If only I could be hired for my ideas…  I have TONS of ideas of things to do, make, or create… but rarely enough time, talent, or money to follow through on things!

One idea I’ve been kicking around for YEARS, was to have painted tipis around Ten Sleep.  Some cities have painted bears, or buffalo, or cowboy boots, or some other iconic symbol.  Have you ever heard of the Trail of the Painted Ponies?

Yeah.  Amazing.

Anyway… I figured ten tipis in Ten Sleep would be perfect… (one at the library, some with businesses, some at the park or on the outskirts of town…), so I started researching fiberglass figurines… I even called one company to see what making a custom design would cost.  Well, too much!

Cancel that.

OK.  Can I figure out how to do it myself???

Fiberglass is out of my league… what about concrete???

Wow, they have concrete FABRIC!!!!

I was excited again, until I couldn’t find any for sale.

With further research on YouTube, many people have used fabric to mold concrete.  I hemmed and hawed and decided what the heck!  I’m going to experiment on my own.  People tell me it won’t work, and it may not, but, at least I will have tried.

I decided to make a small tipi as a playhouse for my grandkids, which may end up being an expensive dog house!  Unlike the ones I had planned for the town, this one you will be able to go into and sit, at least if you’re a child.

I wanted to do this with a minimum of sewing, so I bought a painter’s canvas dropcloth.  It’s 9′ x 12′. (It’s folded in half in this pic)


Next I had to pull out my Laubin tipi book (affiliate link) and figure out dimensions.  Most people think tipis are cones.  NO.  I made mine Cheyenne style, and, yes, different tribes had different styles.

cut out

I decided on using oilfield pipe for my tipi poles, wooden ones would be too weak to hold up concrete.  Luckily, I live on a ranch with plenty of junk piles!

My first “is this gonna work?” experiment was tonight.

test(It needs pins to hold it together… and maybe two more ‘poles’, but it’s just the first trial!)

I’m a long way from completion… I haven’t even bought my cement yet!   But the plan is to weld the pipes in place, soak the canvas tipi in a cement solution, set it up, then follow with dyed tan cement mix on top.

I’ll paint it the way my dad painted his, and I’ve painted mine over the years… sky blue on top and buffalo by the door.  My dad and mom made us kids a “play tipi” – almost full sized – long, long ago… I figured, why not?????

tipiYes, this is little ol’ me, playing in front of our tipi!

I’ve written other posts about tipis, if you’re interested, find them here and here and here!



Ideas — 6 Comments

  1. Carol, You might contact The Chamber of Commerce in Pensacola, Florida because they do something similar with pelicans being on the gulf coast. Various businesses come up with ideas for their pelicans and they are displayed around town on the sidewalks. Pensacola is a Navy town and a lot of the pelicans have something to do with the military. I think tipis is a great idea. Just get businesses in town involved and don’t foot the bill by yourself. Do contact Pensacola and see how they handle theirs.

  2. Carol, love the picture of you and the tipi. Harry and I did Mountain man era rendezvous for 20 years. I used a lot of painter cloth and love working with it. Makes good patches for our pyrmid and wall tent. Used glue and it is still there. We do not do that anymore. had a good time. There was 2 fathers and their sons at one rendezvous. They each had a tipi with nice painting on it. One had a Buffalo on it. I said how nice it was. The guy who was 40 said he was in scouts and it was made for the boys to camp in. he tried to find one and a Museum curator in Harper , Kansas said there was one in the upstairs and look at it. If want take it and use it. Well it was the tipi he had camped in as a boy scout. And the one he and his son used the day I saw it. Well you have a great idea and when it is finished and the ribbons flying from the poles to keep birds away and if have fire will show you which way the wind is blowing it will be a project you should be proud of. You have been given the idea from God. Use your ideas like you did the cabin you fixed up, by the way you feel it should be. Take care. Sharon Drake south central Kansas.

  3. You could put one north along the old indian trail that went through our place. My yard is close enough to count! Would love to join in the project and my grandkids would love it!

  4. Ohh so glad I’m not the only one with a creative brain that won’t be stilled. I think it is a great idea, although the creating and doing still needs work. In 2015 the UKs second city, Birmingham had ‘the big hoot trail’. Created by Birmingham’s artistic community and 25,000 young people they had 89 owls and 122 owlets on the trail. Since then a bear trail has been done but I’m not sure where. All good things start small Carol, so keep on creating. It’s sounds so very exciting and just think of the fun kids will have finding where the tipis are placed.

  5. Carol, I don’t want to be the rainy wet blanket on your tipi parade but I do have a lot of experience casting, molding and forming concrete, mortar and pure cement and if you want to try your idea; carry on. I started and ran an architectural casting company for several years and cast or formed a lot of cement based products for artistic architectural and garden applications. So given my experience, here’s what I’m sure will happen.

    First off, cement is a binder which forms things with a lot of compressive, but Very Little tensile strength. There won’t be any support for your cement or mortar when the cloth flexes, which it will if for no other reason than the weight of the cement/mortar. The cement/mortar will crack, probably before it’s even set because curing cement is an exothermic reaction and there’s a Lot of expanding and contracting going on. Combined with the corrosive nature of curing cement, the ragged edges that will be created by the cracks and the flexing cloth it will wear through and cause chunks of the tipi to fall out pdq.

    You might mitigate the wear and falling chunks with a layer of galvanized chicken wire like they use on adobe but it too will eventually fail for the reasons previously noted.

    Lastly, cement and it’s product combinations are basically a sponge. Believe it or not it absorbs a lot of water and I’m sure the Wyoming freeze/thaw cycles will break the cement/mortar too.

    Anyhow, that’s my $.02 worth on the cement/mortar (concrete is just mortar with rocks of various sizes added) subject for your project. I would feel bad if you put your heart and soul into it and had a result you weren’t expecting.

    I’ve also done some fiberglass mold making and boat repair. It’s certainly not as cheap as cement/mortar but would stand up much better if you add UV inhibitors to the resin. It’s just a matter of forming the cloth and slathering on the resin with a paint brush.

    And I really do like your idea of putting them around town. That would be SOoooo Kooool. Would probably force me to come visit Ten Sleep just to see them.

    With permission to use your idea, I might put a tin one in my orchard if I could get enough sheet metal scraps from the local steel house, and some of my other projects done…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge