Cenizo Journal Fall 2021 - Page 5

The size and weight of the concrete work maxed out the capacity of Thomas Lancaster ’ s shop equipment .

Pouring their way into the

When Thomas Lancaster poured the concrete countertop in his home 10 years ago , he didn ’ t really know what he was history by Danielle Gallo doing . In the course of building a home for himself and wife Belle Pena , he decided to learn something new .

He bought a book , looked up DIY tips online and set to work . Though the end result is a daily reminder of how little he understood about the complexities of concrete , the process set in motion a winding journey that ’ s taken the couple all the way to Blue Origin , Jeff Bezos ’ s West Texas space venture .
A Fort Worth native , Thomas first came to West Texas 20 years ago , when he and Belle were dating . She grew up in El Paso , Pecos and Fort Stockton . Her mother hails from Boquillas del Carmen and her grandmother from Copper Canyon , a member of the
Tarahumara tribe . The couple moved to Alpine full-time about 12 years ago , leaving behind various careers in the oil business , graphic design and education , including teaching in Korea .
Thomas set about building their home , a process that took three years . After pouring the countertop , he realized he wanted to explore a career in concrete fabrication . He attended the Concrete Countertop Institute in Raleigh , North Carolina , and began Lancaster Designs in Alpine , a name he recently changed to Marfa Cement Works .
The Big Bend ’ s small population makes any business a challenge . There is limited demand in the region for functional concrete art , so Thomas reached out to designers in Santa Fe to broaden his market . As his style and skillset evolved over the past decade , the demand for his work grew , until Covid-19 closed New Mexico ’ s economy like a tight fist .
Belle , meanwhile , often helped Thomas in his shop when he needed a hand . Initially he built a large garage workshop at their home but later expanded to a more functional workspace on their property at the south edge of town . Though Belle has been familiar Continued on page 8 .
Cenizo Fall 2021