Pennsylvania artist Robert Stadnycki has excelled in a number of media: textiles, painting, furniture. Last year, he tried decorative concrete for the first time, collaborating with SunWorks, Etc. LLC to craft three countertops in his distinctive style for a kitchen in Ellicott City, Md.
SunWorks, a decorative concrete company based in Annville, Pa., had been asked to remodel the kitchen by Ellicott City architect Craig Stewart. The architect sent SunWorks a conceptual drawing inspired by Stadnycki’s work. “As it turned out, we knew Robert,” says Barbie Sunderlin, a partner in SunWorks with David Leas. “He lived in a nearby town. I asked if the clients would like us to have Robert collaborate on the project. They were thrilled.
“We arranged a meeting with the architect, clients and artist to make sure we were on the same page. The architect had even brought along a piece of Robert’s artwork that he had purchased years before, which was great because the homeowners, Craig and Robert were able to discuss various elements of the piece that they especially liked.”
SunWorks used GFRC and large casting tables to cast the pieces without seams, foregrounding the design elements. “Craig and the homeowners were excited to have glass beads, metal shavings and geometric shapes included,” Sunderlin says. ”With Robert’s collaboration, we made round concrete discs in various colors that contained either glass beads, copper, steel or combinations thereof. We then cast the discs into the countertops, along with drain grooves and an inset for a cutting board flanking the sink.”
Stadnycki did the staining himself, with technical consulting from SunWorks. “Having never stained concrete countertops, Robert was thrilled to develop new techniques,” Sunderlin says. “For instance, he used acetone-based stain and water-based stain, sometimes building layers and sometimes placing stain, then all but removing it. Once he familiarized himself with the parameters of staining concrete, he really flourished.”
Mastering the art of staining required new approaches, Stadnycki says. “When I paint a floor canvas, I start with light colors and go to dark. With concrete stain, I realized I had to do it in reverse.” He would put down a darker color, then use acetone to wipe away space for lighter colors.
It was worth it — in fact, Stadnycki says the project even helped him beat cancer. “It gave me a lot of motivation to get well,” he says. “It was one of the most joyous projects I’ve ever worked on.”