Add Sparkle to Your Meditation! A DIY Cement Project

Add sparkle to your meditation practice with a cement candle holder you create yourself!

Add sparkle to your meditation practice with a cement candle holder you create yourself!

When you're trying to start a new practice or revitalize an existing one, it can be more fulfilling when you incorporate something you've created with your own hands. Candle-lighting for a lot of ceremonies and meaningful events is nothing new. We love the mystical qualities of the candle flame and lighting one with intention seems to imply we're devoted to our act. This holds true for a few moments we take out of our day to give to ourselves in the form of meditation. A holder you've made yourself simply makes things extra special.

The simple act of lighting a candle is also a little switch you hit on your mind to tell it it's time to get ready to meditate and this act alone usually begins to slow your heart rate. I love little flames because they remind me of the little light within—this little light of mine.

Whether you're new to or well experienced with meditation, I want to let you know about the app called Insight Timer. My friends are sick of hearing me talk about this app, but I really love it and because I love you, I have to at least let you know about it. If it's not right for you, no worries. Here is what I love about it.

  • You can use it as a timer, set to any length of time. (I've used this for as little as two minutes and as many as 20.) You can listen to silence or to a number of lovely background sounds. My favorites are Moonlight, Zen Guitar, Raindrops and occasionally Angel Choir. You can also add as many interval bells as you like, which I think is really cool because I'm currently using a practice that divides my 20-min session into four segments—a different focus for each.
  • You can search from over 5,000 guided meditations! You can search by keyword or category and always find the topic/focus you're in need of. A bookmark feature allows you to save meditations that sound interesting to you, but which you may not want to listen to at that time.
  • It keeps track of your sessions and gives you pats on the back for meditating consistent days in a row. Tomorrow will be my 100th day! If you miss a day, it starts over, so I'm very motivated to not loose my milestones. 
  • You can see who around the globe is meditating at the same time you are and thank others for meditating along with you.

If you do decide to try the app and join the community, feel free to add me as a friend. :-)

OK, let's move on to the project. If you've not worked with cement before, this is a great way to try it out, as this project is small. The metallic leaf embellishment is not mandatory, but it sure is pretty and adds a bit of extra sparkle to your magical moment.

I've always wanted to have a set of small holders of varying heights, so that's why I created three holders in this project. But a single one of these is just as beautiful and powerful, and starting off with just one is a good way to begin playing with cement. So, let's get to it!


What You Need

  • artist’s tape, 3/4” (19mm)
  • cement (I like All-Crete High Performance Cement)
  • cement pigment, optional 
  • craft glue
  • craft knife
  • craft sticks
  • container of water
  • cutting mat
  • disposable plastic drinking cups
  • dust mask
  • hammer
  • masking tape (I use blue painter’s tape)
  • metal ruler
  • metallic leaf products (I used Mona Lisa brand by Speedball):
  • Simple Leaf (I used silver)
  • adhesive sizing
  • sealer
  • needle-nose plier
  • paintbrush, inexpensive
  • pencil
  • pipette
  • plastic bowl, dedicated to mixing cement
  • sandwich bag
  • scrap cardboard, such as a cereal box
  • spray adhesive or glue stick
  • tea light
  • waxed paper
  • wet sandpaper, extra fine (600 grit)

A note about cement:

While many of us, myself included, often use the terms cement and concrete interchangeably, technically, cement is an ingredient in concrete. Portland cement ("cement" for short) is mixed with water to form a paste and then combined with sand, gravel and/or other materials to create concrete. My very first experiments with cement were completed using Robert Dancik's Solid Expressions Concrete. For small projects, this product is top-notch and a dream to work with. I love Solid Expressions. But when I wanted to try larger stuff, I needed a more economical solution for experimenting and playing with things on a larger scale. I told a worker at Lowe's Home Improvement that I wanted to make artful things with cement and asked what he recommended. He referred me to All-Crete which from what I can tell is made/sold by the company that manufactures Quikrete. However, All-Crete appears to be sold exclusively at Lowe's and even then it's restricted to AZ, CA, IL, IN, NV and WA. I'm sorry I don't have a recommendation for other alternatives, but I did try using plain old Quickrete once and I did not have good results. Perhaps it's simply not made for creative works. If you can't find All-Crete near you, try some of Robert's cement mentioned above, or maybe see if you can find something with "high performance" in the name? 


This first part is optional. If you want your finished cement to have a nice, rugged/distressed feel to it, one way is to add some dried bits of cured cement (what I call chippy texture). You can see this texture on the tops of my finished holders. My color is very subtle, but it's slightly more "brick" than the grey cement. If you wish, you can skip this part and go directly to step 6.

1. Don a dust mask. Scoop out a very small amount of cement powder. We're not creating our candle holder yet, just creating some chippy texture to embed in our cement later. 2. If you want to tint what will become this texture, add a very small amount of pigment. 3. Stir the pigment and cement powders together using a craft stick. Note the cement will not appear tinted. This is normal and the tint will not show up too much until water is fully incorporated. Add a full pipette of water to the cup. 4. Stir in the water. Pea-sized balls will form.

1. Don a dust mask. Scoop out a very small amount of cement powder. We're not creating our candle holder yet, just creating some chippy texture to embed in our cement later.

2. If you want to tint what will become this texture, add a very small amount of pigment.

3. Stir the pigment and cement powders together using a craft stick. Note the cement will not appear tinted. This is normal and the tint will not show up too much until water is fully incorporated. Add a full pipette of water to the cup.

4. Stir in the water. Pea-sized balls will form.

5. Add another pipette of water and stir to combine completely. If your mixture doesn't yet resemble Greek yogurt, add another pipette of water. This mixture here is just slightly too runny, but it will be OK. Roll your cup around to try and get the mixture to stick to the sides of the cup. Then set it aside to cure.

5. Add another pipette of water and stir to combine completely. If your mixture doesn't yet resemble Greek yogurt, add another pipette of water. This mixture here is just slightly too runny, but it will be OK. Roll your cup around to try and get the mixture to stick to the sides of the cup. Then set it aside to cure.

The way to create the recess in our holder(s) that holes a tea light, is to create a positive space to put at the bottom of each cement form, that we'll then remove once the cement has cured. The easiest way to do this is with a candle itself. But we don't want the recess to be exactly the size of a tea light or it will be too snug and difficult to place a tea light. So, we're going to wrap a candle in tape to bulk it up a little.

6. Cut off a length approximately 15" (38cm) of 3/4" (19mm) artist's tape. With one edge of the tape at the bottom edge of a tea light holder, begin wrapping the metal holder. 7. Repeat for as many candle holders as you are making. Set the wrapped tea light(s) aside for now.

6. Cut off a length approximately 15" (38cm) of 3/4" (19mm) artist's tape. With one edge of the tape at the bottom edge of a tea light holder, begin wrapping the metal holder.

7. Repeat for as many candle holders as you are making. Set the wrapped tea light(s) aside for now.

It's now time to create our cement forms. The viscosity of mixed wet cement is such that it likes sticking together and doesn't work hard to get into every nook and cranny without a bit of jiggling and tapping. So the good thing about this is that your form need not be watertight. This opens you up to easily be able to build forms from a wide variety of materials. Most of the projects I've made with cement have been created using paper/cardboard forms. That's what we're going to do here. My three forms were: 2" x 2" x 1" (5cm x 5cm x 3cm); 2" x 2" x 2" (5cm x 5cm x 5cm) and 2" x 2" x 3" (5cm x 5cm x 8cm). Create any size(s) you like, but keep in mind you want these small for ease of mixing/pouring.

8. On scrap cardboard, measure and mark where you will score/cut to create a base and sides that fold up. (No top needed.) 9. Score where the folded portions need to be and cut away the corner pieces. 10. Using glue stick or spray adhesive (wear a mask if you use the spray. It's kind of nasty stuff.), adhere waxed paper to what will be the insides of the forms. Cut away excess waxed paper and fold up the sides of your forms. The waxed paper will act as a release agent for the cement and will save us time having to sand off paper fibers.

8. On scrap cardboard, measure and mark where you will score/cut to create a base and sides that fold up. (No top needed.)

9. Score where the folded portions need to be and cut away the corner pieces.

10. Using glue stick or spray adhesive (wear a mask if you use the spray. It's kind of nasty stuff.), adhere waxed paper to what will be the insides of the forms. Cut away excess waxed paper and fold up the sides of your forms. The waxed paper will act as a release agent for the cement and will save us time having to sand off paper fibers.

Use masking tape to secure the sides of the form(s) together. If your form(s) are taller than 1" (3cm) such as two of mine are, leave one side open for easy access to adhering your tea light. Again, don't be too worried about covering the entire length of the seam. Just be sure each join is snug.

11. Run a bead of craft glue around the edge of the wrapped tea light. 12. Set it glue-side down inside the form. Repeat for the other candles if you're creating more than one. 13. After the glue has had a chance to set, tape up the open edges. Note, handle the forms lightly at this point. You don't want to disturb the adhesion of the glue or coax the waxed paper off the cardboard. These elements are intentionally adhered minimally for ease of removal later.

11. Run a bead of craft glue around the edge of the wrapped tea light.

12. Set it glue-side down inside the form. Repeat for the other candles if you're creating more than one.

13. After the glue has had a chance to set, tape up the open edges. Note, handle the forms lightly at this point. You don't want to disturb the adhesion of the glue or coax the waxed paper off the cardboard. These elements are intentionally adhered minimally for ease of removal later.

Remember the chippy texture? Here's where we'll add it. You can experiment with mixing some of it in with the regular cement, but I find it doesn't like to migrate out to the edges much. Though with my largest form, it did. Just know it's not a sure thing and have fun with whatever happens.  What does work nicely is to place it at the bottom of the form. This will be the top of the candle holder and it looks great there.

14. Retrieve the cup of dried, tinted cement. 15. Squeeze the cup to crumble the dried cement and release if from the plastic. 16. You could leave these bits as-is, but I think it looks better to have them crushed a bit smaller. Pour them into a sandwich bag and seal or tape closed. Smash the bits further with a hammer. 17. Sprinkle randomly the bits into the form(s). You're now ready to mix and pour cement!

14. Retrieve the cup of dried, tinted cement.

15. Squeeze the cup to crumble the dried cement and release if from the plastic.

16. You could leave these bits as-is, but I think it looks better to have them crushed a bit smaller. Pour them into a sandwich bag and seal or tape closed. Smash the bits further with a hammer.

17. Sprinkle randomly the bits into the form(s). You're now ready to mix and pour cement!

18. Begin mixing a new batch of cement—preferably in a plastic bowl (reserved for this; you won't be able to use it for much else after this). Do this as you did before, but with a larger amount, it's safe to add two pipettes of water at a time instead of just one. You want the finished mixture to resemble Greek yogurt, not melted milkshake. If your mixture gets too runny, add more powder.  19. Pour the mixed cement into your form(s). If you didn't mix enough to fill it, don't panic. Just mix more in the same bowl. As you do this multiple times, the cement will begin setting on the surface of the bowl. This is OK; keep going, mixing the best you can. Fill your forms to the point it looks like they're on the verge of overflowing. Tap the filled forms on your table to encourage the cement to go where it needs to and for air bubbles to release. 20. Let the piece(s) cure for at least an hour. If they feel warm still, leave them for longer. If they feel hard and cool, you're probably safe to remove the form(s). Peel off the masking tape from the corners and then starting with one side, peel the cardboard away from the semi-set cement. Sometimes the paper will separate into layers, leaving the side stuck to the cement.  21. Just gently use your thumbnail to get under the waxed paper. It will peel right off. Peel all of the cardboard off the form(s). 

18. Begin mixing a new batch of cement—preferably in a plastic bowl (reserved for this; you won't be able to use it for much else after this). Do this as you did before, but with a larger amount, it's safe to add two pipettes of water at a time instead of just one. You want the finished mixture to resemble Greek yogurt, not melted milkshake. If your mixture gets too runny, add more powder. 

19. Pour the mixed cement into your form(s). If you didn't mix enough to fill it, don't panic. Just mix more in the same bowl. As you do this multiple times, the cement will begin setting on the surface of the bowl. This is OK; keep going, mixing the best you can. Fill your forms to the point it looks like they're on the verge of overflowing. Tap the filled forms on your table to encourage the cement to go where it needs to and for air bubbles to release.

20. Let the piece(s) cure for at least an hour. If they feel warm still, leave them for longer. If they feel hard and cool, you're probably safe to remove the form(s). Peel off the masking tape from the corners and then starting with one side, peel the cardboard away from the semi-set cement. Sometimes the paper will separate into layers, leaving the side stuck to the cement. 

21. Just gently use your thumbnail to get under the waxed paper. It will peel right off. Peel all of the cardboard off the form(s). 

22. The cement is not fully cured at this point and is darker in color than it will be when it's fully cured. Set your piece(s) on a paper towel to cure for at least another hour before you try removing the tea lights. 23. Sometimes getting the tea lights to release is a little tricky, but with patience they will come out. Take needle-nose pliers and first pry all of the tape away from the cement. Then gently tug at various points around the circumference, and pry the candle loose. Remove the tape from the holder and you should still be able to use the candle. 24. Leave the pieces to cure overnight. You can now sand the edges a bit if you like, using wet sandpaper. Be sure to keep the sand paper wet. I like to work in a container of water, to help rinse off the removed silt. Do not wash this stuff down the sink; pour it out outside.

22. The cement is not fully cured at this point and is darker in color than it will be when it's fully cured. Set your piece(s) on a paper towel to cure for at least another hour before you try removing the tea lights.

23. Sometimes getting the tea lights to release is a little tricky, but with patience they will come out. Take needle-nose pliers and first pry all of the tape away from the cement. Then gently tug at various points around the circumference, and pry the candle loose. Remove the tape from the holder and you should still be able to use the candle.

24. Leave the pieces to cure overnight. You can now sand the edges a bit if you like, using wet sandpaper. Be sure to keep the sand paper wet. I like to work in a container of water, to help rinse off the removed silt. Do not wash this stuff down the sink; pour it out outside.

You can now consider your beautiful cement holders complete, or . . . you can now begin the process of adding a bit of sparkle to your pieces, with metallic leaf.

Here's a shot of the leafing supplies I used. If you can find this Simple Leaf stuff instead of the traditional sheets, I highly recommend it. These sheets are the leaf adhered to a backing sheet, so you don't get little bits flying around and breaking with a whisper like you do with the traditional sheets. It's the same leaf, but so much easier to work with! While the sealer and the adhesive are said to clean up with soap and water, use a brush with these materials that you aren't attached to.

Here's a shot of the leafing supplies I used. If you can find this Simple Leaf stuff instead of the traditional sheets, I highly recommend it. These sheets are the leaf adhered to a backing sheet, so you don't get little bits flying around and breaking with a whisper like you do with the traditional sheets. It's the same leaf, but so much easier to work with! While the sealer and the adhesive are said to clean up with soap and water, use a brush with these materials that you aren't attached to.

25. Brush the sizing (adhesive) lightly over areas on the top(s) of the holder(s) where you want to adhere some metallic leaf. 26. Also brush some on the sides. This will appear milky when it goes on, but will be completely clear and sticky when dry.

25. Brush the sizing (adhesive) lightly over areas on the top(s) of the holder(s) where you want to adhere some metallic leaf.

26. Also brush some on the sides. This will appear milky when it goes on, but will be completely clear and sticky when dry.

27. When the adhesive is dry but sticky, you can apply the metallic leaf. Take a sheet from the package. Inspect it so you know which side has the leaf on it and which is the back/liner.

27. When the adhesive is dry but sticky, you can apply the metallic leaf. Take a sheet from the package. Inspect it so you know which side has the leaf on it and which is the back/liner.

28. Press the leaf side of the sheet over an area that has adhesive. Burnish well with your fingers. 29. Gently peel back the sheet and the leaf will be left behind on the cement. Repeat this over the same area if not enough adhered and also repeat it over the rest of the piece(s) until you are happy with the amount of leafing. Loose bits can be brushed away with your fingers or a dry soft brush. 30. Apply a coat of sealer over the entire piece(s). This will ensure your metallic leaf will not tarnish or rub off. It will also seal the cement so it won't stain as easily. 31. Drop in your tea lights and you're ready for a special meditation! (Or a romantic dinner. Or both!)

28. Press the leaf side of the sheet over an area that has adhesive. Burnish well with your fingers.

29. Gently peel back the sheet and the leaf will be left behind on the cement. Repeat this over the same area if not enough adhered and also repeat it over the rest of the piece(s) until you are happy with the amount of leafing. Loose bits can be brushed away with your fingers or a dry soft brush.

30. Apply a coat of sealer over the entire piece(s). This will ensure your metallic leaf will not tarnish or rub off. It will also seal the cement so it won't stain as easily.

31. Drop in your tea lights and you're ready for a special meditation! (Or a romantic dinner. Or both!)


I hope you had fun with this project. What are your favorite tools for meditation? Feel free to add your input in the comments section.