Tamryn Doolan, owner of Surface Gel Tek, has long been in the business of turning simple concrete surfaces into striking works of art. Continuing in that tradition, Doolan’s new endeavor, Caribou Art Studios, brings her talents to a whole new venue — exterior walls.
“Beautiful enough for the inside; durable enough for the outside” — the Caribou Art tag line highlights both the aesthetic and practical advantages of the product. Using the same technique as Surface Gel Tek’s trademarked Flattoos, Doolan is able to create a limitless variety of designs on framed concrete panels that can withstand the elements.
All Caribou Art pieces begin the same: Doolan trowels the concrete onto a slab of Hardie Backerboard. Although limited in size (the largest she’s done is 3 feet by 5 feet), Caribou Art is endlessly customizable.
“I get a lot of people who say: ‘I like this, but can you do it more like that?’” says Doolan. “The answer is always ‘Yes, I can.’” Doolan says she gets inspiration from everywhere — from panoramic views of Needle Rock near her home in Mesa, Ariz., to random images from Google searches.
Of the 50 or so pieces of Caribou Art that she’s done so far, Doolan’s favorite was a reproduction of a Modigliani portrait. Doolan’s client was a big fan of the Italian painter and asked if Doolan could recreate it in concrete. Not only could she do it, but the result was so appealing that Doolan is certain there will be more Modigliani in her future.
Caribou Art is not just versatile in terms of style and color, but also in technique. “I’m not limited to acid stains,” says Doolan, who used black acrylics and red pigments in addition to standard stains when doing the Modigliani piece. The fact that most patios are covered also means Caribou Art enjoys protection, in some measure, from direct sunlight, eliminating concerns about color bleaching or fading.
The aesthetic appeal of Caribou Art is also not limited to the piece itself. Caribou Art is designed to complement the decorative concrete in a patio floor or countertop, says Doolan. The pieces can also serve to tie an exterior living space into the overall decorative theme of a house.
Doolan anticipates developing a line of Caribou Art kits — consisting of a precast slab, graphics, stains and sealers — for the DIY crowd, but for now each piece of Caribou Art is handcrafted in her studio. In addition to being available at a few storefronts in Mesa, Caribou Art may be special-ordered through the Surface Gel Tek Web site (look for the Caribou Art Studios link).