Turtle Shells: In the Studio


Each turtle sculpture is a single piece of cast concrete and can be reproduced in a limited number of additions. The concrete material is a highly reinforced fiber cement material known a glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). The high tensile strength of GFRC allows for an exceptionally thin application of the material (the turtles are hollow shells that are 1.5" thick) thus reducing the over all weight of the sculpture with out reduced structural integrity. GFRC is commonly used in the building industry in applications such as facade panels, planter boxes, benches and fountains. Prior to the casting of the finished concrete turtle sculptures, a great deal of studio fabrication first occurred. The initial step was to create full-scale models of each turtle. My design included three individual turtles from which five sculptures would be cast.

In order to cast a form such as the turtle, a mold of each piece had to constructed. The flexible layer was an inner skin of polyurethane rubber that recorded the intricate surface detail from the original clay model. The rigid layer, or "mother mold", gave a structure to the thin rubber layer and maintained the volume of the turtle shell. Together, these layers were fabricated in several parts so that they could be assembled and disassembled for each casting.

Stonewear, located in Carson City, Nevada did the GFRC casting of the turtles. Stoneware had a history working with artists and had a product line of very handsome work, so when I approached them about the idea of working with me on this project, they were very enthusiastic. When the casting was done, I traveled back to the Stoneware facility to do the final staining and sealing of the concrete surface on each of the five turtle sculptures.