Feature: Elizabeth Rice of Concrete Theory

Elizabeth Rice is a Milwaukee native who creates and designs concrete goods. Her work often features geometrical shapes and greatly involves plants and greenery. She has participated in maker markets around Milwaukee and loves contributing to the maker network in Milwaukee.

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Where did your inspiration behind Concrete Theory come from?

I am constantly inspired by design & culture around me. Concrete Theory began as a weekend project in a time when I was experimenting with a new medium each week. I was living in Austin, Texas when I planned to try something different each week for a few months.  Two weeks in, I fell in love with concrete. I have always loved puzzles and problem solving. Mixing concrete and using recycled and found objects as molds for my work is the ultimate puzzle!

What does your creative process look like when it comes to making concrete goods?

The process often times begins when I least expect it. A take-out container, an item at the grocery store, or a trip to Home Depot have been known to spark an idea in me! I begin with finding the exterior mold for the object that I want to creste. These vessels range from milk cartons, to to-go containers, coffee cups to gift boxes. The puzzle component comes in next when I need to find a smaller, interior vessel. When the molds have been designated, I hand mix the concrete and pour it into the  forms to set. Waiting until the concrete has cured is crucial and releasing the item from its vessel is very satisfying!

What’s one thing you’ve learned since starting Concrete Theory and how has it impacted your creative process?

Great question. As satisfying as the end result can be, the process of creating with concrete has been a lot of learning through trial and error. One thing that a lot of people may not know is how fickle concrete can be. I have learned that each bag of cement is variable in texture and grit. I am constantly surprised by how different materials manifest the production of concrete. For example, cardboard is too porous, aluminum does not release cleanly, and shape and size can affect the integrity of the object.

What inspires you about Milwaukee?

Being a native of Milwaukee, I have a lot of iconic memories in The Good Land. However, I am loving the influx of new restaurants, shops and buildings lately. Shapes and textures inspire me. The geometry of new buildings in contrast to the lake is breathtaking.

I am also very inspired by the community here. I have found the local business and the “maker” communities to be welcoming and supportive.

 What is your go to shop to buy plants from in Milwaukee?

 I love Rojahn & Mullaney for large orders and beautiful fresh florals & Bayside Garden Center for tropical and succulents. I always find unique plants at ModGen, Ursa, and the seasonal farmers markets (I’d love to hear where others shop for plants!)

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