colour and concrete

Carole Vincent's first association with concrete was as a child, helping to make concrete blocks in her father's builders yard in Crediton, Devon. In early days at Half Acre, it was used for many building projects. In the 1970s she used concrete occaisionally for sculpture and it is interesting to note that the pieces were then painted bright colours. In 1982 she wanted to create larger sculptures, could not afford to use stone or bronze, and so took to concrete!

As an artist working in concrete on a comparatively small scale, her main concern has been improving its visual appearance. Early experiments were with natural aggregates, mainly limestones from the West Country, which provided a subtle range of greys, browns, pinks, yellows and whites. The highly polished surface exposes the texture and enhances the natural stone colours.

In 1992, Carole began experiments with pigments and there were possibilities beyond the enhancement of natural stone colours. The discovery of bright reds, yellows and greens as well as blues offered the full pallette of a painter, making it possible to pantone match almost any colour. The success of colour concrete depends very much on understanding the technology of concrete. The marble aggregate used is well graded from 4mm to dust, white cement allows for purity of colour, all ingredients are weighed to points of a gram, and water-cement ratios are carefully monitored and kept low with the addition of super-plasticisers. Mixer times are carefully monitored to maintain consistency of mixing in the Creteangle paddle mixers, or Kenwood mixers. The variable ingredient is the admixture.

Since 2001 all mixes have been made with a self-compacting concrete (SCC) super-plasticiser and viscosity modifying agent. SCC produces a free flowing concrete mix which does not require compaction or vibration. It allows the aggregate to remain near the surface, which can then be exposed by grinding and polishing. Filling moulds has been quicker and easier than with the older semi-dry mixes that had to be rammed in, layer by layer. It also made possible Big Bang (see 'more information' below) with fibre optics in concrete.

Those who think of concrete as just a practical building material will be astonished by its beauty. The highly polished surfaces reveal texture, form a full spectrum of colour with all the time-proven assets of concrete: flexibility of form, strength and durability. For Carole, the association of ideas and materials is fundamental. Her work with pigments has achieved remarkable success opening new doors for architects, engineers and planners. She likes to work to commission for specific environments which may range from public spaces to individual buildings and gardens. Her work frees concrete from stone imitation to an artistic material in its own right. Carole has worked in concrete for over 30 years and continues to extend the boundaries of concrete design.

more information...

'Big Bang' - by Carole Vincent.

Big Bang - fibre optics in concrete.

Big Bang lit up looks like magic. In fact, it is a result of modern technology which allows light and data to travel the length of a very small fibre. Light can travel about 30 metres and data many, many miles.

This 450mm sphere is solid concrete weighing 122 Kg. Three hundred and fifty fibres, 0.75mm, 1mm and a few 1.5mm, were threaded through holes drilled in the fibreglass mould. They were bunched together into a sleeve which comes out of the base of the sphere. Before casting in concrete, the mould inside looked like a cat's cradle of fibres.

Self-compacting concrete of black marble was poured into the mould to completely embed the fibres in the solid mass. Eighteen hours later, the mould was removed, leaving the sphere looking and feeling like a prickly hedgehog. The fibres were nipped off with nail-clippers and became part of the highly polished smooth surface after rubbing down.

The sleeve of fibres is connected to the light source at the base of the plinth. A sparkle wheel with white, blue and red, spins before the light source to produce a wonderful display of sparkling lights in the black concrete sphere.


Using a variety of ideas, including the application of embedded fibre optics, Carole created Big Bang, and other similar projects which utilise varying light sources to produce a display of sparkling lights across the surface of a black concrete sphere, which was exhibited at the Devon Guild exhibition in recent years.



Carole is available on e-mail: