My background in tile making and tile setting has led me to the medium of concrete. I have always been drawn to the decorative surface and inspired by designs that are rich in color, texture, and pattern; as my work evolved, I began to slip cast concrete shapes to form interlocking patterns which I describe as mosaic in nature.
This project was an opportunity to showcase a process of design and fabrication that I have developed over a number of years as I segued between ceramic tile and cast concrete. It represents my desire to escape the classic grid work of tile and to create a space reminiscent of another era.
Trial and error has led to my present technique of casting my tiles in what I call “stencil” molds, made of compression molded sheet rubber. My supplier can manufacture the sheet rubber to a specified dimension and thickness. My smaller mosaics are generally cast into a square foot of sheet rubber 3/8” - ½” thick. (As a reference, this pattern comprises 42 individual pieces in a square foot.) The initial cost of the sheet rubber is well worth it, as the molds are reusable and last for years.
Drawing my designs in a CAD program allows me to scale my designs to any dimension and to lay out my pieces on the mold. This file is then sent to a water jet cutter who cuts the shapes into the sheet rubber. In production, I back the mold with a piece of plexiglass for my casting surface. Once cured (seven days soaking in water) the pieces are either laid up with a template of the pattern and face taped for easy handling, or, if large enough, are installed one by one, as in any standard tile installation.
All the tile in the bathroom was brought to a 600 diamond finish with an application of a densifier at 400. The floor tile was installed and polished on site, and field tile was finished in the shop. The border tile was installed over cement board, polished, and then mounted to the wall. I use a handheld waterfed Flex grinder/polisher.
My custom cement mix has been tested to a minimum 3500 psi. I integrally color my cement and use a superplasticizer for the ease of casting.
This bathroom took 3 months to complete. It may not meet the customary definition of “decorative” concrete (ie; stamping, staining, overlays) but it stands on its own as an example of another innovative use of the material, The malleable quality of cement allows me to realize my intricate designs. My mosaic is akin to puzzlework: tightly fitted pieces assembled as a whole, while the polished finish creates a solid and seamless effect.The result is a stunning and unique surface.