It all started from a bag of leftover cement that’s now grown into a business that draws up to a hundred participants at workshops.
Alvin Chan, founder of Concrete Everything, discovered his interest in being a concrete craftsman through an innocent incident. One day when he was walking past a construction site in Singapore, he spotted bags of leftover cement and decided to “borrow” some, scooping it into an NTUC plastic bag.
After some experimenting, he fashioned a DIY mould out of a milk carton and created his very first concrete lamp.
Four years ago, the 28-year-old knew that he had ventured into a relatively untapped market and started selling his handmade concrete products through international platform Etsy, and collaborated with local platforms like Naiise and Megafash.
Now, the entrepreneur is in the midst of one intense juggling act. Not only does he have to run Concrete Everything while working a full-time nine-to-five job, he also has to carve out time for his family of four.
By day, he works as a design lead in the financial sector and by night (and on weekends), he becomes a concrete craftsman.
Spilling the beans on how he handles all this without burning out, he shared that the challenge motivates him and he feels a strong sense of fulfilment from doing something he enjoys.
Besides, he’s always had somewhat of an entrepreneurial streak, with quite a few projects under his belt. Having graduated from NTU with an industrial design degree also helped in his DIY projects.
He gains a lot more satisfaction from running Concrete Everything as compared to the normal nine-to-five job. Thanks to the company, he’s constantly meeting new people and he’s able to create new things every day.
“Anything can happen and I like that kind of dynamic,” he explained, adding that he is considering becoming a full-time craftsman.
“Concrete is actually really easy to work with”, Alvin explained.
Unlike the type of concrete used in buildings and structures – which involves a precise mix of gravel, cement, et cetera – the concrete used for crafting is much more forgiving.
All you need is some cement mix, water and a mould. Pour the mixture into the mould and leave it overnight to dry and you’ll have your final product.
You can produce anything just from this simple process, from intricate decorative pieces to sturdy furniture.
For instance, crafting more intricate pieces like these concrete mooncakes was simply a matter of making the right moulds. To illustrate how simple it is, he even used a silicon baking mould to fashion the concrete meringue.
Personally, out of all the designs he showed me, I liked those with a marbling design best.
From trays to side tables, stools and table tops, the possibilities are really endless.
For Alvin, the most satisfying part of the process is breaking the end product from its mould and examining it for any imperfections.
Lines and cracks and holes can tell tales. Rather than to think of them as mistakes, see the imperfections as a story of the process to create it, he urged.
Besides making bespoke pieces for customers, Alvin also conducts workshops for corporates and individuals or small groups. If you’re keen on adding a new DIY piece to your home, you can consider attending the workshops he conducts every two months.
The workshops are held in his house, a 11-minute walk from Seng Kang Mrt, which also doubles as his studio. This way, participants get to enjoy a more cozy and laidback experience.
By working from home, he hopes to show others that crafting with concrete doesn’t require fancy equipment. It’s really simple once you’ve attained the know-how.
Sessions will be conducted in his living room and participants will be working on different projects simultaneously. For instance, someone could be constructing a mini stool next to another person who’s working on a marble planter.
With the concrete flooring running through the apartment and the heavy use of wooden furnishings, you can immediately tell that you’ve stepped into the space of a crafter.
Also, don’t be surprised if you happen to see a curious child intruding in your lessons! Alvin’s young daughter seems to have a keen interest in picking up the craft too.
For those interested in learning a new skill, the next available workshops will be on 31 March 2018 and 1 April 2018.
It’s so interesting to see how you can make a whole range of products just from a simple cement mix. I definitely have my eye on learning how to create those swirly marble designs!
Prices: S$15 – S$250 (Pre-made products), Workshops begin from S$60
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