It seems, these days, you can’t walk into any space without finding a concrete piece that grabs your attention. They glitter living, working, and even retail spaces; there’s nothing like the fresh yet cosmopolitan look of concrete pieces adorning tables, windows, or even floors to give a natural and earthy vibe.
Locally, this trend could be credited to concrete crafter extraordinaire, better known as “the Concretist”, Faisal AlGhoul. About one year ago, Faisal had a vision that accidentally came to him in the form of a cement mixture.
Though he insists he didn’t have an artistic bone in his body before playing around with the element, his wife Dima Saymeh believes the contrary, claiming that her husband has a “quiet artistic side,” and the way he turns concrete mixtures into works of art proves her theory!
It all started with a construction site nearby the couple’s home, where Faisal found himself transfixed with an open bag of cement. He took some home, and decided to experiment with it, and created a variety of designs, one of which resembled a candleholder. “After that, I created pots and coasters, and graduated to planters and a cigar ashtray. This was the piece I was most proud of.” Faisal reminisces. “I only started this out of curiosity, and it escalated to making things for our home.”
But because Faisal was producing so many beautiful pieces, close friends and family members took notice, and he began to expand his craft as homemade personalized gifts for their loved ones. “With their growing popularity, and with a lot of encouragement from friends and family, I then decided to test the local market.”
Though Concretist had lots of initial support and encouragement, joining the local market wasn’t an overnight occurrence. “It took me a long time to perfect the mixture. The way cement is cured determines the outcome of the final product, and I wanted something that would always look polished.” Faisal succeeded with that perfect mixture, resulting in beautifully crafted, smooth and original concrete pieces, but insists there is always room for improvement. “The nice thing about concrete,” he adds, “is that it becomes more beautiful with time, and using the right mixture definitely contributes to that beauty.”
After Concretist’s public debut from Instagram to Qout Market last year, the demand for Faisal’s cement creations had only increased. “People are 28 always putting in orders, and most of the time, they’re very understanding of the fact that it takes time. It isn’t like baking a cake!” he laughs. But luckily, those who are pressed for time and are looking to gift somebody with a piece from the collection, have the option of inquiring about stock items. “I end up producing a lot of the more popular items in bulk, so we do have a stock of ready-to-go items.”
Alongside Dima, who runs his PR and branding, Faisal is a one-man operation. He mixes, molds, and cures the concrete with his own two hands. She also swears that though Concretist’s merchandise is created in the comfort of their pristine home, messes are limited and Faisal is very mindful when creating. “It gets messy, but we always manage to clean it up!”
Concretist is most known for its beautiful planters, which are sold ready-to-display with a prepotted succulent of sorts. “We go for succulents because we’re a bunch of dessert babies and people want something they can care for easily,” Dima explains, “and something that’s hard to kill!” Faisal laughs. They mostly plant succulents, cacti, and more recently, artful bonsai trees that would add harmony to any home. Concretist has active plans to expand their collection with new items, but we’ll have to wait and see what they have in store for us!
“I’m just a guy who likes to experiment with concrete.” He says with a smile, as he proudly glances at his most favored creation – the cigar ashtray, made with the very first mixture he ever made. And with that, we know that this accidental passion has turned into a talent.