Massif – a geologic term referring to an integral part of the Earth’s crust.
The Artist, Larry Isgur
NEWS FLASH: Jeff Lehman has just purchased Massif Concrete – stay tuned for more as we welcome Jeff into the mix – so to speak.
Larry Isgur was born in Pasadena, TX in 1963 and grew up in southwest Houston. Even as a young boy, he was always curious about how things worked. As a result, his toys were in a constant state of disassembly.
An Interview with Larry Isgur for East Austin Studio Tours
First off, you have an incredibly varied business background, including creating a cat biosphere that controls pet odors (please correct us if we are wrong) which was called the Catio – a priceless name if there ever was one. Could you tell us a little bit about how you arrived at creating functional concrete installations for a living?
I always had the entrepreneurial spirit. And never could stand working in a structured environment. I love to create things with my hands; things that are useful. When I found molded concrete, I knew I had found something that would not only play to my strengths, but that would continually challenge me and keep things interesting. The durability of concrete is a big attraction, but also a call to create only simple, timeless designs. My creations will last hundreds, if not thousands, of years – even exposed to the elements. So the real test of their durability is whether they can withstand society’s changing tastes.
We’re not entirely informed as to the history of using concrete in a more artistic fashions than roadways and buildings, but why do you think it has emerged as a medium that people love to have in their homes?
There’s something about concrete. Sure, it’s man-made stone. But it’s still stone. It’s beautiful and durable and can be made pleasant to the touch. It can take virtually any shape. It can be colored, ground, inlaid, backlit, and plumbed. What’s not to love?
What are the challenges/benefits of working with concrete?
Benefits – See above. Challenges – Concrete is heavy. So its a challenge to move and install. But also, it’s heavy in the mold. Vertical molds have to be built to resist a lot of weight. Also, staining is a challenge. There are different sealers that can protect the concrete, but you lose some of the tactile aesthetic. Then there are waxes, which feel great, but are not impervious. Then occasionally, we find the rare client who is willing to let the concrete patina naturally. Which boils down to a matter of tolerance and patience. And, I should mention that there are some new sealers just out that promise the best of both worlds. It’s exciting, and we’re always experimenting with new sealers.
Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on and what made it special?
Last year, GARDENS commissioned me to create a concrete bench, table and fountain for a west Austin residence. The bench was molded onsite and turned into place. It weighed over 3000 pounds in the mold and took 10 men to turn. And it landed within an 1/8” of its intended location! The table and the fountain were special because they both were molded as single pieces and contained an internal support system that allowed them to cantilever far beyond what one would normally expect.
You wrote in your artist bio that you are exploring using more recycled materials in your work. What would this entail?
I’ve been mixing styrofoam into my concrete creations where applicable. It makes the concrete so much lighter. And it saves on the amount of concrete I have to use. And if mixed properly, it isn’t detectable. So far, I’ve been buying bean bag chairs on the cheap and using their styrofoam fill. But I have plans, as demand dictates, to create a styrofoam mill that would allow me to recycle styrofoam packing materials into a usable form with concrete.