Between YouTube and Pinterest and online classes, getting inspired and learning new craft techniques is easier than ever. So when Hallmark Illustrator Matt K. is asked to teach a group of designers something he’s never tried himself—in this case, making DIY concrete vases—he starts online.
“I get a little nervous,” he admits. “But the guy who trained me said, ‘The important thing is just to know a little bit more than everyone else.” He researches and experiments with the basics, then relies on his students—professional creative themselves—to figure out the rest. “I don’t feel like I have to know everything,” he tells us. “You create better, cooler things when you collaborate.”
How to make concrete vases
I didn’t want to do anything really complex to start with, since I’m a novice at it…just see what’s out there. Figure out how to make forms, what kind of concrete to use, how to get it out of the form. I was looking at design and texture—what could we put in that would leave impressions, like a leaf or lace? You learn as you go and become more familiar with the materials and the process.
We started with simple concrete vases.
SUPPLIES FOR BASIC CONCRETE VASES
- Plastic water or soda bottles in different sizes
- Plastic straws
- Cardboard tube to hold your mold steady
- Screws or tape
- QUIKRETE® Quick-Setting Cement
- Acrylic paint or wax metallic finish
- Vegetable cooking spray (like Pam)
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Drill and bit the same size as your straw (approx. 1/4”)
- Utility knife
- Rubber Gloves
- Wooden stir stick
- Rubber gloves
- Newspaper (to cover surface)
Creating molds for concrete vases
The top of your water bottle will be the top of your vase, and you’ll use a straw to make room for your stems.
- Use a utility knife to cut the bottom off your water bottle.
- Drill a straw-sized hole in the cap on your water bottle.
- Poke the straw into the hole in the cap—it should go about half-way down the water bottle.
- Hot-glue the straw on top of the cap to hold it in place.
- Spray the inside of the water bottle with cooking spray.
- Set your bottle upside down inside a piece of cardboard tubing to hold it steady while you pour in the concrete.
[Editor’s note: If you’re already ready to throw out the assignment and try your own thing—not that we know anyone like that—you can make different kinds of vessels with a bigger container and a smaller container. We’ll cover that as we go.]
Mixing your concrete
- Follow the directions on your concrete mix—you want it not too runny, not too thick for your concrete vase.
- Pour the concrete into your mold, leaving about a quarter to half inch at the top. (Which is the bottom.)
- Gently shake or tap your mold to knock out any air bubbles.
- Leave your mold in its cardboard tube stand, making sure it’s level.
- Let it dry, as recommended in the instructions for the mix.
[Editor’s note: If you’re going the smaller-container-inside-a-bigger-container-route for your concrete vase, coat the inside of the bigger container with cooking spray and fill it about half-way with concrete. Push the smaller container into the concrete so the concrete rises up the sides between the containers. Keep your containers spaced the way you want them by putting tape across the tops, or drilling holes in the sides and poking screws or nails through, or weighting the smaller container down with rocks.]
Finishing your vase (or planter or whatever)
- Use scissors or a knife to cut the plastic (or whatever you used) and pull it away from the concrete.
- Be careful at the neck. You should just be able to remove the cap, twist it gently, and pull it off.
- Let it sit a little bit longer to make sure it’s completely dry.
- Pull out the straw.
- Use a metal file or coarse sanding block to smooth the bottom.
- Paint with acrylic paint, or use metallic wax rub to highlight the texture.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are infinite ways to use different materials to make forms. After describing the process, Matt talked about his next workshop and showed the techniques he wanted to try on Pinterest, like incorporating glass, and using bubble wrap and heads of lettuce (!!!) for texture. “I get bored when things become monotonous and formulaic,” he confesses.
We’ll share those creations when we see —Matt already has another concrete workshop scheduled. And we beg you to share yours with us on Instagram and Facebook.
Photography by Lindsey Mehlhorn