Mixing it up from cocktails to concrete plant pots
When Stefan Gitschner started making concrete pots, he never expected to form a business.
But when he started posting pictures of his work on Instagram, a month ago, there was an outpouring of interest.
“I wasn’t thinking of selling them,” he said. "It was a hobby more than anything.“
But then people started messaging him about them, and making requests.
“It took off from there,” Mr Gitschner said.
Sand and Stone Bermuda was born offering decorative pots, planters and other items made from concrete.
During the pandemic, Mr Gitschner’s business Twisted Spoon Cocktail Company had slowed down. With all the lockdown and social distancing regulations, people just did not need a mixologist. Even when restrictions lifted a little, people were still frightened to get together.
Mr Gitschner was bored sitting at home. He was inspired to try concrete after seeing his friend, Stratton Hatfield, working with the material to make art.
“I thought it was really cool,” Mr Gitschner said.
Mr Hatfield showed him a few techniques, and Mr Gitschner took a concrete course through the online education website Domestika. He didn’t realise that when he signed up for the course that the website conducted classes in Spanish.
“I think it is based out of Mexico,” he said. “There are English subtitles. I lived in Texas for a few years as a teenager, so I knew a few words. The course was very good.”
The bonus benefit of the course was that his Spanish improved.
But his first attempts at making concrete pots did not go so well.
“There are a lot of broken pieces of pot in the shed,” he admitted.
The first time he tried to make something out of concrete he followed the instructions to the letter, but did not take into account Bermuda’s high humidity.
“So when they say let something sit for 24 hours, it is more like 48,” Mr Gitschner said. When he took his first creation out of the mould, it fell apart.
“It was a bit disheartening,” he said. “That was a two-day effort. Then I could see that it was still wet. That prompted me to develop more patience when dealing with concrete, and just let it sit.”
When he first started dabbling in concrete, he did not know what to expect in terms of ease or difficulty.
“I just kind of did it,” he said. “A creative side mixed with stubbornness, led me to move forward and give things a shot.”
Mr Gitschner said his products may look simple, but actually take hours and hours to make.
“There is at the very least, 68 hours worth of work in each,” he said. “I cut everything out by hand. I build the mould and then there is actually mixing the concrete. You have to sift it. I am learning all these new techniques and failures that push you in the direction of doing something differently.”
One of the challenges for him has been getting the proper materials.
“We are a smaller island,” he said. “Some of the things I wish I had are just not readily available.”
He uses a concrete with a polyfiber to add strength.
“I also use a bonding agent with it that seals the concrete,” he said. “You need various amounts of drills and electric sanders. To make the mould, I have been using a foam board to cut them out. At this point that is not sustainable.”
He would like to use a silicone mould but has not been able to source the materials for that.
The bit he dislikes is mixing the concrete.
“Compared to mixing drinks, mixing concrete is a lot harder,” he said. “With mixing cocktails the rewards are a bit more instantaneous.”
At first he struggled to find a method that worked for him. Now he uses a sugar duster normally used in baking, to sift the concrete mixture first. It is tedious work.
He said making the planters is a messy job, but rewarding.
“I am loving the work,” he said.
His products range from $25 to $50, depending on the size and complexity of the piece. They are available for delivery or pick-up.
He has learnt that people appreciate handcrafted goods in Bermuda.
“But there are not too many outlets in Bermuda to promote the work,” he said.
Ultimately, he would like to get his products sold at a plant nursery or farmer’s market.
“I am looking for someone to partner with,” he said.
For more information see sandandstonebda.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.