Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hypertufa Workshop

It was a dark and stormy Saturday morning..........Lou Madrew (yes, her name rhymes) and I had planned to go to an all-day workshop to learn how to make hypertufa, and with an 80% chance of rain predicted for the whole day, we considered cancelling, but when I called Kandy, she said, "It's not raining here! C'mon, and we'll have a great day!" So, we went, thinking maybe she would reschedule when the rain moved back into North Little Rock. But the rain never came (no more than a few drizzles), and we did have one of the most fun workshops I've ever attended.

I won't go into the history, recipes and techniques of hypertufa, but Google will pull up over 400,000 sites where you can learn more if you're interested. Basically, it's a medium using Portland cement, vermiculite, peat moss, and sand and can be poured and molded into all kinds of troughs, bird baths, flower pots, and decorative pieces, but unlike cement alone, it's light and quite movable; and in time, it takes on a beautiful, weathered and ancient look.

I got totally inspired, even before the workshop began, wandering through Kandy's leafy, shady, tall-grassy backyard and discovering her handmade, eclectic treasures; I loved every inch of it. There's even a hypertufa waterfall with gi-normous goldfish in the pool below.

Working with hypertufa is muddy, messy fun, and I was transported back to making mud pies with my sister and cousins on our grandmother's front porch. I did a few mosaic stepping stones last year, but Kandy takes it to a whole 'nother level, and now I've got a mosaic dulcimer and pink mosaic flamingos on my to do list. And those leaves! They were our favorites and just screaming for all manner of artistic applications and interpretations. I've begun looking around for huge leaves, like elephant ears, banana trees, rhubarb, etc.; when I find a stash of them, I'll have an afternoon of leaf casting in my own backyard.

She served us lunch of chicken salad and fresh strawberries and told us stories about her historical home and intriguing life. She has reason to believe that she's Al Capone's unacknowledged grandchild. I kid you not. Her husband, Jimmy, is an actor and set designer in the local theater and has been for many years. He showed us how to pour hypertufa flagstones in minutes that look exactly like the real thing. Hypertufa is hard (as a rock) in 24 hours but requires 28 days to cure.

You can find the Garage Sale Queen on Facebook, and she has a book that you can download. Her art is displayed around Little Rock, including pieces at the Starving Artist Cafe. She is all kinds of fun, and I can see her with her own TV show. I think most of us could teach ourselves hypertufa techniques from books and instructions on the net, but it's fun to discover the beginnings with others, and Kandy shared with us some variations that didn't quite work for her, always good to know. I went to Home Depot on Monday and loaded the back of the Kia with the makings for hypertufa, and I'll be posting my pieces here with more detailed info on how it's done. When Kandy offers an advanced mosaics class next summer, I plan to be there, rain or shine.


  1. Great pics of your day of making hypertufa at your workshop!! I recently just made a bird bath with a hosta leaf. You can see it on my blog. Made a few more little pots today. Can't wait to see how they turn out. Would love to take a workshop and make some other creations with hypertufa. Looks like so much fun!


  2. Cat, how sweet you are to say all these nice things about us! BTW, your art is awesome! Mucho talent! And if any of your readers are interested in playing in the mud in my backyard....I have 2 classes coming up...Friday, June 25 and Sat June 26. They can go to my website for more info. I can't wait to see your tufa art!!! I have no doubt it'll be great!
    Kandy (THE Garage Sale Queen)

  3. I am just facinated with the tufa trough with the ladys face on. How was this done? Was this put on after the mold was created? Sincerely Linda Nelson

  4. Also I was wondering if you could give me any tips on how to create a trough with an image of a face such as your's as seen on this site, or a animal image of the same sort. I am a beginer in the art of Tufa. I have as of now just made large pots and bird-baths. once again--- sincerely Linda Nelson

  5. thanks for sharing...sounds fun.