Crowning the Top Brawler at the 2014 Concrete Decor Show

New to the Concrete Decor Show in 2014 was a Brawl in the Fall competition where eight preselected teams of decorative concrete professionals vied for a chance to win their part of $10,000 in cash and prizes, with the first-place team netting booty worth $5,000.

Everyone attending the show received a ballot when they entered and was encouraged to visit the eight competition areas to observe and question the artisans at work. Toward the end of the show, attendees chose their favorites and cast their ballots to help the judges pick the top three winners. The winning projects were determined by attendee votes and six judges, Clark Branum of Diamatic, Nathan Giffin of Vertical Artisans, Jeff Kudrick of JM Lifestyles, Frank Lewis of Sundek, Jim Peterson of Concrete Network and Chris Sullivan of ChemSystems Inc.

“I liked the fact the teams worked on their projects while the show was going on and people had a chance to ask questions,” says Deco-Crete Supply’s Jason Geiser, the event’s emcee. “The teams interacted with the attendees and that’s what we wanted to achieve.” His job was to broadcast each team’s ongoing progress and interview them as they worked.

“The projects were over-the-top,” Geiser says of the award-worthy entries each so different from one another. “I think it gave a good overview of what it is that we do and what’s possible as decorative concrete professionals. Every facet of decorative concrete work was being done somewhere.”

Cash and prizes valued at $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, were awarded to the first- and second-place teams. Third place received $1,000 in prizes, and Merit Award winners placing fourth through eighth received $400 in prizes.

cast and carved concrete fireplaceFirst-Place Winner:

Ellie Ellis

Elite Artistry
Happy Valley, Oregon

Ellie Ellis works as a decorative finisher and had little experience in concrete, but her detailed molds and the gorgeous fireplace mantel she created proved enough to win over the judges.

Ellis is a member of IDAL, the International Decorative Artisans League that co-located its annual conference with the Concrete Decor Show. While perusing the website for information about the IDAL convention, she came across the Brawl application. On impulse, she applied. When she was selected, “The stress started,” Ellis recalls. “I realized I would be competing against people who have worked with concrete for years.”

cast and carved concrete fireplaceEllis replicated a relief of a medieval scene she had made for her fireplace at home that had taken more than 200 hours to complete. To suit the competition’s timeframe, she made molds of the different elements using products from Polytek and cast the pieces in FGR 95, a fast-setting gypsum cement mix from USG Corp. Upon arrival, an 8-by-6-foot fireplace frame was built and Ellis’ work began.

No stranger to troweling, she applied Flex-C-Ment to make the fireplace resemble stone. The easy-to-use white vertical mix, she says, reminded her of a Japanese plaster she had used before.

Ellis’ project attracted a lot of attention from passers-by. She poured concrete into her molds and affixed them in very creative ways to the frame using the vertical mix. “It was very intricate,” says Geiser. “People could see work being done on something that was functional rather than abstract.”

Ellis says she normally doesn’t like to work with clients looking over her shoulder, but this was a different experience. “The people were all so wonderful and easy to talk to,” she says.

One of Ellis’ team members, Eva Gallant, took the fireplace home with her at the end of the show.

As a result of the show’s exposure, Ellis plans to offer her collection of more than 200 molds for sale on her website.

The first-place team received $5,000 in cash and prizes including six sets of vertical stamps from Flex-C-Ment and a mortar sprayer from ToolCrete, a concrete mixer, polisher and pads from Flex North America, a set of Connors Quarry Stone stamps from Proline, a wooden bench mold from Butterfield Color and a CME4 moisture meter from Tramex.

Artificial rock waterfallSecond Place Winner:

Adrian Gascon

Creative Waterscapes
Ventura, California
Rod Russell-Ides
Signature Gardens

Dallas, Texas

Adrian Gascon and Rod Russell-Ides had worked together only once before, in 2001, to construct a replica of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes for a Catholic church in Houston. Upon completion, they parted ways. When Gascon heard about the upcoming Brawl in the Fall in Fort Worth, he contacted Russell-Ides and convinced him to join forces again.

The reconnected duo combined their strengths in GFRC and faux rock and waterscapes to a second-place win by the judges. They also won the People’s Choice Award.

Artificial rock waterfall frameworkTheir entry consisted of a waterfall with six 4-by-12-feet linked panels “so we could bolt them together fast because we had a time limit,” says Russell-Ides. They attached the panels to their framework and used different vertical mixes to fill in the voids. The side panels extended down to form a water runnel, which emptied into a terracotta pot surrounded by ferns and other decor.

“People do these things in their backyards but it was really cool to see that on the show floor,” says Geiser. “This team definitely put in the most hours.”

Russell-Ides had not been to an event like this before and is pleased he was able to share his livelihood. “Most of the time I do jobs like this in someone’s backyard and no one sees it unless they have a big party,” he says. “This was out here for everyone to see what is possible with this kind of construction. I thought the whole event was amazing and I discovered many things about concrete that I never knew.”

The second-place team received $2,500 in cash and prizes including a Rattle Stick from Rattle Stick, seamless texture mats from Barnsco, SpiderLath rolls with strips from SpiderLath, an iPad mini from HP Spartacote and a woodworking kit from Walttools.

Stenciled concrete that looks 3-dimensionalThird Place Winner:

Rachel Bruce

FLOORmap Stencil Design
Bella Vista, Arkansas

Rachel Bruce, an artist well-versed with color theory, puts that to good use with her stencil manufacturing business. Using color theory, which determines the placement of line, color and shading, she makes flat surfaces look three-dimensional. At the Brawl, she achieved amazing results with her “melting” Rubik’s Cube.

Through the placement of color, the bottom of Bruce’s cube looked like it was melting into a swirl of red, blue and yellow, while the top “popped out” above the floor. Attendees stopped to stare, posed for pictures of themselves “sitting” on the cube or even laid on the floor for a picture that looked like they were flying on it.

“Her project was something you could interact with,” says Geiser.

Rubiks cube concrete stencilBruce says she had fun and learned a lot. In retrospect, she says, it would have been more visually appealing if more of the stencil had been done ahead of time. “It was difficult for people to tell what was going on because everything was covered up with vinyl” until almost the end of the competition, Bruce says.

Despite that fact, her work spoke for itself and the people responded by declaring her project a winner. And that, she says, was the first time she had ever won a competition. “I won third place and I felt like I won first,” she says.

The third-place team received $1,000 in prizes including a screed set from EZ Screed Tools and rolls of SpiderLath without strips from SpiderLath.

Thank you to the sponsors who provided prize money and product donations to the competitors.

Each of the eight teams received in-store credit from Deco-Crete Supply, acid stain from Kemiko and a PB 550 vacuum from CDCLarue Industries Inc.

Midwest Rake, The Wooster Brush Co. and Nox-Crete donated cash for the competition. Midwest Rake and Wooster Brush also donated tools and supplies.

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