When I first started working with portland cement I had no idea of how hazardous the material could be. Naively, the first few times I started slathering on the cement mixture, I wasn’t wearing long pants, long sleeves or the proper gloves. Actually I was very fortunate. Cement can be rather nasty to work with and I now am taking excellent precautions. If you have any desire to work in this medium, be sure to always weara respirator mask, eye protection, long sleeves, long pants and nitrile gloves. The nitrile gloves guard against chemical cement burns to your skin.
That being said, I do love working with cement, mortar and versabond. I also love the natural materials you can pair with cement, such as glass, stone and metal. Ever since I was a child I gathered rocks, pieces of glass and odd objects. I’ve always gravitated towards anything made of tin. But one of my grandest obsessions has been my love of hand tools. I have the hardest time leaving behind any old tool made of wood and metal, especially if it is of a small variety … something that fits a woman’s hand. There, I’ve said it … I love tools … I’m the perfect woman to take to the hardware store!
When you are making a cement piece, whether it be a sculpture, wall or patio, you always need to make sure it has structural soundness. Usually a sculpture will have things like rebar, metal lathe, hardware cloth or chickenwire giving the piece good support. It might be a combination of all of the above. It is essential to make sure your armature is very much one strong piece. Only after that is constructed can you think about adding any cement.
Some of my first cement pieces are actually pretty major pieces, standing over 5 feet tall. I am now experimenting with some small gallery-sized sculptures. Truthfully, the small pieces are as much work and time, if not more, than a large piece. It all depends on the complexity of the piece.
One of your first considerations, of course, will be the base and how your sculpture will stand and be supported. Depending if it will be an indoor piece or outdoor sculpture will determine what type of base you will want to make.
To be continued.