Founder and owner of GigaCrete
Andrew studied art and design from 1966-69 at the Mansfield School of Art based at the college’s Chesterfield Road campus. He is now founder and owner of GigaCrete, which is a material that leads the field in sustainable ‘green’ cement technologies.
Tell us more about your time at the college
I originally started at the college when I was twelve on Saturdays. When I graduated from High Oakham School I studied for three years at the college in graphics, taught by Alan Blaine, technical illustration with Mr Tapsel, ceramics with Bob Gallen, display and 2D with Mr Morrison. I also learnt about 3D sculpture and drawing from life.
I also studied an O and A level in art through night school and the art school diploma.
My only connection to my old art school has been through my cousin Peter Dennis who still lives in Mansfield and also attended two of the years I was also there. Peter organises old friends to meet up with us when he knows I’m coming back to visit family in Mansfield and they’re always uplifting and fun events.
Did you get good grades?
Yes, tops in everything. I also started the Students’ Union and was president for two years. I instigated the common room, got furniture and music allowed and was a great hangout between day classes and night school. I often wonder if it’s still there.
Would you say that the subject you learnt at college put you on the road to your career today?
Yes, they became foundations to build upon and looking back, they accelerated my journey afterwards at Kingston-Upon-Hull College of Art and Architecture which allowed me to complete a four-year course in three years.
Tell us how your career went from studying at Kingston-Upon-Hull to the role you have today.
I was accepted on a scholarship based on my portfolio of work from Mansfield, it was a four-year course but after two months, they bumped me up into second year because I had already learned drafting and illustration in Mansfield. I eventually graduated and was handed a set design position with the BBC so I never had to look for a job. A year later I was offered a job in Canada for the Hudson’s Bay Company, ‘The Bay’ which is Canada's largest department store retailers. Being somewhat of an adventurer, I accepted the position and emigrated. I’ve worked in design and architecture ever since.
Tell us how you founded the product Gigacrete and what it’s like living and working abroad.
I left the UK in 1972. I had six years in freezing Canada, lived in Toronto for three years and Vancouver for three years then moved south to sunny California in LA. I had my own company in Vancouver and LA then in 1991 got shot at on the freeway, my home in Palos Verdes was burgled home so I sold my company and moved to San Diego to take four years off with my two kids, I was a single father at the time.
I invented the GigaCrete concept in my garage over about two years and knew I had a game-changer for affordable and green housing. I was called back into architecture to design New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and took a temporary house there for seven months and completed conceptual designs of what is now in operations for 20 years.
When I tried to leave to go back to San Diego, I had a very serious skiing accident leaving me unable to walk for a year so stayed in Las Vegas. Seven years later after moving up to Vice President and Director of Design for an 85-man architectural firm - the biggest in Las Vegas.
My work on GigaCrete was put on hold and it bothered me greatly. At the peak of growth in Las Vegas, I quit... locked myself up for three years in the industrial park I am still in today and finished what I had started. That was almost eleven years ago. GigaCrete leads the field in sustainable ‘green’ cement technologies, housing systems, insulated roofing, hurricane resistant buildings and ballistic coatings for military and civilian uses globally. We are now installing overseas factories to meet demands.
What are your memories of life at college?
I have only the very best memories of college. I had a lot of friends at both colleges. I worked as a salvage diver in the Isles of Scilly during summer months so I had money in my pocket as an art student, in fact Alan Blaine the Graphics teacher introduced me to the Scillies, he went every summer, so I can honestly say the school changed my life in many ways.
Having some money allowed me to take student groups out on hiking trips in Derbyshire in my land rover and trips to the coast. This was the 60's so England was rapidly changing with fashions and music. The common room we created from the student union was a blast. Sometimes we were warned about the loud music but we managed it well.
Did you meet new friends there?
Yes, I don't remember all their names but we were a close family; I do recall the separation between graphics crowd and fine arts, but all in all very few issues. Everyone had a great time at school and outside of it.
Do you feel the college has a good reputation today?
Looking at the website I would say so. I was amazed to see the principal is now a Dame, wow, you should all be very proud. Please tell her I am certainly proud to say I was a student there.