were a few dandelions that made their way into the dead leaves. We added a rusted chicken wire bodice and secured it with rusty wire.

Step 12 - Let the sculpture set. In seven days Kathy will apply a sealant and then the Rusty Lady will set for 30 days. After which she can be moved to where she will stand - in front of a tower in my sister's front yard.