Massif –  a geologic term referring to an integral part of the Earth’s crust.

The Artist, Larry Isgur

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.

Larry graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Geophysics.  After graduation, he took a position designing and building equipment to test air pollution for Cubix Corporation, where he eventually rose to the position of President.

In  1999, Larry left Cubix to pursue  an invention, the Catio, an outdoor housing for indoor cats which controls cat odors.  The Catio was a critical success, gaining a “Cat Fancy” ‘Best New Product’ award.

At the same time, Larry also built and ran a coffee shop, Jo on the Go, in San Marcos, TX.  Sold two years later, Jo on the Go is still a popular venue on the edge of campus.

In 2001, Larry and his best friend, Carlos Garza, became interested in concrete countertops.  They went on to form Caldera Design where they produced concrete countertops, fireplace surrounds, decorative window sills and numerous other custom pieces which adorn homes all over central Texas.

Larry branched out and began building reusable concrete molds from which he produces multiple planters, fountains, tables, benches, and other works all out of concrete.  His work features simple clean geometries rendered in unique new forms and has been featured on the cover of “Austin Home & Living.”

Massif Concrete is Larry’s latest venture (with help from fellow concrete artist, Greg Bright of Ancient Art Countertops).   His planters and fountains can be found at local retail outlets  Big Red Sun and East Austin Succulents.   Because of the versatility of his medium Larry is able to design concrete products to suit a wide range of needs.  Serving both residential and commercial clients, Massif Concrete creates original tables, chairs, bars, countertops, bath features, lighting fixtures, mailboxes, and signs, according to individual specifications and ideas.  Recent commercial clients have included the City of Austin, Leslie Fossler Interiors, Mark Word Design, and Chez Zee Cafe.

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.