Growing up in the mountains on a remote piece of property near Spokane, Washington, was just the setting needed to instill a limitless imagination, work ethic and determination into Roch (pronounced Rock) Fautch.
When Fautch was 5, his family moved to a “shack of a house” with no running water or electricity. Fautch’s father, though, a creative soul and engineer, saw the potential. The home remodel was the perfect training ground for Fautch to build, landscape and dream.
Though Fautch, now 55, believed any career was within reach, his parents suggested science or engineering over art, in order to make a living. He studied electrical engineering in college until realizing that didn’t suit him. Instead, for a few years he traveled with rock bands doing production, lighting, sound, pyrotechnics and special effects. It was fun, but once he got married, the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle came to an end.
“The choice at that point was go back to school and finish my engineering degree and sit behind a computer for the rest of my life or do what I’ve always loved,” Fautch says, “which is building anything.” So he went back to concrete and became a finisher and a contractor.
Fautch’s experience with concrete started early. At 13, he began working for his best friend’s father, a housing developer. Fautch recalls eating lunch with his friend while watching someone on kneeboards finishing concrete. He told his friend, “That looks like the most boring job ever.” A week later concrete showed up at a job site but the finisher didn’t, so Fautch and his friend were given the job.
“Not having the slightest clue what we were doing, I actually thought it was interesting and kind of fun,” says Fautch. After that, he worked for a variety of contractors. He started his own company in the ’90s, employing almost 30 people, which he shut down due to divorce. Fautch also continued to develop his artistic skills.
He remembers being 4 years old when his cousin showed him a book with a Salvador Dali painting in it. “It was like a light bulb went off in my head,” he says. “I told my cousin, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do when I grow up!’ I’ve always painted and sculpted and was driven to learn how to work with a wide variety of mediums.”
Eventually, a Rathdrum, Idaho, company heard about his artwork and began recruiting him as an artist and concrete specialist for its artificial rockwork creations. He ended up creating GFRC features in numerous casinos and amusement parks.
“Because the company owner knew of me as an artist and concrete guy, he wanted me for his rockwork,” Fautch says. “After about six months of him trying to get me to come out for an interview I finally went out to see him. I wore a pair of rubber shoes that looked like bare feet.” The employer decided that was the kind of creativity he needed on his team and Fautch got the job as sculptor, mold builder and concrete specialist. He still continues to wear and make those shoes on commission.
After leaving that company, he spent some time as a freelance finisher and formed a partnership which dissolved about three years later. Then, Fautch went on his own with Magicraftsman Co.
“During the winter I spent most of my time on painting and art,” he says, “but I got fed up with the periods of starvation when you’re not working, which led me to figure out a way I could use concrete year-round.”
It was at the Rathdrum company where Fautch was first introduced to GFRC. The company got its panels from Rodger Embury at Rock & Water Creations in California. “As an artist with an engineering background, I wanted to know everything about this material — the chemistry, strengths, weaknesses and every other aspect that I could figure out,” Fautch says. This knowledge of GFRC gave Fautch ideas for using the material that no one else in the industry was doing. “I talked to people in the industry about what I was thinking of doing and everybody said, ‘That’s impossible, you can’t use it that way,’” Fautch recalls. That’s just the kind of challenge he enjoys.
He began testing the boundaries of GFRC by creating items or slabs and leaving them exposed to the elements, to observe how they held up. Fautch realized that GFRC could be used as a fine art medium and for more practical applications that he could do year-round.
Fautch spent five months working eight to 12 hours daily to build a 7 1/2-foot-tall GFRC dragon named Enlil. Fautch used all of his experience, incorporating building and construction, clay and fiberglass techniques, sculpture and concrete finishing to achieve his desired outcome with the GFRC. Enlil weighs about 1,100 pounds, with wings only an inch thick, which support the full weight. The dragon was direct carved, without using any forms or stamps.
Other GFRC projects involved floors, decks, showers and baths. Fautch created a GFRC shower at his own home. “I stamped the whole thing to look like Italian slate,” he says. “It looks like Carrara marble and has no seams or grout joints and performs better than any other material out there.”
One of his GFRC decks looks like it belongs in the Flintstones’ era. “I made it look like the columns were made of boulders with a foot-thick slab of broken granite perched on top,” he says. “I made a concrete railing and in the corners of the railing, I have two concrete trees coming out of it.” This 10-by-8-foot deck’s flooring is 3/4 inch thick GFRC that was finished and stamped to look like old granite. The stamps were made of native granite found on the home site.
Also for this house, Fautch fabricated a steam room from stamped GFRC that is 100 percent seamless from the floor up, including the ceiling. This ongoing project also includes a stairway, interior water feature and a swim spa as well as flooring.
Homeowners for a project he is set to begin are determined to avoid the use of tile, so Fautch will create all interior items, including flooring, a vertical carved kitchen island, showers, baths, fireplaces and countertops with integral backsplashes from cast-in-place and finished GFRC.
Fautch also has a studio where he fabricates unique furniture, tables, fireplaces and other artistic designs for clients and collectors. His art gallery exhibits his own work and that of others. In November 2014, he and three friends published the first issue of an arts and literature magazine called Terra Obscura. The second edition published March 2015. He also plans to publish a smaller monthly magazine that will focus on the artists he features in his gallery.