Brutal Concrete Workshop awarded SAY Award Design Commission

A Stirling crafter specialising in the use of low-carbon concrete has beaten off stiff competition to secure the 2023 Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award Design Commission.

Stuart Blackman of Brutal Concrete Workshop
Stuart Blackman of Brutal Concrete Workshop

Brutal Concrete Workshop, operated by Stuart Blackman and based in Causewayhead in Stirling, in the shadow of the Wallace Monument, boasts designs which buck the trend of traditionally cast concrete by creating structures which appear to have been sculpted by wind, rain and other natural forces.

With Stirling hosting the SAY Award for the second-year running, local artists and creatives were invited to submit expressions of interest to design prizes to be handed out on the night. Applicants had to demonstrate how they would place sustainability at the forefront of the design process, as well as developing innovative ideas and methods which focused on ethical considerations and a zero-waste approach.

Brutal Concrete Workshop utilises slag, a recycled product from the steel industry, as a substitute for cement in its designs. This reduces the concrete’s carbon footprint by up to 80% while maintaining its durability. The workshop also uses beeswax based products rather than petroleum based sealants.

'An ideal opportunity'

Stuart said: "It’s very exciting to have been commissioned to make the prizes for the SAY Award. Concrete might not be the first material that springs to mind as an example of a sustainable material, but in many ways it is: the vast domed ceiling of the Pantheon looks as good today as it did when the Romans built it in the second century.

“I’ve been experimenting with a variety of non-cement concretes and this project is an ideal opportunity to put this research into practice to make something that is sustainable in every sense of the word.

“I’ve lived and worked in Stirling since 2010. Sitting at the boundary between the Highlands and Lowlands, it’s perfectly positioned for enjoying the temptations of both – a beautiful historic city with a thriving art and music scene and almost literally a stone’s throw from glorious countryside.”

'Plethora of creative talent'

Stirling Council Leader, Chris Kane said: “The standard of entries for the SAY Design Commission this year has been incredibly high and reflects the plethora of creative talent that Stirling has to offer. The commission is a marvellous opportunity for creatives to showcase their work and I would like to congratulate Stuart on being selected by the panel.

“The biggest event in Scotland’s musical calendar is fast approaching and Stirling is ready to welcome the great and good of the Scottish music industry as they celebrate the most exciting artists in the country.”

Biggest event in Scotland's musical calendar

Hilary Goodfellow, Design Commission Producer & SAY Award Ceremony Event Manager commented: “Every year, the SAY Award Design Commission explores the special reciprocal relationship between art, design and music, and rewards creativity with creativity.

“It’s a pleasure working with Stuart of Brutal Concrete Workshop. He’s gone to extensive efforts to embed sustainability at all stages of the design and production process, experimenting with new techniques, processes and sourcing recycled materials.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing the statuesque fruits of his labours unveiled at the SAY Award Ceremony on Thursday 26 October, and hope his creations will encourage people to reconsider any preconceptions which they may have regarding concrete.”

The SAY Design Commission offers a fee of £2,500 for the design and manufacture of the awards, and an exhibition of Brutal Concrete Workshop’s pieces will take place in The Tolbooth Gallery post SAY Award Ceremony.

The prizes will be showcased at this year’s SAY Award Ceremony, taking place on Thursday 26 October at The Albert Halls in Stirling. A short video package on the commission will be screened to all attendees before the prizes are presented to some of Scotland’s most outstanding musical talent.