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Circling the Block

February 2, 2010

Blocky geometry, circular logic

One of the last times I was at the Long Beach Flea Market, I made one of those controversial purchases that only I seem to make. I bought 7 cinder blocks for the low 3 figures. That’s right: $100. It was the end of the day, we were tired, hungry and ready to go, when I happened upon them at a certain vendor’s booth known for having really interesting things. And, I fell in love with them. Looked to be 60s vintage, some with large circular openings, others made up of 4 smaller bricks but also with circular openings. Not huge, not overly thick, but still heavy. I wanted them so badly I didn’t even flinch when the vendor told me the price. I paid, added them to an already overly-laden cart borrowed from a fave plant vendor and away we went. No, I had no idea what I was going to do with them — until now…

Graphical concrete stackables

Bamboo before

As you can see in the photos, the blocks have now been integrated into our kitchen deck’s new scheme. I switched out what had been in the planters (some less-than celestial Heavenly Bamboo) that made the deck seem messy and scruffy. The bamboo had never really taken off and over the summer it took a beating in the heat, never to recover. Working in the yard over the weekend I spied some cactus cuttings our neighbors up the street had given us, and it hit me: I could replace the shambolic bamboo with them, and when they grew they would create a living screen to hide the trash enclosure and my window AC unit, behind the deck! These particular cactus cuttings are opuntias, and are really interesting because they grow very flatly, branching out from a central core but not in a perpendicular way. Perfect screen material. Deleting the bamboo and adding the cacti instantly made the deck look cleaner and more open. I added the beloved cinder blocks next, stacking them to hide where the three concrete planters met, with one left over for the center. Next I took the contents of a box of rocks ($2 at an estate sale!) and stacked them inside the circles. Inspired by these stacked circles inside of circles, I remembered another purchase from that Flea trip: a student ceramics project of stacked bowl forms, placing it next to one of the vinyl sofas. Great! Now I had all kinds of graphic interplay going: circles inside of circles, stacked on circles, playing off against the square shapes of the blocks themselves as well as the blocky vinyl sofas. Add to that the graphic interest provided by the table base with its geometric “Aztec” cutouts (squares inside of a circle!) and topped with a circular mirror, with more circles from the stacked trays and bowl on top of it! Your head spinning? Mine was … I had finally rid myself of the hateful bamboo, used the cactus cuttings the neighbors had thoughtfully dropped by, AND, found a place for the cool cinder blocks! I think the deck looks pretty great now… I just need the cactus to grow larger to fulfill its new functional role, then I can dress the deck for a party and have a few people over. Or, I could have some people over this weekend. The opuntia will surely have grown some by then, right?

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