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Concrete Thinking

While there's a lot to be said for concrete, "appetizing" is usually not a word that springs to mind. Or at least not until Alexa Lixfeld began experimenting with its composition in order to convert the sturdy building material into thin-walled tableware.

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Alexa Lixfelds concrete tableware

Alexa Lixfeld's concrete tableware.

Photo By WWD Staff

BERLIN — While there's a lot to be said for concrete, "appetizing" is usually not a word that springs to mind. Or at least not until Alexa Lixfeld began experimenting with its composition in order to convert the sturdy building material into thin-walled tableware.

What started as a graduation project from the Cologne International School of Design in 2006 has since garnered Lixfeld the 2007 IF Concept Award for Material and presentations at the Hamburg Museum of Arts & Crafts, Ambiente in Frankfurt, Design Mai in Berlin, London Design Week and Tokyo Design Week. Under the trademarked name of Creacrete, she will bring her concrete tableware collection to Milan's Salon Internationale del Mobile this April.

For Lixfeld, tableware is "like architecture — a skyline on your table." The 36-year-old Hamburg-based designer wanted to reinterpret it in an unusual and what at first seemed an impossible material. Lixfeld admits she wasn't particularly fond of concrete at first. "It's porous, dull, a somehow masculine material: rough, tough, heavy and bulky. I thought if I'm to work with it, I want to change it. Push it to the borders and put my aesthetic — a female aesthetic — into it."

That also meant being practical. The first step was to come up with a formula that allowed her to create 2-millimeter-thin walls. The second involved trying out different casts for a more attractive and shiny surface, and the third was to find a special surface treatment to prevent scratching and staining.

The first set of bowls look hand-formed and don't hide their concrete origins, while the second series of plates and bowls are elegantly thin, lustrous and white, with a decorative crack in the center. She offers both, enjoying the contrast in textures, and the one-of-a-kind pieces retail from around $85 to $450 in selected design and museum stores. She also makes shiny Creacrete tiles and would love to outfit an entire Creacrete bathroom, from sink to accessories.

But Lixfeld also enjoys working with porcelain and has begun experimenting with free-form computer-aided design, which she is using to create a tree house installed with an aero gel used in spacecraft, so "it's not harsh on the tree," she noted.
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