Seven years ago, Ian Wyndlow found a concrete way to make a living.
Wyndlow said he had been working for the Town of Ladysmith when he discovered the world of decorative concrete.
“I happened upon an article in the Fine Home Building Magazine by one of the pioneers of the trade seven years ago, and that’s what tweaked my curiosity, and I ended up going down to California to take his course,” he said.
Fast forward to 2011, where Wyndlow’s home-grown business, Liquid Stone Studios, is producing award-winning fine concrete countertops, end tables, vanities and other pre-cast designer projects.
“I like the creative challenge of designing something that works well, functions well, and looks good,” Wyndlow said. “It gathers together a lot of my interests and skills. As a kid, I’d make my mom flower bowls on the lathe, and things like that.”
Liquid Stone Studios was most recently one of 13 businesses across Vancouver Island to win a Torch Award from the Better Business Bureau. His category: Cement and Custom Stone Work. Torch Award recipients must have demonstrated commitment to honest and ethical business practices and consumer service excellence.
“I think the bottom line for us was making sure we were offering a product we’d like to have and the service we’d like to have,” Wyndlow said. “The design is one thing, but the customer satisfaction is more important.”
Wyndlow was born in Nanaimo, but has lived on his family’s 120-acre Yellow Point farm for most of his life. Wyndlow credits his work ethic to his rural community farming roots.
“Sometimes we’ll have a rush, and I’ll spend a couple nights all night down here [in the shop], or I’ll stay down here till 11 p.m. to get the project done.”
Wyndlow says there are a few misconceptions about the work he does.
“It’s nothing at all like a sidewalk like people expect,” he said. “When they hear ‘concrete’, they think it’s going to look like floors and countertops, but we really try to take it to the next level of really fine work and that’s where some of our awards have come from.”
Wyndlow travels to the U.S. every year to participate in trade conventions to upkeep his skills.
“Every year, they try to increase our knowledge base by finding out what’s the latest and greatest techniques and materials,” he said. “The last course I took in Phoenix was about glass fiber reinforced concrete which allows us to do wall panels and fireplaces. There’s tremendous variety.”
Wyndlow says one of his most interesting projects was a powder room re-modeling.
“The client had collected about 50 pieces of beach glass from Hawaii, and we put fiber optic lighting behind each one, and cast that into the bottom of a glass bowl. It gave a bit of ambient light to the room,” he explained.
Wyndlow said he is looking forward to submitting the project to contest so it can be judged by his peers.
“It was pretty funky,” he said.
While it is difficult to break into the high end concrete market, Liquid Stone Studios continues to double its business every year with jobs all over Vancouver Island. Last year, the company was contracted to create and install fireplaces for the BC Ferries Corporate office in Victoria. Wyndlow said he would like to see his work in more local homes.
“We don’t need 50 jobs a week to be busy, we just need two,” he said.