Fu-Tung Cheng, award-winning designer and author of Concrete Countertops, is now offering five-day Advanced Countertop Design Training. Held in Berkeley, Calif., the trainings are limited to 12 participants. They include hours of direct instruction by Cheng. They also include demos and videos of techniques to execute Cheng-like designs. Additionally, there are extensive question-and-answer sessions and the hands-on crafting of several Cheng countertop designs.
Cheng says he developed the Advanced Countertop Design Training because he believes that many countertop craftsmen could benefit from a crash course in the fundamental principles of good design. In turn, this will help them to develop their own creativity. Cheng believes that this type of design training would give them a heads-up on competing for upscale countertop projects.
The skill required to build a mold and pour a concrete countertop is one thing. However, developing the design sensitivity to craft the kind of countertop the high-end market is seeking is quite another, Cheng says. He is concerned that the use of concrete as a material of choice by designers and architects could be undermined by too many well-meaning contractors pouring what looks like “a sidewalk on top of a set of cabinets.”
The focus of Cheng’s Advanced Countertop Design Training is design in all its manifestations. The first session, held the week of May 24, began with several hours of design instruction. Cheng sought to impart to the participants his overall approach to kitchen design. He walked them through every step in his consideration of space, layout, lighting, materials and textures. Additionally, he also speaks on a myriad of other design elements. He then shifted from kitchen design to countertop design. This included the decisions he makes on form, edging, color, decorative inlays and special features.
Cheng assigned a kitchen plan to the participants. Participants were able to sketch out their own ideas and exercise their own creativity for a countertop design. He then individually worked with them to help develop their designs. Cheng structures the design portion of this intensive training to give contractors insights into the thought process and vocabulary necessary to effectively communicate with architects, kitchen designers, and homeowners. Cheng emphasized that this is the key to the high-end market in countertops, a market where they’re not likely to be asked, “How much do you charge per square foot?”
From design theory to hands-on craftsmanship
The training session moved from instruction and Q&A to a day of demos and videos that illustrated how Cheng creates various forms and features used in his countertops. The participants had the opportunity to watch Cheng blending colors to create subtle effects. They then could try their hand at it themselves. He also shared with the participants several trade secret processes associated with achieving the distinctive glass-like finish of the Cheng line of Geocrete countertops.
By the end of Day Two, Cheng was ready to assign the attendees their countertop projects he designed for the training curriculum. He broke the class up in groups of three, Each project included design features and techniques taught during the Advanced Countertop Design Training. However, he left many of the design decisions respecting color, decorative inlays and other elements up to the participants.
On day three, the groups constructed their molds and built forms for knockouts. They also positioned and secured their decorative inlays and poured their countertops. While countertops cured, the participants engaged in a Build Your Business forum. This included subjects like Countertop Pricing and Marketing to Design Professionals.
Finally, on Day Five, participants de-molded and finished their countertop projects. Cheng spent several hours critiquing the countertops with respect to both design and technical execution.
In an effort to create an elite group of concrete craftsmen, Cheng is using the Advanced Countertop Design Training as the first step toward a certification process. The process will require the submission of several commercial or residential projects. These projects must utilize design principles and techniques taught at the training session. Cheng-certified concrete craftsmen will be eligible to work on Cheng’s commissioned concrete projects nationwide.
For information on the Advanced Countertop Design Training, call (510) 849-3272 or visit the Concrete Exchange Web site.