Geo Blox Find Your Niche, Cement Your Position | Sunday Observer

Geo Blox Find Your Niche, Cement Your Position

Seeing something no one else does and believing in it is a difficult thing to do. Making someone else see it is even harder. Kanil G. Dias Abeygunawardene, the mind behind GeoBlox(@geoblox.lk), saw the potential sustainability and versatility in a material as common and unnoticed as cement and turned it into gorgeous ornaments and accessories, exemplifying the material’s innate beauty for everyone to see.

GeoBlox is a lifestyle brand that creates ornaments and custom items out of an extremely common yet rarely used raw material like cement. We managed to catch up with Kanil, who shared with us his passion for crafting and how he turned his hobby into a business.

Q: How would you explain what GeoBlox is to someone who wouldn’t know?

I make ornaments and custom items, for now using just concrete, which is the second most used material in the world other than water and whenever you see it in places like concrete buildings or concrete floors, highways, etc. nobody really thinks about how you can use concrete or cement and make such small ornaments for your home. Cement is different as a material, some items have certain patterns which is a result of chemical reactions, and which make things unique, as you never know what would come out of the moulds when you take it out.

Q: Do you consider yourself an artist? What’s your history with art?

I consider myself a maker. It’s less about how you design an item and more about how you make it. Designing means you imagine something out of nothing and decide, “OK, this is what it should look like.” What I prefer to do is, making that. Someone has thought of it and I think about how to bring that to life as a real thing. Hence, 50 per cent of the idea is the designer’s and the rest is what the maker does. But I do sometimes design, because I have to customize things according to what the customers desire.

Q: Do you work alone? What does your team look like?What responsibilities do you share?

Yeah, well, my father helps me out quite a bit like sourcing the materials but most of it, like designing and making it are all done by me.

Q: Do you have a studio, and anyone else working there?

I have a small workshop at home where I can do my cement work, experiments and whatnot.

Q: What made you choose cement as your material?

I chose cement because it’s more versatile than people think, it’s more of a challenge to think about. The difficult thing about it is figuring out how to make a mould that you can pour it into, for example, if it’s too thin or thick it might break, it’s an experimental way of doing. By continuing to experiment you can figure out the perfect mix for the cement, what materials to use to make the mould, etc.

Q: What inspired you to take up cement sculpting, and start a business out of it?

Actually, I saw something online, a cement hexagon pot, about three years ago and one day I couldn’t really get that out of my head. Since I haven’t really experimented with cement before, I started pouring, mixing and just tried to replicate it while improving on it, trying to make it look nicer. I didn’t really intend on selling it, it wasn’t my purpose. Usually, I just experiment and then throw it away, or if it turns out good, my parents would gift it to a friend.

So, while in the process of making the pot, a friend asked if I could make something like that to gift to somebody, and that set the trend for people buying them, one by one. Meanwhile, some friends who started their own side projects advised me to put a name on it, make an Instagram page, as these things are unique so it’s as well to put it out there and see the traction. I did just that, calling it GeoBlox, basically Geometric Cement Blocks

Q: What obstacles did you encounter initially?

In the first year or so, there wasn’t much traction, I guess because I wasn’t very interested in it but then there was an event called Colombo Design Market which I attended, and honestly I was very nervous because everyone who bought my stuff so far were people I knew, but it turned out to be a success. They loved it there, which gave me enough confidence to make an actual side business out of it.

Q: What would you say is your most popular product? What was the creative process behind coming up with that?

As you know, I started with pots but then a customer asked me to engrave his daughter’s name into something cement. I told I’d think about it because I’d never made or even considered something like that before. After giving it much thought I made a couple of test pieces, and it came out great. I figured out how to do it and now it’s my number one selling product. I call them word blocks, where you can engrave whatever you like on a cement block, so it’s engraved, cemented forever. These came from requests that customers made, things I wouldn’t even think of otherwise.

Q: Have you ever had a request you couldn’t fulfil?

Not exactly, yet. If a request sounds too difficult I would tell them so, but if it is something impractical, usually I try to come to a compromise. Customers might not understand what goes into designing or making it and end up with an idea that’s not possible so I try to explain it and give them a more realistic option. If they still like that, we’d go ahead.

Every request, especially customized stuff, is a challenge. It’s never monotonous but forces me to think out of the box, which I really like. Usually, I would come home from work and start doing it so that the monotonous feeling I had during the day would change. When I have something like that to think about, I would put it on paper and actually make it.

Q: Cement isn’t exactly a popular material when you think of ornaments, how do you advertise your product?

Mainly I believe in the Steve Jobs marketing strategy, where it’s not the advertisement but the touch and feel that would make someone buy a product. I use the same concept, but I don’t have a store. So what I do is, there are Pop-ups which I go to and I invite my customers or people who follow me on Instagram to come by and when they have the cement products in their hands, they can understand everything. How heavy it is, what kind of texture, and then they eventually end up buying something later.

A photo doesn’t really convey exactly what cement offers because there’s nothing to compare it with, so I try to create opportunities where people can touch and feel it and understand that it’s not just a cement block, but an ornament that’s cool and smooth.

Q: Is sculpting your full time job?

Not at all, I started this because I like to make things. Whether it be cement, metal, wood, and whatnot, I like to experiment. If I see something online which seems interesting, I try to replicate it myself and by trying it out I learn how to use certain equipment, tools and software so I can recreate it in an innovative way.

Cement is what I started to do as a side project, but I like to make things like coffee tables using wood, metal and other materials. I want to get into furniture, so I want to inculcate with different types of materials, not just cement.

Q: Do you have anything new planned for the future? What does success look like for GeoBlox in 2020?

This year, I want to expand my repertoire further. I’d keep GeoBlox running but at the same time I want to add on other materials. As it is, everything is purely cement but soon I would like to incorporate things like wood and metal, which I realized worked especially well with cement. I’d also like to make bigger items, such as coffee tables, plates and so on.

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