The demos are also a place to try out new ideas. Shown here, a small shotblaster engraves a pattern through stencils.
Joe Nasvik The demos are also a place to try out new ideas. Shown here, a small shotblaster engraves a pattern through stencils.
For the fifth year, Concrete Construction magazine and the Decorative Concrete Council (DCC), a Council of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC), is sponsoring Artistry in Decorative Concrete demonstrations at the World of Concrete (WOC) in Las Vegas, the centerpiece of the outdoor Decorative Pavilion. If you visit the pavilion, you will see manufacturers of decorative concrete products presenting “how to” demos showing how their products can be used to stamp concrete patterns, do chemical stain work, install different overlay cement decorative finishes, and a whole lot more.

The Artistry in Decorative Concrete demos featured are different than the ones conducted by manufacturers. Each year this magazine conducts a search to find 12 decorative contractors who are doing exceptionally creative work across the range of decorative techniques. Each presenter has two days during the show to construct a project that best represents what they do for clients. Visitors can watch the process, get close enough to ask questions, or share their own ideas and experiences. On Thursday during the show, the completed works are viewable to all. The purpose of the demo is to encourage creative ideas and help grow the decorative industry.

This year a couple of presenters will do handcarved vertical rockwork, one contractor will showcase innovative stamped concrete work, and some will explore different ways to use overlay cement toppings. There will be a decorative diamond polished concrete slab and one presenter will cast an integral concrete countertop and sink.

Presenters represent contractors from different backgrounds. Some started as laborers on a concrete construction crew, and eventually opened their own company. Others worked in industries unrelated to concrete but became attracted to the creative possibilities and also launched their own decorative concrete companies. These people often start their contracts with owners after concrete slabs or walls are in place.

David Pettigrew, Capitola, Calif., says he trained as a carpenter but became interested in concrete when someone else formed a residential foundation poorly and he took over the assignment. That was when he became aware of the versatility of concrete. Later he started his own concrete construction company focusing on all areas of residential work as well as some commercial work. In recent years, Pettigrew has branched out to offer a wide variety of decorate concrete work.

Unlike Pettigrew, Nathan Giffen started with no experience in the construction industry. Before he started Creative Rock Forming, Hickory Hills, Ill., he owned a computer software business. He made the switch because he was intrigued with decorative concrete, noticing that people were willing to spend more money for interior walls than exterior flatwork. He also was drawn to the creative possibilities of handcarved rockwork. So eight years ago, he organized his company and started installing work. More recently he decided that there is great potential for growth in the area of vertical rock-work and decided to start a branch of his business to help train others. He now has a small group of people involved as instructors that he regards as the best in the industry. At WOC Giffen's design will incorporate pillars, arches, and beams, and walls to illustrate the three ways rockwork typically is installed. He uses texture skins and hard carving tools to create his work.

Every year, 12 decorative concrete contractors from the U.S. and surrounding countries are invited to present  at the Artistry in Decorative Concrete demonstrations. These are the presenters featured in 2007. 
Joe Nasvik Every year, 12 decorative concrete contractors from the U.S. and surrounding countries are invited to present  at the Artistry in Decorative Concrete demonstrations. These are the presenters featured in 2007. 

Neil Ohmie's route to becoming a decorative concrete contractor started when he took a job as a laborer for a general contracting firm in Salt Lake City. After learning a little about placing and finishing concrete, he took a job with a construction supply house, gradually becoming their “go to” man for all things related to decorative concrete. He says he fell in love with decorative concrete and quickly understood its potentials. Then, 5½ years ago, he invited his brother-in-law to become partners with him in a decorative concrete business and they have been busy ever since. Their work includes full-depth concrete installations, overlays, decorative waterproof deck applications, concrete countertops, chemical and water-based staining, and decorative floor coatings. When you visit Artistry in Decorative Concrete, plan to meet and talk with Pettigrew, Giffen, and Ohmie, as well as the nine other presenters. They will impress and inspire you with their work. If you aren't planning to attend World of Concrete this year, you can still find out about what presenters did by reading the April issue of Concrete Construction magazine.

Related articles & links

Check out other articles about Artistry 2008 and see the slideshow from this year's exhibit at the World of Concrete