Use of concrete materials for small objects, such as flower pots, bird baths, stepping stones, etc.
Success of experiments at Devereux Mansion in mould making, and in the use of color in tiles, etc.
Application of craft to cooperative work-shops in hospitals and sanatoria and to individual handicapped workers.
Preparation of cement, necessary appliances, and description of processes employed.
Illustrations of steps in making a cement flower pot.
About ten years ago in searching for suitable occupations for the handicapped Dr. Hall and one of his assistants, Miss Edith Griffin, a skilled designer, hit upon the idea of using concrete materials for the making of small objects such as flower pots, bird baths, and the like. At the time the field was practically new. There were no suitable moulds in existence. The principle, of course, was well enough known and well applied in large architectural work. It became necessary to undertake a long series of experiments in order to produce small moulds which would work satisfactorily and with little danger of disappointing results. The better part of two years was devoted by Miss Griffin and her assistants to the task of designing such moulds and the more difficult problem of getting them cast satisfactorily in iron. Finally, however, a group of a dozen very attractive flower pot moulds was evolved. The materials and the moulds are not very heavy; the operations may be done with comparatively little outlay of strength and the results are most satisfactory.
The flower pot making as it has been carried out at Devereux Mansion in Marblehead and in a number of hospital workshops elsewhere has developed unexpected value as an emergency occupation for people who would otherwise be idle. All classes of workers find interest and pleasure in making the flower pots. There is apparently a steady market for well designed and well executed concrete work for in-door and garden decoration. The flower pots have been found to be of special value to florists and plant growers everywhere. The thick walls of the pots are somewhat porous; they take up considerable quantities of water and hold it for a long time, keeping the earth moist and serving the plant in a very satisfactory way, much better than the ordinary terra cotta flower pot which is waterproof and which easily drowns the roots if the accompanying saucer is kept filled with water. With these new pots it is not necessary to water often because of the extra moisture retained. It is believed that infrequent watering is a distinct advantage to the plant, approximating conditions of nature which gives but infrequent showers. However that may be, it has been possible to restore badly drooped and very unpromising plants by the use of these new flower pots. The old-fashioned flower pot is cheaper, no doubt, but a considerable public is willing to pay for the interest and adaptability of the new ware. New possibilities are continually suggesting themselves along this line. It is evident that only a beginning has been made. Now that it is possible to produce satisfactory moulds, it is only a question of time when designers will give us forms and decorations which will put the new ware upon a firm basis of artistic and technical value.
The new flower pots represent only one small field of possible work with cement. All over the country there is a growing interest in attracting birds and in making conditions favorable for their continued stay, consequently the bird bath has become a very common and desirable adjunct to the garden. There is no end to the possibilities of shape and decoration and arrangement. The making of moulds for bird baths is a very simple process and commonly the amount of material used does not mean heavy lifting for the worker. Garden seats of cement are now used very generally. They are practically weather proof and may be made most attractive. Stepping stones of concrete are a most interesting and useful product. At Marblehead a series of experiments is now under way which seems likely to produce attractive and inexpensive mosaic tiles in color, for fireplaces, vestibules, floors, and garden walls.
This kind of work may be done on a large scale in special workshops or it may be done at home by single workers provided with inexpensive equipment. All in all, cement working is one of the most easily available and practical fields of work for the handicapped. The worker need not be a designer, because the moulds if properly made will determine the design for him. On the other hand, if he has ingenuity and taste he may devise moulds for himself which will be productive of good results. The materials used are very cheap and the products have a value sufficient to make the work reasonably remunerative.
The beginner, in undertaking cement work of the kind which has been suggested and used so successfully as a handicapped occupation, should secure for himself to start with a few iron moulds, a little trowel such as is used by professional moulders in the foundries, a good sized mixing spoon, and some ordinary agate ware basins of good size. From a dealer in masons' supplies he should purchase a bag of Portland cement and a few bags of medium fine building sand. We use at Marblehead, Atlas Portland cement; almost any good brand will do. The sand must be sharp; that is, it must not be so fine or so water-worn that it has not sharp cutting edges, and it must be free or nearly free from loam or clay. Any practical builder or dealer in supplies will pass judgment on the materials. There will be need of some half dozen primary metallic colors: these can be obtained from Waldo Bros., 45 Bat-terymarch Street, Boston, and from B. F. Drakenfeld and Co., 50 Murray Street, New York City, in the crude primary shades; and in several interesting blends of soft and pleasing tones at Devereux Mansion Shops, Marble-head, Mass. To make a flower pot it is necessary to mix the cement and sand dry, adding a little coloring matter of one sort or another as desired. These materials are thoroughly mixed together with a spoon in the proportion of one part cement and two of sand; the amount of each ingredient will be best determined by experience, as it varies, of course, with the size of the mould. When the mass is mixed a small quantity of water is added, a teaspoonful at a time and stirred in. This added water is taken up by the cement which after a few hours will harden. If the mixture is too wet, it will stick to the mould; if it is too dry, it will crumble and be unsatisfactory. Only experience can teach the exact degree of moisture which is best. A good test is made by taking a handful of the moist mixture and squeezing it with the fingers; there should be no excess of water, but the mass should adhere together showing the imprint of the fingers. This little handful which is held together by its own cohesion should be easily broken apart, leaving a fairly straight line of cleavage. Generally speaking, about a half cupful of water to a mixture for the ordinary sized flower pot is sufficient. The usual mould consists of three parts: the carrier, which is a little hollow square made of brass; the core, which is of smooth iron and over which the carrier sets (this core is a solid shape of metal which fills the space later to become the inside of the flower pot) ; finally, the mould proper, hinged together in such a way as to fit around the carrier, leaving a space for the cement between the wall of the mould and the core. A glance at the accompanying sketch will show how these parts are assembled. The pots are always made upside down so that they may be lifted off the core without difficulty. When the mixture is ready the mould, the core, and the carrier should be brushed over with kerosene. A small paint brush is best to use for this. It is necessary to cover all parts of the inside mould, the core, and the carrier so that the cement will not stick later to the surface of the metal.