Functional Art
by Martinique Davis
Aug 26, 2011 | 2016 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Bolane runs his hand along the curved edge of his sculpture of two concrete columns bisected by a chasm, reminiscent of the slot canyons of the Southwest.

The work-in-progress reflects the style Bolane feels most drawn to, he says –  organic and flowing.

But this Ridgway business owner isn’t a sculptor, per se; rather, he works on projects like this in his spare time.

And while he doesn’t call himself an artist or sculptor, Bolane’s concrete creations for homes and businesses are indeed art.

Bolane is the owner of Distinctive Concrete Finishes, a company specializing in custom concrete countertops and stained concrete floors. On an elemental level, this craftsman’s wares are functional: bathroom sinks, kitchen countertops and living room floors are his forte.

But Bolane’s artistic side is omnipresent in these traditionally unembellished architectural elements, from Distinctive Concrete’s uniquely shaped sinks to its countertops mottled with exposed aggregates and its creatively colored floors.

A tour of his Ridgway-based workspace reveals why Bolane’s products are more than just functional facets of a home or business. From the conceptual stages through installation of the final product, this craftsman is intimately engaged in every step of the process, infusing an imaginative dimension into every step.

“No two projects ever turn out the same,” Bolane says, describing the process by which he crafts his one-of-a-kind pieces.

Concrete is an extremely versatile medium, and Bolane starts each piece by scaling down the almost limitless options for color, texture, finish and shape into a basic design concept. He can infuse a countertop with any color on an artist’s color wheel, but says he most frequently chooses earth tones of muted brown, rusty red, dusky blue and earthy green (he can also acid-stain a floor or countertop to achieve a variegated look).

Bolane next determines the type and exposure of the aggregate, which is mixed into the raw materials along with the color pigments. The addition of aggregates like sand, gravel or recycled glass lends a concrete countertop depth and dimension; Bolane can create both a very polished-looking surface, with very little expression of aggregate, or he can craft a deeply textured finish by adding an aggregate like recycled glass, which delivers deeply contrasting color and grain. Additionally, he can adorn a countertop with embedded objects like fossilized ammonites, creating an eye-catching detail.

While the almost limitless options for color and texture give Bolane great artistic license, the actual shape and design of something like a kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity enables him to take the creative process even further. He utilizes the most traditional rectangular shape for many countertops, but he is happy to branch out into less ordinary forms.

“I’m always excited to throw in a curve, or play with more organic shapes,” says Bolane, who fabricates his own molds, so he can easily branch out from the ordinary to craft anything from a sloping sink to a kidney-shaped countertop.

It was the versatility of concrete that first sparked Bolane’s interest when, working as a carpenter, he had a number of projects that incorporated concrete floors. The adaptability of the medium piqued his creative side, and soon he was learning how to make concrete countertops, benches and more.

He opened Distinctive Concrete Finishes in Ridgway ten years ago, when concrete was a less well-known material.

“I was inspired by its versatility,” Bolane says. “You can work with unlimited colors and different thicknesses, and do things like integrated sinks and curved edges. Plus you can do it all seamlessly and still achieve the mass you’re looking for, unlike with marble or granite.”

Ultimately, crafting out-of-the-ordinary countertops and floors keeps Bolane’s creative drive going. The continued prospect of taking something traditionally ordinary – a floor, or a countertop – and crafting something extraordinary is at the heart of Distinctive Concrete Finishes, and a continued source of inspiration for its owner.

“Turning concrete into a work of art” is, after all, the company’s motto.
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