... is the brilliant, grounded talent behind Concrete Pig. Established in 2013 in Minneapolis, MN, Concrete Pig embodies a love for sketching, designing and creating with a deep infatuation for the mid-century modern form. With an eye on the past but a specific vision for the future, Keith's designs are unique functional art in the form of modern furniture design.
Talk about the beginnings of Concrete Pig.
It was a slow evolution but once it hit me, the infatuation took hold almost overnight. I grew up around a family of carpenters. Worked through high school and college as such and had some experience with concrete, but always loved making, creating, tinkering, sketching. Fast forward to a few years ago, my wife and I moved into a cool little rambler built in ’61 that I…ahem, we, just absolutely fell in love with. Livable, but just the right amount of work to be done to it throughout. After starting in on the demo to a bathroom, I grew obsessed with the idea of creating a wall-to-wall floating concrete sink. At the same time in creating the sink I made my first concrete coffee table for my living room.
Before I knew it I had built nearly 20 new pieces completely destroying my basement in the process. It just took me over. It possessed me. The name came about almost subconsciously after mixing with colored pigments. I grew infatuated with the idea and imagery of a pig. An animal and brand you wouldn’t necessarily associate with furniture design. Once I had decided to take this seriously I must have written down nearly a hundred different names, and Concrete Pig was the first one down on paper, and the last name I would always come back to.
How has your business evolved? How have you evolved?
I’ve only been at it officially for about 3 years. When first getting started, it’s all about passion. All feeling. Just “following the energy” as a friend once said… I love that hippy quote. I do the same today. It’s the only way of making something interesting, unique, and to stay true to yourself. At some point, however, you have to pay attention to ‘the books,’ and make sure you’re organizing your time effectively and efficiently. You know—all the boring things that are required to run a business.
Evolving means being strategic; as an example, taking note of what works and what doesn’t. What people seem to be attracted to the most in way of certain designs. There is one piece that I think has struck a nerve with many which has prompted me to submit the utility and design patents for it. If anything, it’s cool to say I own a patent on something, on my ‘intellectual property,’ which in and of itself has been a fun learning experience.
I will continue to evolve in how I go about making certain pieces as well. It is the only way to press forward, in hopes of also discovering or learning something new that leads down a different creative path. That’s the most exciting part—not necessarily knowing what will happen next, and how and when to evolve in order to keep the business alive.
What do you hope your products add to the 'Made in MN' community?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be here doing what I am doing, during this time. There’s a sort of resurgence of creators, artists and makers—not just happening here, but throughout the country. I love this city for its progressive nature, helping push art and music to the next level, shaping where it will go to next beyond the Midwest. My hope is that I am carving out my own path, my own little niche that will stand the test of time locally and beyond. Bringing a fresh perspective on modern urban living and furniture design. In an attempt to bust through the status quo when it comes to furniture and prove that furniture is another place where artist expression can live.
How has living in Minnesota impacted your business and products?
Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis in particular have definitely had an impact on my work. The idea of simple urban living—basic, raw material necessities in concrete, wood and steel. Modular pieces that can work together, or serve multiple needs. The architecture here is fantastic. I have always been entranced by urban development and decay. The attempt to make something that will last forever. I was recently tasked a project by Forage Modern Workshop—to take in the work of Ralph Rapson’s Riverside Plaza and come up with my own design for a piece. I made an all concrete piece affectionately named ‘The Riverside Credenza’ after his brutalist concrete masterpiece. Easily my favorite project to date.
I love street art too and there is no shortage of graffiti throughout the city if you go looking for it. The idea of visual art and storytelling through graffiti work has always captivated me. As well as the idea that the graffiti, too, inevitably fades over time.
The winters here can be brutal. Not the best conditions when working with concrete, so when the weather keeps me indoors, I need to get clever when it comes to shop space and how I’m working with my materials. I love it here though, and the tradeoff you get with a few cold months compared to this community’s support for the arts makes it all worthwhile.
Talk about the fulfillment that comes from being a maker.
“Art is selfish. You’re making stuff because of a burn to create what you want.” I love this quote, pulled from a Collective Quarterly piece awhile back. There is nothing more fulfilling, more liberating and more gratifying than making something with your own two hands. Sketching out then creating from the ground up. A representation of who you are, where you’re going, or what you have seen and done. This sort of vulnerability can be unnerving—certainly for someone who is as self-conscious as I am most of the time—but the most rewarding when you completely throw yourself into your work.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Follow your passion. Be a little selfish and don’t be afraid to experiment and make new things. Or make mistakes. And be patient. I think patience is way underrated nowadays in our world of immediate gratification. Where immediate results are expected. When an easy, immediate result is almost always impossible.