HARD CONCRETE, SOFT STYLE
It was about 18 months ago when Amy McCarthy decided to try another medium. She had always worked with acrylics on canvas, creating wonderfully abstract pieces. She also dabbled in wood, making charcuterie boards using walnut. But something else had caught her attention. Always keeping an eye on the world of interior design, McCarthy noticed concrete decor was gaining ground, and since she really loved the aesthetic, she thought it was worth a shot. The result piqued her interest and has ultimately garnered her success—her pretty, petite concrete creations and are so sweet she’s making (and selling) hundreds every month to keep up with the demand.
Although the Milton, Ont.-based artist doesn’t have formal training in fine art, McCarthy, 49, has taken creative classes—painting, drawing, pottery and photography. “Working with my hands and creating organically has always been my passion,” she says.
Before making art a full-time gig, McCarthy worked in event planning, and after she had her two kids— daughters Caitlyn and Charlotte—she decided to switch gears and be a stay-at-home mother. “I was lucky because I was an active volunteer at my kids’ school and in my community,” she says. “Now that my girls are older, the timing was right for me to go back to work. I wanted to get back to my creative roots. I loved the look of concrete in home decor. I had no idea where it would lead me.”
CONCRETE ARTIST AMY MCCARTHY
The first time McCarthy worked with the material she was immediately smitten. “I love its versatility and its ability to take on different shapes, colours and looks,” she says. “Whether rustic and industrial or polished and refined, I love creating pieces that combine my passion for nature and modern design.” Her wee geometric treasures—ring holders and succulent pots—often feature gently rounded edges, soft pastels, ombré finishes and metallic accents.
HANDMADE WITH CARE
“The process for my work happens in small batches. All of my concrete pieces are hand-poured, integrally pigmented, cast, sanded, polished and sealed in my home studio,” says McCarthy. Each piece takes seven days from start to finish. She tends to stick to smaller creations, but even her tiniest work of art is unique and full of personality. Her ring holders pretty up any vanity, while her beautiful succulent pots are usually sold with little plants already inside. (“I select the perfect succulent to complement the planter, and that brings the whole piece to life,” she adds.) Ranging from about $25 to $45 apiece, they’re a huge hit with customers and are often given as gifts. “When I look at what I create, I think, ‘I really like that—I would buy it for myself,’” she says. “The response was immediate and so positive that I opened my own business, Amy McCarthy Designs.”
Although she’s frequently approached for retail and wholesale opportunities, McCarthy sells her work at shows in Southwestern Ontario and from her studio. Many of her buyers find her on Instagram. “It’s amazing what it’s done for my business.”
As a relatively new concrete artist, McCarthy continues to learn and hone her skill. “I take great pride in my work, which results in meticulously crafted pieces that blend the rustic nature of concrete with a polished finish.” Her passion most definitely shines through in everything she creates. BH&L
Find and purchase Amy’s work on Instagram @amymccarthydesigns
PICTURES TARA WEST
WORDS ADRIENNE BROWN