Large Garden Lady Sculpture – Hypertufa or Concrete?

Should I Use a Hypertufa or Concrete Recipe
For a Large Reclining Lady Garden Sculpture?

I received an email from Jan asking me:

I am soooo excited about finding your site. My sister in Texas found this site for me. I live in Michigan, mid part of the mitt part.

I am in the process of doing a 5 FT sculpture outside, which will stay outside, but will be covered during the winter months. I am wondering if this hypertufa mixture can be used for a very large project which will need to be sculpted as I apply it, and will it last for many years? I have considered using cement and other products I have researched on line, and it appeared that cement was the best way to go.

I have a wire armature of a lady’s body made, and am presently working on the head of the lady which is attached separately. This project I saw in a garden site and loved it. The lady is lying on the ground on her side, and the top of her head has ornamental grass for hair. The whole body has moss growing on it.

Can I use hypertufa for this project? It appears to be the same as mixing cement, which I will have to do in stages as I do the bottom of the form and then do the sides and top part. The head is put or laid in the position to appear to be connected to the body.

Can hypertufa be used in sections, by adding this hypertufa to parts which are already dried, or applied the day before?

Any help is appreciated, I love this site. Many great ideas………..I will look forward to a response………..have a great day.


My reply:

Hi Jan:

Thanks for all the kind compliments and for including the photo with your email. I find it interesting and I’m sure the others who view this will too!

OK … let’s straighten out some things for you. I’ll point you in the right direction and answer a few of your questions.

Let me address this first — you ask, “Can I use hypertufa for this project? It appears to be the same as mixing cement …” Yes, you can use hypertufa for your project, and yes, it does contain cement as one of the ingredients, but hypertufa is NOT the same as a concrete recipe.

Hypertufa contains peat moss — always! — as one of it’s ingredients. And the peat moss is meant to decompose over time, leaving pits and crevices. This replicates real Tufa rock. So, is a hypertufa recipe going to be necessary to use, if you’re letting plants grow over your form? If you want a faux rock appearance to show through between creeping plants or moss, then I would use a hypertufa recipe, as like I said, over time pits and crevices will appear, making your form look more like you carved it from real rock.

Otherwise, just use a pure concrete recipe if you’re not concerned about a “real rock” look.

Also, yes … hypertufa, if mixed and cured correctly, should last almost indefinitely outdoors, no matter what type of climate you live in.

And yes, mixing it is quite similar to mixing up a pure concrete recipe. To fully understand the correct way to mix up and cure hypertufa, please refer to these articles: Hypertufa Mixing Guidelines and Curing Hypertufa Instructions.

And yes, you can sculpt hypertufa as you go along, or let it cure (dry) just a bit and sculpt it. And yes, you can work in sections. But you need to use a bonding agent to make sure the “new” section will adhere properly to the “old” section. Read this to understand what to do: Hypertufa Bonding Agents.

Bottom line is that this project is doable, but whether you’re working with just a concrete recipe or a hypertufa recipe, you need to educate yourself to the ins and outs, in order to not have a disaster on your hands. I highly suggest you read through all the articles I have on my website about concrete and hypertufa (you’ll find more of your questions answered).

This is a really neat project and I am sure will be quite a conversation piece! Let us know how your final project turns out. Good luck! 🙂


  1. Wow! I sure hope she sends a picture of her finished project.

  2. This sleeping woman sculpture has been circulating the internet for quite some years. I love it and find it beautiful, yet it creeps me out at the same time. haha If I had a good spot to make this, I would too! As Shawna said, I hope Jan sends you a picture of the finished project. It would be awesome to see. Best of Luck with your Sculpted Lady, Jan! :)) Keep us posted!

  3. I am very excited to see this information, I, too, saw the reclining woman on another website and
    it has bothered me since…wanting to make one in my garden! Thanks so much to Jan for asking and to YOU, Claudia, for your wonderful expertise!

  4. the inspiration photo is magnificent! What a daunting project, at least for me. I hope that we get to see pics. of the work in progress as well as the end result. Best of luck to her!

  5. This looks like an awesome project! I’d love to see the completed sculpture too 🙂

  6. Jan,
    What an amazing project!!
    Would love to see photos of the different stages as it progresses. Good luck!

  7. I’d love for Jan to post pics of it in progress. Good for you Jan taking on such a large work of art. I’ve found pics of other sculpture (or live subjects) to help a LOT when I’m trying something. Good luck!

  8. Pat Allen says:

    I am so inspired by this project! It gives me a great idea for an area where I am planning a high berm in my yard! Thanks so much for sharing and for all the technical info you provide.

  9. This project looks like alot of fun. I hope Jan will keep us updated with pics as she goes along. Jan’s questions answer alot of my own for future a project that I have bean wanting to do for many years. Blessings

  10. Hey everyone:

    Just want to let you know I’ve privately emailed Jan, letting her know people are interested in seeing photos of her progress during this project and her finished lady. So, let’s see what happens. 🙂

  11. Wow, beautiful! It’s giving me plenty of ideas!

  12. would love to come and see your work on this sculpture. I live in Michigan also (Grand Rapids) and am inspired by your idea!

  13. There is a carvable concrete formula that allows you to get very fine detail. It is a technique I recently learned to master the art of Faux Bois. The mix contains fly ash, portland, a plasticiser and a bonding agent. It can be applied over a scratch coat, and carved just like clay.

  14. Very very interesting, love it. You inspire a lot of artist. Good luck with the project. Please keep us in the loop.

  15. I have never seen the lady..I love it! Most I ever made is a life size dog. Can’t wait for the pictures! Thanks for sharing Claudia and Jan. Wish I had some place to put that gal, keep us updated and good fun to you!

  16. Kate Maryon says:

    this is amazing… I am doing the same thing! My inspiration came from built up turtles at a resort in mexico and then an artist named Anne Doolittle who has a picture called faces in the woods.. they are hidden! I have a decomposing compost pile that reminded me of a face and thought of doing this… I was looking into using winterstone but this would be awesome this way! I also live in Hamilton MI… maybe we should connect!

  17. Helene Berg says:

    Where did she get the armiture or can you make them yourself? Thanks for this site. It’s my fav!

  18. Hi Stephanie:

    Yes – I’m aware of faux bois – as a matter of fact, I do have a brief article about it on my website Faux Bois – The Art of Sculpting Faux Concrete Wood Objects. And I’m very aware of Donald Tucker in Texas who is quite a master of the technique and teaches about this lost art. I’d love to take one of his workshops, if I lived closer to Texas.

    **Note to those of you interested in learning more about faux bois: do a google search for “concrete faux bois technique” and you’ll see many results. Reason I’m advising you to add “concrete” to your search query is that a Martha Stewart painted faux bois technique pops up – you want to learn about the concrete recipe faux bois. 😉

  19. Helene:

    Let’s hope Jan stops by to answer your, and others, questions. But I can tell you that yes indeed, you can make your own armature. Depending upon the size, height, etc. of your object, a wooden one may work. But many times when you have a large object, and one that’s going to have to support the weight of lots of hypertufa or concrete, an armature made of rebar might be necessary. And depending upon the shape of your object, welding pieces of rebar together might be require (such as if you have a person with both arms extended).

    Obviously, the need to have rebar welded takes a DIY project to a whole different level! Unless you, or someone you know, has welding equipment and knows what they’re doing, you’ll have to find a welding shop to make your armature.

    But, sometimes a wooden support, though maybe quite funky to look at all by itself will suffice. You’re going to be completely encasing it with your chosen recipe, so “how pretty” the armature looks is really of no concern! What IS important is will it do it’s job of proper supporting the
    object you’re making.

    Here’s a blog post that might be helpful to you about other ways to tackle inner support structures (with quite a dialogue between an enthusiastic ‘tufa crafter and myself): waterfall armature and construction questions.

  20. Update everyone:

    Jan has contacted me and said she’ll keep us posted and send along photos. (Thanks Jan! You’ve got a lot of interest on your techniques and progress with this project.)

  21. Hi Cindy: I just got around to see Caludias BLOG and saw your comment. You are more than welcome to come look. I am at a stand still right now. Cementing the body armature (I made this myself) is holding me up, never cemented and trying to find the right way to do this, and for the rain to stop here. I see someone mentioned another mixture similar to cement, I am looking into that. I am trying to keep the expenses down. I am supposed to have help soon. If interested in looking, please contact me.. e-mail:jakelmer [at]

  22. I am really interested in this cement mixture. Could you please explain and forward info for this technique and mixture. Thank you so much for your interest and input. Janet e-mail: jakelmer [at] Janet

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