Assemblage and concrete may not be two images you’d typically put together, but I’d love to change that for you. As a symbol in your assemblage work, concrete can express several ideas: Going from powder to liquid to a solid and strong form, concrete can represent intense transformation. Other concepts could include building a strong foundation or solidifying a dream or desire.
Concrete on a Small Scale
If you’re like I was, when you think about concrete, you imagine large projects such as park sculptures and, of course, architecture of all types. It wasn’t until I discovered a special grade of concrete made for jewelry artists, that I realized it could be worked with in small batches. Eureka! Not only could it be used for assemblage work, I didn’t need a large contractor’s bucket or any special tools! A disposable drinking cup, a bit of water and a stir stick (I used a palette knife), as well as something in which to cast the mixture were all that was required.
Mixing Concrete for Assemblage
I used two types of concrete for my assemblage project—Solid Expressions Artist’s Concrete by Robert Dancik and All-Crete High Performance Cement by Quickrete. The first is a much more refined product, free of debris. Also, Robert’s concrete sets up very quickly, which is great when you’re sitting around, waiting for it to cure so you can move on with your project! I’ve been using the artist’s grade for jewelry and smaller pieces and the Quickrete version for larger projects or when refinement isn’t as necessary. When working with fine particles such as cement powder and dry pigments, wearing a dust mask is advised.
In addition to water and concrete mix, you’ll want something to pour the concrete into. One easy way to try out this process for assemblage is to create several concrete tiles from soap or chocolate molds. The concrete releases easily from these molds and the small size is very manageable. If using something other than silicone or plastic molds, Robert recommends prepping your form first by rubbing a bit of wax paper around the interior for easier release of the cured concrete.
By creating a series of tiles, an assemblage is easily built in manageable chunks. While the concrete is wet, you can embed found objects into it and you can arrange the cured tiles any way you like.
Add pigment (optional)
If you were apprehensive before about using concrete, I hope by now you’re convinced it could take your assemblage work into completely new directions. Concrete tiles are only the beginning. When you explore creating your own forms, there’s no limit to the art you can make.
Assemblage work may not typically require additional framing, but for those times when collage and assemblage overlap, it’s a good idea to have paper elements protected. For those times, here’s a brief video on framing your work.