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Book review: “Concrete Design” by Sarah Gaventa

I was looking for other books about Concrete Crafting and this 2006 book “Concrete Design; the extraordinary nature of concrete” by Sarah Gaventa was suggested.

It was in Reading Central Library and so I went and perused it there. It is quite different to the other three books on concrete that I have reviewed they were all aimed at crafters, this is more aimed at people interested in design, and not focussed on making.

In the introduction the book traces the history of concrete crediting the development to the Romans, while indicating others had developed similar substances. The introduction also looks at iconic concrete builds ranging from Rome’s Parthenon to London Zoo’s Penguin Pool.

The body of the book looks at the work of leading designers and architects in the domestic context. Many of the examples are large, such as spiral staircases, walls, floors and concrete furniture. But there are also smaller examples, such as Kelvin Birk’s concrete bowls with silver liner and Kathy Dalwood’s planters. For me the most memorable picture is Ron Arad’s Concrete Record Deck, I have found a link to his complete stereo on the V&A site, if you want to see what I am talking about!

Before reading this book the only architect I could name who worked with concrete was Cesar Manrique, and that was because I have visited Lanzarote where he was very influential. I felt it a shame he was missed from the book, but then maybe his sphere of influence was limited.

If you are interested in concrete and design this is an excellent book to look through, the pictures are excellent. If you are looking for it in Reading Central Library it is on the first floor under Architecture, not the second floor under Fine Art as the catalogue suggests.

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Which concrete making book to choose?

I have now reviewed three books about concrete making:

  1. “Concrete Crafts” by Sania Hedengren and Susanna Zacke
  2. “Concrete Crafts” by Alan Wycheck
  3. “Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters” by Hester van Overbeek

They all have their merits as books that a crafter may like to own, but they also have shortcomings.

Interestingly two of the books share the title “Concrete Crafts” however they have different subtitles:

  1. Simple Projects from Jewellery to Place Settings, Bird Baths to Umbrella Stands
  2. Making Modern Accessories for the Home and Garden

Hendengren and Zacke’s book has some 30 different projects, some are quite quirky, such as a bookend in the shape of a bottle. The photographs of the objects they have made are beautiful, and inspirational. But the instructions in the book lack details and will be difficult to follow.

Wycheck’s book is US centric and so some of the products recommended are not available in other countries. I didn’t find his suggested projects inspirational. BUT his step by step guides are fantastic with clear instructions and plenty of pictures.

Van Overbeek’s book is similar to Hendengren and Zacke’s, with beautiful pictures.

Van Overbeek, Hendengren and Zacke are obviously people with interests in a wide range of crafts, and they all have prior experience of writing craft books. If I was feeling skeptical I would say that they were commissioned to write these books, and then learnt sufficient about concrete making to complete the commission. On the other hand Wycheck knows a great deal about concrete, and has managed to present his knowledge in an accessible way (at least if you understand the US terminology).

So which book would I recommend buying? For general perusing and inspiration either Hendengren and Zacke’s “Concrete Crafts” or van Overbeek’s “Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters”. For technical details Wycheck’s book is outstanding.

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Book Review: Making Concrete Pots, Bowls and Platters by Hester van Overbeek

This is a beautiful book, with suggestions for making: pots, bowls and platters that are right on trend. Any crafter would be pleased to receive it as a gift, for all the clever suggestions as to what can be made with concrete.

However I would not recommend it to someone who was a beginner, it does not contain very much about making concrete. There are lots of ways of making concrete, and it is certainly possible to experiment but as a beginner I would rather have guidance than lumps of unusable concrete, that my local authority will charge me to dispose of. This book is rather like a cook book showing fantastic decorated cakes and saying you can make all these cakes with ready mix or use basic ingredients available such as flour, butter, eggs etc, and then giving lots of details about baking tins and icing.

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Book review: “Concrete Crafts” by Sania Hedengren and Susanna Zacke

“Concrete Crafts” by Sania Hedengren and Susanna Zacke is sub-titled: Simple Projects from Jewellery to Place Settings, Bird Baths to Umbrella Stands

The authors are Swedish and have published a number of craft books using different media including upcylced objects, yarn and concrete. The blurb on the dustcover of this book says their books are translated into seven languages worldwide. Their Swedish roots don’t particularly impact on the book, readers cannot mind the fact the “Hello” sign is in Swedish, the only problem I saw was they suggested using a “big sour cream container”, here sour cream is not used very much and only comes in one size.

The book has some 30 different projects, some are quite quirky, such as a bookend in the shape of a bottle. The photographs of the objects they have made are beautiful, and inspirational. The problem with the book is the instructions lack details and I suspect it would be easy to make mistakes while following them.

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Book review: Concrete Crafts by Alan Wycheck

Alan Wycheck’s book “Concrete Crafts” is sub-titled: “Making Modern Accessories for the Home and Garden”.

Glancing through the book I thought it not very suitable for me as it was very US oriented. The measurements were all imperial, the products used were available in the US, and even the language was American (e.g. mixture was to be made to look like “sticky oatmeal” – I assume that is porridge!). The projects also seemed to be large, the first project was to make paving slabs (what the author calls “pavers”).

But when I read the book in detail I found I really liked the step by step guides, each was accompanied by lots of helpful pictures. The choice of the projects (particularly the early ones) didn’t inspire me to try making any of these artefacts, but I know a lot more now about concrete making then I did!

So if you are looking for a book that shows you how to make concrete objects, and you are happy with American terminology this would be ideal.