Artisan Carlos Cortes


faux boisWhen San Antonio concrete artisan Carlos Cortes was a child, he often assisted his father, Maximo Cortes, as he created his signature faux bois (false wood) structures from concrete. The senior Cortes had learned his craft from master concrete artist Dionico Rodriguez, who had brought his highly secretive technique from Mexico to Texas in the 1920s (and would eventually marry into the Cortes family). Rodriguez called his work—fashioning concrete structures that look uncannily like wood—trabajo rustico, or “rustic work.” Cortes and Rodriguez worked together on many structures throughout San Antonio, including bridges and palapas in Brackenridge Park.

Like his father and great-uncle, Cortes uses simple, handmade tools to replicate wood grain and create other organic effects. “We might use a fork with bent tines, or use a trowel made of a wide comb,” he says. “And when the concrete is cured, we stain it using natural mineral salts.”