The Importance of Community


In this recap of the Legends of Rock class last week, we underscore the importance of community to creative concrete professionals. We also delve into the engineering design behind the conference table, as well as pay homage to the creative genius of Buddy Rhodes.

For more photos from the class, see Our next class is coming up August 7-11 – see

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Caleb Lawson (00:04):
Hello. Good morning everybody. Welcome to the Maker in the mix. Excited to be kind of back from the Legends of Rock event. It was a really special time. Jeff, do you remember how many people we had on average? It was about 36, wasn’t it? Yeah,

Jeff Girard (00:24):
Yeah. It was a lot.

Caleb Lawson (00:25):
Including us, of course. So we had pretty much full class, full event. And so to those of you watching who missed it, you missed out. So wanted to, I’m actually sitting, you can’t see it, but I’m sitting at the project we made. So yeah, wanted to, those of you again who didn’t show up but were able to jump in on the podcast last week, I think you got kind of a picture of the live chaos on day one of the day one of part two. And so Jeff and I kind of wanted to just kind of minor recap, but really jump into why we chose to do that and why we planned projects the way we do. And just give you a picture of the vision, I guess.

Jeff Girard (01:24):
So what we wanted to do with this event, it was called Legend Rock Stars, and I got my t-shirt showing the Legends part was our main guest, buddy Rhodes. And he was a special guest, especially for me because he was the person who inspired me and got me into this over 24 years ago. And he’s considered widely considered the grandfather of this industry, the grandfather concrete countertop industry, and Fu Tung Cheng as well. But Fu Tung’s kind of, he’s gone back to doing what he loves doing. So he’s not really in the picture anymore so much as Buddy is. And I felt personally that it was important to keep our hands on the pulse of where we all came from, where this industry started from. If you don’t pay attention or understand your roots, you don’t really know who you really are, where you’re going. So I felt that it was very important to include him, to bring him in, and to have people who had never really experienced his style of concrete, his vision for what he wants to make and why he does things the way he does.

Jeff Girard (02:52):
I felt that was very important to kick this event off. So that’s the legends part. The stars part were our special guests who have exemplified their success. Now, not all these people were CCI alumni, but they all were successful, all are successful. And so we wanted to include them to celebrate their success and to have them share their stories, their insights and their wisdom through round tables that we had during class and a after class every day. So it was a way for us to build a community, and that’s going to be something that we’re going to be talking about through the rest of this podcast is the point wasn’t to make exciting pieces of concrete, and that’s it. The point was to reengage my students, reengage them with a larger community, and to start building a community to say, Hey, you know what? We’re all in this together. We all have our own visions, we all have our own passions, but we’re not alone. We have a great support system of each other, of CCI of and the greater concrete making community as a whole. So that was really the core purpose of this event, and I think it was very, very successful. I got some extremely good feedback from many, many people about how they felt that they belonged.

Caleb Lawson (04:33):
Yeah, I mean to me felt like a kind of re-engagement, not that we were out, but I think it felt really good. Is this the first time since Covid that I think our last alumni event was in 2019, and so it was the first time since 2019 that we’ve really made an effort to get the community together in person because of course we’ve got the Facebook groups and things like that and we’re fairly active on those and all of that. But it was the first time that we said what we really need to get back together in person. And I think those kind of moments are the foundation and the building blocks of a good community because online’s wonderful. This is great. It’s awesome to be able to have these technologies, but there is no substitute for being together in person. And I mean, I certainly feel very kind of reengaged.

Caleb Lawson (05:31):
I’m getting texts from people that I haven’t gotten texts from in a while. And so it’s been really nice to reconnect and it was a super extraordinary experience to be with everybody. And in choosing to make a pretty ambitious project, I think you get to see how everybody else works in certainly a high pressure sort of situation, but also how other artisans choose to accomplish goals. And I think that is a super invaluable thing to see in person because when we’re together, we grow and when we’re together, we learn. I certainly learn a whole lot when I’m with other artisans and in talking about how they do things in their businesses. And so that kind of re-engagement in person I think was super important to the community. And so I’m really excited to have been a part of it.

Jeff Girard (06:33):
I’m just thrilled by all the people who took so much time out of their personal lives, out of their business to come to this event. Just a small note of our mystery man who you’ve seen in past podcast he’s on now, but we’re changing the format. Flavien, he came from Switzerland, Flavien lives in Switzerland. Justin came from Singapore, Damo and Terry and Robert came from Australia. And

Caleb Lawson (07:11):
Then certainly we had all over had Canada, we had Jason, John from Canada, and then, I mean both all ends of the continental US. We had Seattle, we had Washington state, we had Florida, we had Pennsylvania, and I mean it was wide. The reach was wide. So having all of those people from all of the far corners of the country and the world really was a special thing.

Jeff Girard (07:42):
So our event was, it wasn’t just a continuous five day event, it was broken up into two sections. And so the first two days were Buddy’s days. He has a busy schedule and he was available on those two days to come and we made a project. And if you bear with me for a moment, so I had mentioned this in the past, he has this book that this was published about 15 years ago. And so the project that’s in this book, he wanted to do this again because he hadn’t done, he hadn’t made this since he published the book in 2008. And this was a fairly complicated project from construction standpoint. It’s the wall and you can’t really see it in here, but if I’ve got looks, the photos,

Caleb Lawson (08:38):
You’ll allow me to share my screen. I believe you need to enable it, but if you allow me to share my screen, I’ve got a picture pulled up so they can see.

Jeff Girard (08:46):
I got to figure out how to do that. Okay, well, I can share mine because I have a picture of it. Oh, well,

Caleb Lawson (08:57):
There you go.

Jeff Girard (08:58):
Great. Let’s see.

Caleb Lawson (09:03):
There you go. That’s the exact pull up. Yep.

Jeff Girard (09:06):
We have the same group of photos. So this is what we made. This is what was in the book. The colors are a tiny bit different, but because buddies in inspiration is kind of at the moment in the book, it’s a slightly lighter yellow and the gray’s a little bit different. But the point is we wanted to do a hand pressed technique and this large three-dimensional, these are hollow shapes that have hollow shapes. So how you do that, how you bring it together was part of the technique. Now, what I really felt was important that this process and this piece really brought to the forefront was the notion that concrete is what you make it and what you want it to be. And for Buddy, it’s an imperfect material that is an extension of his skills and passion as a potter. And he likes to make simple basic things to him. That’s where the joy comes from. And this, oh,

Caleb Lawson (10:19):
Simple basic things, but that have a ton of character because although the methods are fairly simple, I mean you’re pressing concrete into a mold dense, so you get a lot of voids, but what he does with that is so artistic and beautiful, right?

Jeff Girard (10:38):
And I guess if you could could call it imperfect beauty, nothing he makes is intentionally even close to perfect. He doesn’t want it that way. And this piece you could say is raw, is rough, is primitive, but that is the essence of why it’s a beautiful, and B, why I think it’s so important because the message is concrete is an imperfect material, and it’s a bit of a folly’s effort. It’s folly to try to make what you make perfect, perfect, flawless mean. You might as well get plastic if you’re going to do that. So why not celebrate what we’re doing? And this is just one bold example of the approach that you can take. And I felt, and I still feel that it’s important to show people that hey, you could make something that in the beginning when you take it, when you dold it, you look at it and you may not have that vision.

Jeff Girard (11:44):
So you see it as a sense of disappointment perhaps because it’s not what you think you’re making. And the evolution of this piece as it was pasted, we did two or three different layers of different colors or what buddy calls paste, I call grout, some people call slurry. The character of the piece grew and evolved and became a little bit more refined. And so when you step back and look at it as a whole, there’s a character to it that really showcases how purposeful imperfections and character can really be appealing. And it’s not necessarily a flaw. Flaws are things like, well, it’s supposed to be square, but you made it crooked because you weren’t paying attention. Or the form shifted, or it’s supposed to be flat and it cast with a twist or a warp or something like that. Or you got a crack where you didn’t want a crack.

Jeff Girard (12:43):
Those kind of things are flaws and there’s no excuses for them. But if you’re trying to make something that has a certain character, then concrete really lets you push the limits. And there are quite a few people who do this on their own. Dylan Myers, Patrick Golladay, folks like that who have created their own styles and their own visions that are not misco perfect pinhole free, monochromatic, no modeling, no character or anything like that. Well, and there’s certainly a place for that. There’s a place for, it’s a spectrum. It’s absolutely a spectrum. And there’s a place for everybody’s kind of concrete. And this piece here really showcases that you can do things where some people would call it a flaw or rejection. And when you bring it together, you can actually start to appreciate, hey, there’s a different way of looking at this, and it might not be my taste, but I certainly appreciate it.

Jeff Girard (13:41):
And that’s kind of the point here is not, this is not for everybody, but it’s something that not everybody sees or tries to or is aware of. And so that’s kind of why I felt it was important to fold this into this event because it wasn’t teaching people how to hand press. It was to show people, Hey, this is where we came from. At least this is where I came from. I didn’t do this process, buddy didn’t really teach people how to do this process way back when I got started. But the whole idea of making concrete, that’s different colors, that has texture, that has a lot of movement in it, that is what inspired me. All right, I’m going to stop the share for a moment and get back to us. So the second part of this class was

Jeff Girard (14:43):
Our three day, day portion that was a lot more technical. And I’m going to kind of sit up in my chair and showcase what you can achieve when great design and vision are married with great technical capabilities. So Caleb and I came up with this idea, and really the origins of this idea started last October in a class, and then last October we made a little tensegrity table, and it is just a little round table, and you may have seen it on the CCI website or one of the Facebook groups, but it was just a little round end table and Google what tensegrity is. And Caleb came up with the idea that, Hey, we need to do this but bigger. We need to do it on a grand scale and showcase what you can do when you have this bold vision that’s really technically challenging, because that was kind of what he and I wanted to do, is we wanted to really push our limits.

Jeff Girard (15:56):
And that design concept turned into, we were going to make a big conference table, a big classroom table for his shop space where we teach class. And the idea was to make something that basically filled his casting table. So he has a casting table that’s approximately 16 feet long, a little bit longer than that, and it’s about six feet wide. Well, we didn’t need anything six feet wide, but we definitely could fit something 16 feet long had the casting table been bigger, we could have made something bigger. But that was the limitation. And in the timeframe of his production schedule and all that, we stuck with something that was 16 feet. And so I kind of started running with the idea on a tech from a technical sense of, okay, how can we do this? How can we achieve something that is functional, satisfies the criteria of being amazing? You look at it and you go, how can that be done?

Caleb Lawson (16:58):
Well, and I think interjecting here, and sorry, I was off screen for a minute. I moved to my truck because my guys needed to start polishing something. But from, I think in that initial phase, I kind of rendered something up and sent you a drawing with the tensity idea. And from there, it kind of started to evolve because you started really getting into the technical specifications of how’s this going to actually play out in the work? Yeah, so you’re looking for pictures, right? And I can probably pull some up as well.

Jeff Girard (17:38):
This is not the original tensigrity idea. I was going to make a small scale mockup to test this, and I didn’t have time, but I sat and thought about this. I do a lot of design in my head and that it’s beyond just, oh, what does it look like? But from a technical, that’s just how my brain works. I’ll chew on things and do a lot of iterations in my head before I actually start making something, and I’d like to think that that’s helped me save a lot of physical mistakes from happening. Not everybody can do that. Not everybody should do that. That’s just how I do it. So I thought about how this little 10 table worked and physically interacting with it. Yes, you can put a cup of coffee on and things like that, but if you bump, it’s very unstable laterally.

Jeff Girard (18:37):
And I didn’t thinking about this big 16 foot table when you have 10, 12, 14 people sitting at it, bunch of people are going to sit there, they have their drinks or eating lunch, and somebody sits down and absolutely bumps the table or goes to get up and pushes against the table because that’s what you do, and knocks all the glasses of liquid all over the table, and that just wouldn’t happen. Tables need to be stable. And so I kind of thought about how you could stabilize things but still achieve the look and to do it, you would compromise the whole aspect of, wow, this thing’s floating. How is it being held up? And I rejected the idea of that particular way of supporting it, but it didn’t reject the idea of having this big table that essentially was two large. I wanted this to be a cantilever table because a 16 foot table with legs on each end, although it’s big, is not very technically challenging.

Jeff Girard (19:41):
It’s pretty simple to do, and a lot of people have done it. What I wanted to do was something where you had a single leg, it was basically a pedestal table that had big eight foot cantilevers on each end, which in and of itself is not that technically challenging, but I wanted to start loading it with a bunch of people because that makes it technically challenging, that moves it from something that’s just a cool visual design to, wow, there’s something behind this because anybody can build a form to make a shape, but can it actually function for its intended purpose?

Caleb Lawson (20:18):
Well, and I think that’s one of the things that Jeff and I really wanted to play on is over the years, he and I have developed somewhat of a back and forth kind of design relationship where as the non-technical, I’ve gotten a lot, I’ve by osmosis, have gotten a lot of technical knowledge over the years because we worked together a lot. But I am by no means an engineer. And so what tends to happen is that I will come up with something ridiculous. So the previous iteration was in 2019 at my previous shop where we did the large death star or star, a destroyer table with the 12 foot cantilever and all of that stuff with the bass at one end. And my idea there was, let’s have something that looks lopsided and intentional, but very, very difficult to, this should not work. It does not work.

Caleb Lawson (21:15):
And so that was what came out of that. And when we decided to do this, I was like, well, okay, if we’re going to do this, let’s one up ourselves. Let’s design something that’s even more technically challenging, that’s even more impressive. And again, Jeff and I really just wanted to play off of that relationship because I think for a lot of us as artisans, we are intentionally or otherwise, we end up in a bubble where we’re like, well, I have to do all of this by myself. I have to be able to pull this off by myself. I have to be able to X, Y, or Z. And the reality is there is a relationship between designers and engineers that is necessary. I think when, so it’s like I can do a countertop without Jeff and in my sleep, but when it comes to something like this where I want to really pull something off, I think that is, there’s a necessity for the mean, engineering is a trade, is the epitome of figuring out the perceivably impossible. And so I think what we really wanted to accomplish here was let’s do something that is aesthetically stunning and technically pushing the limits of material.

Jeff Girard (22:36):
I think be, having been involved in this industry for almost a quarter century and seeing it grow from just a handful of very talented and technically astute people to where it is now, there has consistently been sort of an adversarial relationship between artisans and designers and technical people like architects or engineers who are, by the way, not nearly the same thing. And I think that does a disservice to everybody who’s involved, because we’re a team. When you have a project for a customer, and ultimately the other team member is your client, and now the client has their vision, their idea of what they want, and they are the impetus, they are the patron of your creativity. And if you have a team that you can work with, that all has a common vision of, Hey, let’s do our best to make this work. Let’s meet that vision. Let’s exceed the expectations of what can be done. And sometimes that means there has to be compromise there.

Caleb Lawson (23:58):
Well, in this case, we compromise the floating integrity leg because we want to accomplish a goal.

Jeff Girard (24:02):
Exactly, exactly. So this on a personal level was a way to show that it doesn’t have to be an adversarial relationship, and the end result can be just as good or even better than the original idea. And it further reinforces this idea of community. So we are a community of makers, of creators, of artists or whatever hat we want to wear, but we’re also as a group members of a bigger community, of external designers, of external engineers, of external clients, of a larger group of people who we can draw resources on. I outsourced some of the steel fabrication now. I did the welding, but I didn’t have the means to cut and shape the plate steel that I used. So I outsourced it, and I brought in a company, an online company to do that for me. And it was a very small example of how thinking outside of your own little world and bringing in other people who frankly maybe can do a better job than you, but even if they can’t, it frees you up to do what you do best, what you have the time and the means and the will and the passion to do that.

Jeff Girard (25:30):
Nobody else can do

Caleb Lawson (25:32):
So well until that point. We often are advocating to our clients like, Hey, we’re professionals. Let us do this. So we advocate for the concept of let the professionals do what the professionals do, but then we’re trying to wear all these hats of, well, I’m also the engineer, I’m also the designer. I’m also, and maybe you are the designer, and I think that’s fair. Maybe you are an architect that has jumped into this and that’s fair. But let’s say you’re not an electrician, so maybe when you go to do fiber optics, you need some help. Or maybe when you go to, do you know what I mean? So I don’t handle plumbing in my projects. That’s not my job. I’m not a professional plumber. And although I could co it together, not the best idea. And so I think that’s where a lot of us don’t practice what we preach in the realm of accomplishing these big, ambitious, ambitious things that some of us choose to do because we don’t involve the trades that actually do this for a living. Right.

Jeff Girard (26:40):
And so this project, I’m going to get back to the project and I’m going to share the first and final concept sketch of it. It was a way to create something that becomes usable and appreciable over time. It’s going to be, if you come to class, you’re going to be sitting at this table and you get to see it, touch it, get on your hands and knees and look at all the bits and pieces and see how it works. If you saw some of my personal Facebook posts of it, I added some flowery texts that is evocative of what I’m trying to show. And in this case, in this project, I used a technique that other people have used, but I haven’t used up to this point, which is post-tensioning. And I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole of the ins and outs of it and the nuts and bolts, so to speak.

Jeff Girard (27:40):
But the reason why I didn’t is because, a, I didn’t learn that in school. So I had to actually order structural engineering textbooks and L and teach myself how to do this because it’s not as straightforward in all cases as it appears to be. You know, go to YouTube video and you can see people doing, they stick a piece of all thread in a piece of PVC conduit, and they call that post-tensioning. Technically, yes it is, but is that the way it’s done in the real world? And can you extract everything out of can you extract its full potential? And the answer is no, you can’t. That is the very, very primitive basic way of doing it. And it works for a lot of reasons, but in this particular application, it wouldn’t work. So I needed to basically figure out how to do this to make this vision work. How can I do post-tensioning the right way, the way it’s done in the real world with every construction project, and make it so that I have a very, very, very high confidence level that my vision, our vision, Caleb and I, vision is achievable. And that was, we’re going to get a bunch of people on there. My design concept was 2000 pounds on the end of an eight foot cantilever, and we had more than that. And there were no cracks. The cables didn’t

Caleb Lawson (29:06):
Deflection. I mean, we expected on that end, they didn’t.

Jeff Girard (29:11):
And that was certainly testament to the design. And if you know anything about engineers is we are technically conservative because, well, we don’t like failure

Caleb Lawson (29:21):
And well, and also there’s liability involved when you’ve got an engineer building a bridge or a building or something. And in this case, if the numbers had been wrong, that’s the potential for something catastrophic to happen even in this instance. And so

Jeff Girard (29:38):
These things, I’m trying to point left-handed here. These things back in the back are just not just decoration. That’s my bachelor’s degree, that’s my MA master’s degree. And then that the big thing is my certificate. I’m a licensed professional engineer in the state of North Carolina that proves that I’m competent and capable of doing what I do, and I am perpetually legally liable for every official design I do. So it’s not just I’m making this up. It’s not something that I have a gut feeling for. It’s not, it’s a lot more than that. And that’s not to toot my own harm. I’m just saying when you start to get into very, very technical things, you need to call on very, very technically competent people who understand the things that are not intuitive, that are not visible, that are not tangible, that 30 years prior experience, if you haven’t done it, does nothing for you.

Caleb Lawson (30:34):
Well, I think a lot about the example, because a lot of us have thought about, okay, should we integrally heat a bathtub or whatever? And I know that people have done it, and that’s great. I would like to do it. And the reason that I personally have stayed away from it to this point is that up until recently, I want to say there’s actually an integral heating element that now is allowed to be used in more than just a floor. And so conceptually it could be done, but up until that point, they are recommended for a specific use. And the liability, if it electrocutes somebody, it’s too high for me to risk. So I think that we have to think in those terms in today’s world, unfortunately, of we can’t just throw something in the mix and hope that nothing negative comes of it. And so I think there needs to be that degree of confidence. And so when we said we’re going to load it to 2000 pounds, I don’t know what your factor of safety was, Jeff, but I imagine it was at least double.

Jeff Girard (31:43):
Yes. And where am I going with this? Let me just share, share the ID screen in case people haven’t seen this. There we go. Can you see that big SketchUp file?

Caleb Lawson (32:01):
Not yet. You guys can share the screen. There you go. There

Jeff Girard (32:06):
We go. Okay. So again, 16 foot table, single leg. So this section here in the middle, that’s red. In reality, it’s not red, but sketches are just conceptual. And I made it look pretty, is sort of an homage of how steel bridges are connected. They’re pin connections that allow rotation. And so this is actually got an inch and a quarter or three centimeter diameter grade eight bolt that holds everything together. So it was unnecessary to make it that way, but I’m, I complicated the design because it looked cool, and B, it satisfied something in me to pay homage to structural elements that I’m familiar with. And I wanted to bring that in into this design piece. So there are lots of other elements here. The skinny lines are galvanized lifting cable, very high capacity lifting cables that are anchored to the floors. And there’s some other photos that we can show of that.

Jeff Girard (33:24):
But the overall design was okay, we came up with a design and I spent many months doing all the math to figure this out. And in the end, what we came up with was a project that all these folks who came from around the world could work on and they could get their hands in it, they could see how it works, they could understand. I gave a brief lecture on how post-tensioning works from an overall abstract way. I didn’t get in, well, I did end up using some numbers, but I didn’t get into any heavy math or anything like that. But I wanted people to understand that most of the time you don’t need any of this. Most of the projects most people do, and most people are asked to do, are rather technically simple, which is a good thing because that means your chance of success, your confidence level, and your comfort level is very, very high.

Jeff Girard (34:25):
And that’s the way you want to work. If you think about a big company that produce, but a company that produces shoes for instance, they don’t worry that every other shoe they’re going to make, the soles are going to fall off or the laces are going to break. They, they’ve done all their due diligence and research and testing to know that once they pull the trigger, push the button, the machine starts spitting shoes out, they’re all going to be good. And that’s the way you want to run your business. So in a way, this is a good lesson of we make things that are cutting edge, but you don’t want to be bleeding from that. You don’t want to suffer because your concepts were too far out of your grasp. And then somebody pays for it. And guess who pays for it? You do. So this was risky and we wanted to make it feel uncomfortable because that’s how you grow when you push yourself, when you push your ideas, whether you’re trying a new pigment or new texture in your concrete or a new mold, or in this case a new structural design, there is a discomfort, a level of discomfort.

Jeff Girard (35:37):
And when you do that in a safe space where you do, you allow failure to happen, then you grow from that. What really is something that, a message that I’ve touched on and talked about over the years is you never ever want to experiment on a paying customer’s job. You don’t want to test out a new sealer. You don’t want to try out a new pigment. You don’t want to try a new mixes on, you’ve never used before because you have no, A lot of

Caleb Lawson (36:08):
Us do it.

Jeff Girard (36:09):
Yeah, a lot of us do it. And it’s it there it you’re gambling and rolling the dice every time. And how many of us have done that and then been bitten? I once tried a new pigment. I only made a tiny little sample. And when it came to making the big project this different, when you only make a sample that’s this big it, it’s a false sense of security. And when you do it on a whole project and all of a sudden everything falls apart because the pigment doesn’t behave the way on a large scale, then when you make it in a little sample, you know, get it, it’s embarrassing. At the very least it’s embarrassing because you now have to do it again and it can really bite you. So this was a chance, an opportunity to really push things to show people, Hey, we can do something really challenging. And that if you are asked to do something this challenging, you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to be the one to figure it all out and to roll those dice and to take on that risk yourself as a side message is you’ve got us, we’re here to help you.

Caleb Lawson (37:22):
Yeah, I agree with that. And I think that’s for me as a CCI alum, it has been one of the most helpful things in my career is to be able to say, you know what? I can have the confidence to say yes to a client and know that I can figure it out because I’ve got a support system around me and I don’t have to do it alone. And so there’s a lot of design elements that I’ve come up with over the years or design elements that clients have come up with over the years that have been doable primarily because I’ve had the support of people smarter than me.

Jeff Girard (38:06):
So I’m going to share a couple more photos. Let’s see. Share screen. Okay, so this is the table that was constructed when it was installed. It’s such a big table and it’s hard to take a photo that looks just like the sketch, but you get the idea. There’s the base. We left it unpainted steel. Caleb, you’ve suggested you might get some steel.

Caleb Lawson (38:39):
I’m going to gum. Blew it.

Jeff Girard (38:41):
Yeah, I think that’ll be nice. All the hardware and all that. And then here’s the actually loaded piece. So we got, there’s 11 people on there right now. And

Caleb Lawson (38:54):
Oh, I had a picture somewhere where I counted 12, maybe it was 11

Jeff Girard (38:58):
At this point, there were more. It was like, when do you, who’s whose picture you have, but I think we had 12 people on it. The end where I’m standing is only an inch, inch and a quarter or three centimeters thick right there. So the beam kind of starts under Caleb’s toes. And then,

Caleb Lawson (39:14):
Hang on, you need to switch pictures. I still see the original photo.

Jeff Girard (39:18):
Oh, okay. Hang on, stop sharing. And I’m going to go back to here. Where are we? Sorry about this folks. I’m not used to doing this.

Caleb Lawson (39:40):
There we go. There

Jeff Girard (39:41):
We are. So there there’s at the time, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, what? 12, right? 3, 6, 9, 11. So there’s 11 people here. And then there are a couple more brave people got on and shifted down here. But where I’m standing, it’s thin, as I said, it’s about inches a quarter. And then the beam tapers from nothing down to its full thickness here. And the post tensioning starts right about where Caleb’s feet are. So the actual post section is here just to kind of hide things. And I do have some more photos of that that I can get to. Unfortunately, zoom doesn’t have an easy way to scroll through photos. So we’re going to have to do it this way, at least I don’t know how to do it.

Caleb Lawson (40:36):
We’re working on a, we’re working. We’re

Jeff Girard (40:37):
Working on

Caleb Lawson (40:38):
It. New system

Jeff Girard (40:40):
Amateurs here. All

Caleb Lawson (40:41):
Right, we’re in there.

Jeff Girard (40:42):
There’s down the view of the underside and there’s the cables. These cross pieces stabilize the cable to keep it from twisting side to side. And then the other lunge, dal cables stabilize against the weight. So when it was fully loaded, that did not move,

Caleb Lawson (41:07):
Which I was very surprised by. I really did expect some. I expected the cables to go slack there.

Jeff Girard (41:14):
None went slacking, nor were they tensioned to a very high degree. They were just tensioned by hand. We twisted the turn buckles by hand and then used a small screwdriver just to

Caleb Lawson (41:26):
Smack it up a little bit

Jeff Girard (41:27):
More, even out the tension. But by and large, when it was unloaded, those cables were not drum tight, but it worked. I mean, that’s sort of the whole point of having a design in mind and having a vision and then drawing on technical resources to make that vision come to life.

Caleb Lawson (41:52):
Well, and it really is. It’s the technical details that make the difference. Because you can see in the picture there, the way that the cables are crimped even, there’s a spec to that, which I didn’t know prior to, and I don’t think Jeff did either until he dug into it. But there’s a spec on what order it needs to be crimped in order to actually meet the spec that the cable

Jeff Girard (42:13):
Has. Exactly. Exactly. Every piece of hardware from the rock anchors, these are used in rock climbing. Those are thick, stainless steel certified anchors that basically fasten this whole thing to the floor from those to the polished stainless steel sailboat turn buckles. Could I have used regular turnbuckles like everybody’s familiar with? Sure. But visually they would’ve been a little less appealing. And I wanted something more streamlined. And from a functional standpoint, that’s where your feet go. So you don’t want to have something that’s going to catch a bootlace or something like that. I wanted it to be smooth and sleek.

Jeff Girard (42:54):
The cables are, they’re quarter inch galvanized lifting cables rated to 7,000 pounds of breaking strength far more than I needed. Far more. But why take that chance? It’s only literally a few dollars more to have something that is vastly overcom overrated for what you need without compromising the overall visual aesthetic. Let’s pretend I could find the one millimeter diameter cables crafted out of unobtainium. Would that have looked right? Because all the rest of the hardware couldn’t be that small. So everything had to be in balance. Everything had to be in proportion. And so some of the selections were made strictly because they look nice. Polish stainless steel shackles look nicer than hot dip galvanized shackles or painted shackles.

Jeff Girard (43:53):
Would a galvanized shackle I get at Home Depot, which is far cheaper, have been functional. Sure it would’ve worked, but it would’ve looked as nice. And you can’t just make something in a vacuum. This has to look good because it has to appeal to the customer’s aesthetic, their idea of what is it, does it fit in the space? And it really is an expansion of what is good design. And this is where Caleb, I mean, it’s his space, so it has to approve, meet his approval, and he’s got a strong design sense. Oh, I do too. But he has a very strong design sense and a vision for what he wants. Every piece of concrete that he touches, what it has, what it looks like, what it feels like, what it’s texture is. And so that is very, very important to keep that in mind. That is one of the paramount criteria that had to be met.

Caleb Lawson (44:57):
So I think that to me, the overarching mission of certainly this class and event, the overarching mission of C C I is to really cultivate a community of artisans who have the technical knowledge needed and the technical support needed to accomplish their wildest dreams.

Jeff Girard (45:24):
Yeah, absolutely.

Caleb Lawson (45:30):
And that really to me is what draws me to be a part of the community is the support and the aspect that I get to say, I’ve got friends all over the world and truly are actual friends that I have people I talk to on a regular basis from all over the country and all over the world. And I think that is a special thing that very few get to experience. And so I think I feel very blessed by that. And I think that really to me is the ultimate mission of c c I, again, is to cultivate that, but also to cultivate that the technical skill to accomplish for your clients, the things that we want to do.

Jeff Girard (46:23):
And coming back to the aspect of community is reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in years. I hadn’t seen the Australian guys since 2019 and I hadn’t seen, well, I saw Justin back then too. I hadn’t seen Flavian in several years. I can’t exactly remember when you came to class. A lot of people that come to class and I can’t remember everybody’s date of attendance, but it, it’s, it’s so good to reconnect with people but also to make connections with people I haven’t met. There are some folks who aren’t C C I alumni. And this was not about promoting cci, this was about bringing

Caleb Lawson (47:09):
People, it was about the community as a whole. Cause really it’s big

Jeff Girard (47:14):
And we want to do these kinds of events on a periodic basis because I feel it’s important. Back in 2006, we CCI put on the first real concrete countertop industry, a real conference, just like World of Concrete is a giant conference. We had a little conference, but it was a real conference that had vendors and speakers and things like that. And I think Fuun was our guest speaker, and it was the first time at the time, and this was when social media was just starting to get going where people saw each other. And when people sit and stand and talk with each other and share food and drink and socialize on a personal level, when you’re in the same room with people, there’s a connection that forms and a relationship that grows that is beyond what any kind of social online interaction can ever do.

Jeff Girard (48:19):
I mean, it’s convenient and it’s certainly easily accessible to get online and chat with people either like this visually over Zoom or through some other media or to talk on the phone or to send emails or through Instagram or whatever. But that’s all remote, that’s all impersonal. There’s, there’s a barrier of human connection that the technology imposes. And when you have the opportunity to come together and actually create something together, I think that there’s nothing that replaces that. And so that’s one of the things we wanted to reintroduce and to bring back into the world is, hey, we can all get together and do something cool. And when we leave, we are all better people for it.

Caleb Lawson (49:21):
Absolutely. So yeah, I mean, think we should probably wrap up, but I think that’s a great thing to wrap up on. We deeply want to cultivate this community. We want to cultivate deep personal relationships with other artisans in our field and other people around the world and learn something while we do it and accomplish something really cool while we do it that we could take back. And then certainly, again, our mission with our classes is to provide people with the opportunity to create beyond the scope of what most people think is possible with the aid of truly technical skill and knowledge. And so I’m super excited to use this as a launchpad to get back into that kind of community building and feel very re-energized and rejuvenated by what just happened. So.

Jeff Girard (50:32):
Great. Well thanks for everybody taking time to join us and we’ll see you next week. Take

Caleb Lawson (50:39):
Care. See.