GROTON — Bill Hulbert likes working with concrete because it’s relaxing. Now, his once hobby has turned into an expanding business involving his wife and three children.
Hulbert runs Bill’s Concrete Creations, where he makes sculptures, planters, fountains and other items out of concrete.
It’s an art medium the Groton resident discovered after receiving a text from his cousin in the summer of 2017 of a towel that had been soaked in concrete and shaped into a planter. The cousin wanted to know if Hulbert was interested in making the planter.
Hulbert had always loved art ever since a little kid when he would draw superheroes from the X-Men comics. He had also taken graphic design classes at Tompkins Cortland Community College from 2007 to 2010 where he realized art wasn’t restricted to a pencil and paper.
Still, he had never imagined using concrete as an art medium. The thought intrigued him.
“I found that drawing wasn’t the only way to make art,” he said. “I found all new ways that I didn’t even mean to that I could express myself with art.”
After doing some research, Hulbert came across many designs he was keen on creating — most of them nature related. He began making leaf designs using the leaves as a mold.
“Any leaf I saw that looked interesting I attempted to make out of concrete,” Hulbert said.
By that time Hulbert’s wife, Aurora, became interested in working with her husband on the creations.
“She complained that I wasn’t painting fast enough, so I joked with her, ‘Why don’t you start painting?’” Hulbert said. “She said she didn’t know how to do it, so I suggested she just pick up a brush and start doing it and she fell in love with it.”
They got home from work every day over the summer and would head to their work stations and keep going until the sun went down.
Over several months, the couple made and sold many pieces to their neighbors, who suggested the couple sell their work at craft shows.
The couple took the idea and on Nov. 11, 2017, they attended their first craft show at Groton High School.
“One thing lead to another and everybody liked what we were doing and so we kept making them,” Hulbert said.
Not only have they been able to make more pieces, but Hulbert said working with his wife has become his favorite part of the business. It’s brought them closer together.
“A lot of the leaves she paints get the most recognition from the customers who come,” he said. “It’s nice to see her confidence build up when people come by and like what she’s painted.”
As the Hulbert’s kids got older, they too began getting involved.
Joseph Hulbert, 21, made a lily while on leave from the Marine Corps in August. It was the first lily any of them had made. Bill Hulbert said that the concrete art has kind of helped with his experiences.
“It is very relaxing,” he said. “It helps to sit down and kind of zone out and do something peaceful and creative.”
Paul Speight, a Cortland artist, couldn’t agree more with Hulbert about working with concrete.
“To me it’s very fun and forgiving,” Speight said. “If you’re not happy with it — much like a canvas you can paint over — concrete is forgiving and you can just pour more concrete over it.”
Speight has worked with Tino Ferro on concrete sculptures for Lime Hollow Nature Center and Ferro is known for creating the Sept. 11 sculpture in Courthouse Park in Cortland.
“It’s like using a glorified big boy Play-Doh,” Speight said. “It’s wicked exciting.”
So while it’s become another job for Aurora and Bill Hulbert, their interest hasn’t wavered. Instead, Bill Hulbert continues looking for new things to create.
Now he’s working on a statue of Grumpy from the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” His son Alex, 19, likes making flowers and his wife continues to paint the pieces, with help from their youngest son, Fred.
“It’s been a really positive little business we’ve had,” Hulbert said.