Design your own concrete sculpture – DIY
How to make a light and decorative sculpture from concrete for indoor and outdoor:
I’m a big fan of creatively designed gardens. These include beautifully designed fire pits, lovingly laid out flower beds, small elf gardens, bird baths or an artistic sculpture.
My job means that I try out a lot of things that have to do with creativity myself. Every now and then, I also attend a workshop with an artist colleague. This is what happened in August 2016. I met Ulrike during the Miss DIY competition. I immediately liked her because an artist’s soul rages in her chest. She gives workshops on the production of concrete sculptures in the Cologne area. Ulrike invited me to one of her courses. You can find more information about Ulrike (delicate concrete) here
The course was called “Langer Lulatsch” and large, long, thin concrete figures were to be created. Ulrike had already made a male and a female model for orientation. I opted for a concrete Loriot style female figure.
Here is a brief overview of the materials you will need:
A large work surface, better still a small workshop, because this work creates a lot of dirt glue together), this block was only for the torso, there were additional individual blocks for the head, arms and feet. The figure measures around 1.35 m rasps, files, knives and wire brooms in different sizes A felt marker An easy-to-clean vessel for mixing the concrete, for example a plaster beaker Fiberglass mats available at hardware stores or e.g. Here a pair of concrete scissors is best already poured into a small bucket and a trowel to remove the powder Disposable gloves (a whole pack) Dust mask, possibly protective goggles A full-body protective suit to protect clothing Shashlik kebab skewers made of wood or better metal skewers A concrete slab with a hole for you Metal rod for setting up the concrete figure and the metal rod A drill, possibly an insertion sleeve to stabilize the foot of the concrete figure A watering can with fresh water
You start with the torso and first draw the center lines on all 6 sides of the styrofoam block with the felt marker. You don’t have to hit the middle exactly. On each side of the block there should be a cross made of two lines. This step helps not to lose sight of the proportions of the figure.
Then the rough shape of the desired figure is also drawn on each side of the block with the felt marker. Of course you need some imagination because you have to have an idea of what shape the figure’s body should have later. For the torso I wanted a full bosom, a swaying short skirt to about knee level, a narrow waist and narrow legs. I wanted to attach the arms separately later. To paint the shape I had to imagine how the figure would look from the respective side. A rough sketch of the shape is completely sufficient, as the fine-tuning comes later.
Then you start to shape the styrofoam block from the edges with a coarse wire broom. You carefully work your way from all sides to the desired shape and first round off the edges.
In the picture you can see the torso with the drawn center line, the indicated full breasts, the narrow waist and the skirt with the narrow legs. The edges and the silhouette of the figure have already been worked out with a coarse wire brush. The little styrofoam balls that come off stick everywhere 🙂 Already now the whole room looks like it has snowed.
Now the fine-tuning begins. With smaller wire brushes and files, Styrofoam is removed piece by piece. You can let your creativity run free. You should always keep in mind that concrete is then applied in several layers over the mold. Therefore, depressions and elevations should always be a little more pronounced than you perceive it to be optically correct. Depending on the size of the sculpture, this process can take a few hours.
The next step is the head. To do this, cut a styrofoam block again and mark the center lines. Then you roughly sketch the shape of the head. Eyes, hair and also the bun of my figure were attached separately, or only modeled from concrete at the end.
In this picture you can see quite well that the head was sanded down relatively evenly in a drop shape. The nose is already there as a small bump. The bun was made from a piece of styrofoam separately. I filed this piece of styrofoam like a donut. In the picture you can also see that the individual parts have been put together and fixed with metal skewers. The entire construction is now very unstable.
The next step is arms and feet. I also made these as individual parts in the same way and temporarily attached them with metal skewers. The shoes have a small heel and a suggested strap.
It is now worthwhile to clean thoroughly and remove all the small styrofoam balls. In the next step, you can play with mud.
In order for the concrete to adhere properly to the sculpture and to stay where it is placed, additional fiberglass is required in the first layer. To do this, you take fiberglass mats and cut or tear them into medium, smaller and larger strips.
These pieces of fiberglass are now applied to the figure with concrete. To do this, you touch the concrete. We did not stick to a certain mixing ratio, but instead mixed one or two scoops of concrete powder with water in a mixing cup. The concrete must of course not be too fluid, otherwise it will drip and not stay where it should. Too firm is not good either, as it dries too quickly, clumps and becomes too thick. One should keep in mind that a constantly changing mix ratio can easily influence the color of the concrete as it dries.
Safety must now also be observed in all work. When removing and mixing the concrete, it is advisable to wear a dust mask, even protective goggles cannot be harmful. Concrete is alkaline and can be very irritating and easily corrosive to the skin. Therefore gloves must be worn from now on! I am one of those people who often don’t take things too seriously and was promptly billed for it. My gloves quickly cracked from the constant friction of the concrete. I ignored that and partly applied the concrete with my bare fingers. At first my skin felt soapy. The next day, I noticed that the entire top layer of skin on my hands was peeling off. My skin was quite irritated and I’m lucky that my hands are so sturdy.
Everyone has to find out for themselves which concrete is the right one. You should think about beforehand whether you want to set up the sculpture outside or inside. A sculpture that stands in the garden must be able to withstand all weather conditions. Concrete is generally very robust, so you don’t have too much to worry about. However, there are many different varieties that are finer and coarser. You can find good advice and selection here.
It is important to connect the pieces of the figure, so I started with the feet. The feet, like the arms, the head and the bun, were previously only attached to the torso with metal spikes. Next, a layer of fiberglass is applied to the break between the feet and the legs and coated with the concrete. At these break points it is good to apply a second layer of fiberglass, ideally the layers cross each other. Then the entire foot is covered with fiberglass and concrete, as is the entire torso.
You do the same with all other “breaking points” until the entire sculpture is covered with a layer of concrete and fiberglass. The glass fiber mats can now also be used perfectly to model small details. For example, I used a thin strand of galsfiber to reinforce the buckles and details on my figure’s shoes. Even entire hairstyles, such as a mohawk, braids or a curly head, can be made with the glass fiber.
Up to this point my figure had no face and no hair structure either. The layer with the glass fiber is very uneven and bits of the glass fiber are still sticking out. You can now carefully pull out the metal skewers, because the break points should be stabilized with the glass fiber-concrete mixture.
It makes sense to let the sculpture dry first. Preferably overnight. To do this, we carefully leaned it against a table.
The next step is to use the drill. As a stand for the sculpture, we had heavy stone slabs with a hole in the middle. A metal rod was stuck in this hole. In order to connect the plate and sculpture, the figure is drilled from below at a solid point and placed on the pole. If you want to make sure that the hole does not break out at some point, you should insert a sleeve into the figure from below. With this method, the figure can easily be set up in another place at any time. Simply lift the figure down and carry the heavy foot separately to another place.
Then the fine-tuning follows. The drill can be used very well to drill holes for eyes and mouth. Then concrete is mixed again and distributed over the entire sculpture. I wanted my character to be reminiscent of Loriot’s drawings. So I chose little pointy eyes. I modeled long eyelashes out of concrete with a little less water and filled up the eyes and the mouth. With a spatula, I applied concrete with the same consistency as hair. All I had to do was apply small portions of concrete along the contour and on the bun and press an unstructure into it with the spatula. The more layers of concrete you add, the finer the surface will become over time. It is also possible to apply a concrete varnish or a proper sealer or to sand the concrete very lightly.
Tadaaaa !!!! Finished!
My figure stands in our garden and has defied wind, sun, rain and snow for more than a year. I didn’t use a sealer because I think it’s nice when the weather leaves its mark.
Small bowls, flower pots, decorative objects, animals and much more can be made in the same way.
Tip: If you work with Styrofoam regularly, you can get this practical Styrofoam cutter.
Have you tried similar projects before?
Leave me your experiences or photos,
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Here I explain step by step how you can make a light concrete sculpture for inside and outside yourself.