Arizona ArtBeat: Touvlo

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A Mesa woman has figured out a way to take her love of words and create one of a kind custom art pieces. See how Yolanda Esquer turned her home project into a flourishing business creating concrete block art.

Ted Simons: We end tonight's program with a look at a Mesa woman who uses her love of words to create custom art pieces out of concrete. Producer Shana Fischer has the story.

Shana Fischer: Block by block, YOLANDA has turned a simple home project into a flourishing business.

Yolanda Esquer: Initially when I started, I made a block with our last name on it. And I took it to a photo shoot and the photographer really liked it. And she said, you ought to make these and sell them. And I just kind of -- It's one of those things when you're talking to someone, it just sets in the back of my head.

Shana Fischer: But it got her thinking, and several years later she took the plunge and started Touvlo.

Yolanda Esquer: The materials I use are basic. Water, mortar, and cement. I take that and then I pour it into -- Hand pour it into the mold, and I smooth out the top of it. I'll spray water on it if I need it to get shinier, and go ahead and use whatever I'm going to stamp into the concrete. It's never going to be the same, because I obviously do it one at a time. So the finishes and the textures and even the color, even though it's always gray, is always going to be varied depending on the temperature outside, or if I put too much water, or too much cement, or too much mortar or not enough mortar, not enough cement, not enough water. It's always different. It's never the same.

Shana Fischer: Working with concrete in Arizona does present some challenges.

Yolanda Esquer: I have to work very quickly. In the sense that in Arizona especially during the summer, the concrete cures very quickly. Whereas it's the winter time, I have a couple of hours, if somebody says, wait, that doesn't look right, even if I don't like it, I can go back and start over.

Shana Fischer: Once the concrete is in the mold, Yolanda uses her stamps to create names. Words. Even quotes. Pretty much anything a client can dream up, Yolanda can do.

Yolanda Esquer: I really get a kick out people when they walk up and you can see their brain just going, wow, I can do this, or I can do that. What word I do want to do?

Shana Fischer: Words have always held a special place in her heart. A voracious reader since childhood, when it came time to name her business, she drew upon that passion.

Yolanda Esquer: Well, I have great love of words. And language. And so when I was trying to think of a name for the company, I looked around like different languages and Greek is what I ended up with. So the word TOUVLO in the Greek means brick.

Shana Fischer: And while Yolanda is proud she's making a living with her blocks, there's something else that fuels her. A piece of advice we can all learn from.

Yolanda Esquer: Not so much for the money, or oh, to be someone that's known. I think it's just -- It's very simple to me, and I don't even think of myself as an artist, I think of myself as just somebody who likes to do what I do.

Ted Simons: The blocks can be found at the Gilbert's farmers' market or visit her website to make a custom order.

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