Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Hypertufa Projects -- Part Two and Beyond

Have you been waiting with bated breath to see how my hypertufa projects came out?

On Sunday, this is what happened when I tried to unmold the birdbath.

Total Structural Discontinuity!

I don't know what went wrong. It didn't break, it just crumbled to pieces, looking much more like just plain damp peat moss than anything else. I was a bit worried that I had used too much water. I've read that less water is better, it makes for a stronger bond with the Portland cement. However, it is also true that I ordered this mix ready-made, so I don't really know what the proportions of Portland cement to peat moss and vermiculite were. All of the others crumbled in exactly the same way, so into the trash they went!

Aw -- pause here so you can all make a sad face with me...

Anyway, I immediately roped my husband Nigel into accompanying me to Lowe's, where he very kindly hoisted a 50-lb. bag of Quikrete concrete into the car and then into the garage for me. I swear there were about 10 or 20 different kinds of concrete, all in different colored bags and all saying fast-setting. I couldn't figure out what the differences were, and I didn't want to stand there in Lowe's reading each bag to figure it out. I like red so I picked that one.

Here's the problem with getting a 50-lb. bag -- the instructions say to add a half-gallon of water to the entire contents and mix. But how much can you make with 50 lbs of concrete? A lot! I didn't really want to mix all of it up, but I couldn't figure out how much water to add to, say, 4 measuring cups of mix. Have I mentioned that math is not my strong suit?

So I gathered up all the molds I could, and mixed up the entire bag. I redid the birdbath.

A few days ago at the thrift store I found a cute little glass bowl shaped like a leaf, with the veins on the outside of the bowl. Perfect for making a deep leaf impression!

Then I made a concrete bowl. I put a layer on the bottom and then put that smaller bowl inside the larger one, and then tried to smush the concrete in around it. It ended up a little off-center, and was very messy work. You know how much of a mess you make when you repot a plant, and have to try to fill all around the root ball of the plant with new soil? And it gets all over whatever surface you're working on?

Does it look dry to you?

The mix seemed very dry to me. It was more like wet gravel than the concrete that I think of as pouring out of a concrete truck or in a mixer. But I left it as it was in those three molds, and added a little more water to the rest that was in the bin where I had mixed it up.

Unfortunately, at this point I think I added too much water. It ended up very runny.

I made this, which will hopefully turn out to be a cute pot with a square center.

And then I made a big brick with a votive in it.

My plan originally was to use letter blocks to make words in the brick. I wanted to use a quote from a Dylan Thomas poem.

"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower."

But when I pushed the letters into the mix, and pulled them out, the mix just slumped back into the space. So I gave up on that, and just made bricks. I had originally planned to break up the poetry quote into chunks, and put them on each brick.

A big brick

And a small brick

And another small brick

And I still hadn't used all the concrete. So I made a lump in a pizza box.

I went back a little while later and pressed a Brugmansia leaf into the lump.

I'm feeling a little discouraged. All the websites with cool concrete projects make it look so easy. It hasn't been, at least for me. It takes some learning, and refining.

In another two days, I'll know how successful today's experiments were. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Here's the entire Dylan Thomas poem.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever. 

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks. 

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime. 

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.

And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars. 

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm. 

It's a bit morbid, isn't it? It suits my pessimistic feelings about today's concrete endeavors.