Two brothers – both Concrete Artisans. Can you tell us a little about your shared background and affinity to the industrial material?
I (Andrew Stuart) have degrees in Photography and in Set Design. Thomas (my brother) is a master carpenter with expertise ranging from finish carpentry to fine furniture to house building. I am a minimalist at heart and many of my set designs reflect that. Tom has always admired the clean lines of shaker design and a lot of the old coastal New England architecture. I guess, to us, our approach to these different mediums or trades is the same – stripping things down to reveal the essence of something. We first merged our talents in 2005 when we opened a full-service scene shop which catered to the arts and events industries. We had both always admired the concrete work of Buddy Rhodes. It was over dinner one night that we started talking about creating products (other than countertops and sinks) using concrete. It was important to us, to explore the idea of making a beautifully tactile object that completely transcended normal definitions of concrete. So, with that, we launched Obelisk.
Breakfasts and dinners are now not complete without some research materials, sketchbooks, and pencils strewn across the table.
Obelisk manages to bridge the gap between rural and urban aesthetics. During conceptualizing, do you envision your designs in a pastoral cottage or city loft? Both?
Concrete is very much at home in any setting really. We have both lived in both lofts and in coastal homes and now a former bakery. Interior and exterior space has always been important to us. I think it has informed our designs. The simplicity of our forms, the beauty of the material makes it an interior designers dream to work with. We have even designed candle holders and hurricanes for a church in Texas which were a huge hit.
Concrete can be a focal point or an accent but it is always a conversation piece.
For those new to concrete, can you elaborate on the medium’s natural characteristics? For example – are the concrete bowls food-safe and do they absorb water?
Left untreated, concrete will absorb water. We finish everything with an FDA approved sealer. Each item gets several coats of sealer and is then polished with all-natural beeswax. It’s the subtle variations in color and pattern that emerge with each item that makes concrete so beautiful. There is an inherent richness and depth that we strive to capture with our unique process. Like any material, you need to work with it for some time and get to know it to truly understand the characteristics of it.