Carving Crafts by Eucalyptus Ike
Cement Gallery
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Due to the effort involved, carving or sculpting in cement
is not recommended for the idle or ill motivated
dilettante.  One part Portland Cement is mixed with three
parts of clean fine grain sand, and water is added until
the mixture resembles a thick paste. Usually this is
accomplished in a wheel barrow.  Depending upon the
shape of the piece to be sculpted, the pasty mixture is
mounded up on a flat working surface or poured into a
rectangular or square wooden frame if height is
desired.  On a warm day the mixture will begin to set up
within an hour or so, and then sculpting may proceed.  
Containers must be designed so that they can be
dismantled to expose the concrete mixture before it sets
(dries completely).  It must be worked while it is still 'wet'
but not before it has ceased to be 'runny'.  One
experiment with the process is all it takes to "get the
idea" about this.
Gallery of Cement Figures
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Shaping the work may be accomplished with just about any
kind of tool including trowels, kitchen spoons, forks, knives,
garden tools etc.  Since you will be removing material from
the carving surface, you will need somewhere or someplace
to put it.  I just schlop it back into the wheel barrow, with a
little added water, so it won't dry out. Then you have some
spare paste to add here and there while you're working.
Within 24 hours the concrete will harden to the point where
no more shaping is practicable. And remember, you still have
to clean off the tools and rinse out the wheel barrow. Simply
dump any left over cement on the ground until it dries; then it
can be disposed of easily.
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If you think about it, sculpting
in cement is in some respects
similar to working with clay.  
There is a period when both
materials are easily pliable,  
they both dry out gradually
and finally both become
hard.  Yet in the working
phase, material may be
removed or patched back in
place to correct for errors or
oversights. Ultimately,
however, cement has more
drawbacks for the sculptor.  It
won't take as fine an edge as
clay so the medium is cruder.
Also,  its specific density
(weight) is greater so large
pieces are very heavy,
difficult to move and may
require additional support.  
One solution to the problem
of weight is illustrated below:
casting the carving in
separate pieces.
    
Decorative Cement Carvings
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Many nurseries in addition to
selling fountains also sell
commercially manufactured
cement figures including
ducks, chickens, frogs,
turtles, rabbits etc.  Religious
figures, nymphs, water
sprites, and forest animals
are also common subjects for
cement sculpting.  But it is
rare to find original, one of a
kind cement carvings
anywhere. Why that is the
case I cannot say.  However,
cement is an artistic medium
that can be enjoyed by
anyone.  The materials are
cheap, readily available at
most hardware stores, and
carvings in cement are
almost indestructible no
matter what the weather.    
Three Piece Cement Carving
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Because height is not important, slab carvings in
cement are relatively easy to create since no mold
or frame is necessary to hold the wet cement while
it begins to dry.  Mixed cement right out of the
wheel barrow is simply mounded up on a work
surface (a 2' x 2' piece of plywood works fine). A
pile of prepared cement three to four inches high
and 15" long (think of half a watermelon resting on
the flat cut surface) is sufficient to produce either of
the carvings you see to the left or right.  Since
there is almost no penalty for making a mistake,
carving in cement is easy.  If you think you have
removed too much somewhere, simply replace
some of what you removed. It will stick without a
problem.  Thus you are free to experiment, to work
as quickly as you wish, and to try various ideas
before settling on a final form. Cement as a medium
provides almost as much liberty as clay, at least for
a few hours.
Mona Lisa in cement
What you do with cement need not be determined by what anyone else has done. Nobody really
knows just how good anybody could get with the medium.  Frankly, I doubt if anyone has taken
cement to its logical or artistic extremes.  So why not test the envelope. Even relatively common
projects like masks can be fun to design.  Dyes may be added to cement to color it, and paint
can be added once the material is dry. Common acrylic paint, for example, which is available in
any hobby store, will last for years applied on a smooth cement surface.
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