Can concrete be beautiful...?

Posted by Andrew Staff on

The words ‘concrete’ and ‘beautiful’ might appear to be a contradiction in terms. And you’d be readily forgiven if connotations of motorways and tower blocks put you off from considering it for your garden.

That’s very justified in ninety-nine per cent of cases. But for now, let’s talk about that other one per cent – and why this slightly misunderstood compound forms the basis of some of our most exceptionally lovely, top-of-the-range items.

Firstly, it’s important to appreciate that concrete has been with us since Roman times, and variants of it date from well before that. The dome of the Pantheon is concrete, as is the Pont du Gard. The word might not imply it, but at heart we’re talking about a very traditional, natural product: sand or gravel, a cement derived from limestone, water.

Mould this, and you can create fiercely strong, weather-resistant ornaments that have a particular beauty about them. But to get this last bit right, you have to know what you’re doing…

We stock a small range of items in moulded concrete, and we bring them in all the way from a specialist maker in Indonesia. It’s worth that long journey: the people over there know this material inside-out, and the love that they put into the product is remarkable.

Craftsman at the workshop pour the cement slurry into a mould before smoothing each item to perfection individually, using a hand roller. When set, the makers choose from a selection of exquisite colours and washes – finishing is a painstaking process, again all carried out by hand. The acid-etched pigments are deep and characterful – and they don’t crack, peel or substantially fade with the weather.

It’s a drawn-out manufacturing process, that’s some way removed from building a motorway! But all that attention to detail is well worth it: the end result is a beautiful, individual item that’s pleasingly substantial to the touch – but that doesn’t suffer the unmanageable weight of its equivalent size in stone.

So don’t dismiss concrete just because it’s useful in other areas of life!