Monday, December 13, 2010

Faux Bois--A lost Art

Faux Bois In Concrete www.

Well , today I learned that the decorating we are doing on the house is actually a lost art and is starting to be revived by some folks all over the world old pieces of Faux Bois are quite collectiable and sought after by collectors , soooo I guess our place will be a collector item for our grand-kids one of these days , who would have thought , ha ha , I'm posting a few up-date pictures of the work and it should be finished in a few days and then we will paint the green part of the house a light tan color , should look good. Hope you enjoy the pictures and the story from the web.

This school of art goes back as far as "art" itself. From our very beginnings, artists have been fascinated with the infinite variety of shapes, forms and textures that Mother Nature expresses in trees and their wood. And while the French are indeed to be credited with giving this art a name, there are examples to be found that far predate the existence of France as a nation.

The modern schools of this art today encompass two principle branches. One employed by highly skilled wood finishers that involves itself with making "lesser" woods such as pine, have the appearance of a "finer" or more exotic wood. The other branch creates three dimensional representations of wood and wooden objects by applying various cement-based mixtures onto a steel framework or "armature", and sculpting it to mimic the real material.

The subject of this brief essay is the three dimensional variety,
also known as Ferrocement Faux Bois.

Ferrocement Faux Bois is a very popular and much sought after category among serious antique collectors. One of the most notable of whom is Martha Stewart, who collects antique as well as modern works executed by the very few remaining artisans still practicing this craft. Sadly, there are only a handful of artisans alive today who are capable of executing Faux Bois at the masterwork level.

The most familiar works are those imported from Europe by antique dealers specializing in garden art. Typically they have what I refer to as a "French" finish composed of a gray, lightly sanded mortar mixture of Portland cement and sand. What few people today, including many collectors, do not realize, is that the vast majority of these pieces were at one time painted. Often quite garishly. Thankfully, nearly all of the paint has succumbed to the nature of the concrete and fallen off, leaving only a faded and aged patina. Many of these works are crude. Others more convincing in their detail. Most of the better pieces were constructed from about 1880 to WWII, but there were a few very capable craftsmen still producing an utterly amazing body of work well into the 1950's...right here in America.

Today, the very best of those major works rightfully represent an entire category on the National Register of Historic Places. And there is a serious movement taking place to add many more and restore them to the former glory that as much as a century of neglect has all but erased in many cases.

The process of creating these works is at once complex, technically demanding and extraordinarily labor intensive. It involves first building a steel framework (referred to by sculptors as an "armature"), securing and forming metal mesh known as "lath", then building up multiple layers of concrete, mortar and often pure cement paste. All the while, shaping, sculpting and detailing the material as it hardens. Once the process of adding cement-based media begins...there is no stopping. The material will not wait and absolutely must be worked from beginning to end. Complex and highly detailed works can often require an artist to work non-stop for 12 to 24 hours to achieve many specific effects. Little wonder it is less than popular with today's generation of artists. But there are rewards for the few who invest themselves in this demanding art, as well as the buyers of these rare works. Because the time and effort put into a quality piece is also reflected in its' longevity. Properly formulated and skillfully placed modern cement formulations can endure exposure to the elements for an estimated fifty-thousand years. How's that for "heirloom".

And while works of this calibre are obviously rare and understandably expensive, they can still be found or commissioned by a properly skilled sculptor


LindyLouMac said...

Good to know you are helping to revive a lost art :)
Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to continuing to follow your blog in 2011.

Martyn said...

Malcolm and Ciejay

Your home is coming on a treat, it really is looking grand. The wood effect looks so real in the photos and with your planned light tan paint finish on the walls it's going to look a million dollar home. Even at today's low exchange rates that's still a one big baht compliment.

I hope Ciejay is well on the road to her old self.