Casey Castillo’s History
Casey Castillo moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1970 with his family. He attended high school and worked for the family business (E.M. Castillo Construction) that specialized in precision concrete, water treatment facilities, fish hatcheries and water reservoirs.
In 1985 after serving four years in the Air Force, Casey’s 4-year enlistment ended in San Antonio, TX. Casey looked for work in the concrete industry. He found that swimming pool construction, the more creative form and function in the concrete industry, was interesting to explore. He went in search of pool companies that specialized in Gunite pools with waterline tile and learned to build pools and patios for Sunset and Blue Haven Pools (two of the largest pool companies of the 70’s to the present). After learning basic pool construction, Casey knew he wanted to pursue this career and seek employment with different pool companies that offered unique and complex waterways and lagoons in California. Casey packed his bags and went in search of a man named Julian George. Julian was known for his design and building of elaborate hotel pools, with large complex waterfalls and intricate pool construction.
Casey mentored with Julian George who was an original Disney set designer, specializing in artificial rock formations in various forms. Julian enjoyed Casey’s thirst for knowledge in a construction art form that allows his love for concrete form and function capacities. He learned to make latex molds of boulder tops only to then learn to spray layers of concrete and fiberglass into the molds for future rock creations Julian was designing and building.
After working in Southern California with Julian George for a year and half, Julian asked Casey to go supervise the artistic intent of a large condominium complex swimming pool in Perdido Key at the EDEN Resort in Florida. Julian George entrusted Casey to represent his designs and construction applications of many cement design mixes used to sculpture rocks and trees in cement. After spending a little over a two years mentoring with Julian George, Julian recommended that Casey contact David L. Manwarren, Julian was friends with David’s father (Frank Manwarren), and together, Frank and Julian had inspired David to seek a career in the artistic world of artificial rock phases of construction. David grew up with his father designing and building zoo exhibits and exotic swimming pools at resorts. Casey called David in 1986 and explained that he had been mentored by Julian for two years and he had recommended him as a texture artist.
David hired Casey and sent him an airline ticket to Indianapolis, Indiana to help construct twelve zoo exhibits in the Indianapolis Waters Building. This was a new form of creating with cement, epoxies, silicon corals and Mangrove trees. Casey learned to build large coral reef formations with silicon; flexible corals embedded in the coral mass they had created down the hall in the next exhibit. There was an amazon forest with concrete mud bank walls and artificial Banyan trees made from teams of artisans skilled in reconstruction of realistic tree structures, shapes and sizes. Casey learned many techniques with the David L. Manwarren Company, who are still busy in the zoo construction business to this day. After working for David L Manwarren for two years at the Indianapolis zoo, Casey became friends with the exhibits zoo curator, David Mclary. There were unfinished exhibits the Annapolis Zoo needed to complete when funding became available. Casey offered to design and build the exhibits for the zoo and save them $1,000,000.00 if Casey could use zoo labor to make all the rock molds and build the geodesic dome in artificial rock “panels” made from the molds. The zoo was thankful for Casey’s offer to leave his California Company, David L Manwarren, in order to take a position as assistant curator of the exhibit department at Indianapolis Zoo. Casey took the zoo’s offer, and the next year was one of his most challenging artificial rock projects to take on. The zoo allowed Casey to travel to Arizona with the zoo director and David Mclary to scout for rock creation next to Aridland’s Greenhouses in the Sonora dessert. They selected boulder tops and cliff formations for Casey to make molds of. Casey was able to visit his brother, Sean, while scouting molds to make. Sean was currently serving in the Air Force in Tuscon, so Casey employed him during his off duty time in 1989 to help make the latex rubber and fiberglass molds. Sean expressed interest in continuing to work with Casey in this field of work. In 1994, Sean was discharged from the Air Force and started to work full-time at Natural Creations for Casey. It has been a passion for both to design and build together. Sean has been the mechanical mind, while Casey creates the form to Sean’s function. Thus, form and function are Casey and Sean.
Casey traveled to many zoo locations for the company:
- Tacoma Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
- Seattle Washington Woodland Park Zoo
- Tacoma WA History Museum
- Santa Barbara Zoo
- San Diego Wildlife Park and Aquarium
- Indianapolis Zoo and Aquarium
- Louisville Kentucky Zoo
- Milwaukee Zoo
- Honolulu Zoo
- Hawaii Bischoff Museum(check name)
- Birmingham Alabama Zoo
- Coney Island Zoo and Aquarium
It is there that Casey knew, if was ever to start his own business, it would be in specialty pools. Casey wasn’t done seeking out new companies. In Indianapolis, Casey met and fell in love with the love of his life, Amy, who he has been married to for 26 years. He asked her “If you could live and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”, Knowing he could find work in exotic places like Hong Kong, Euro Disney, Bahamas and Hawaii, she chose Hawaii. He applied and interviewed for the “artistic shotcrete texture supervisor” position with Hard Scapes Hawaii. Casey was selected by Hard Scapes Hawaii to supervise artistic intent and construction and he and his new bride moved to Honolulu. Casey supervised the construction of the African Savannah Exhibit and Aloha Showroom. The Aloha Showroom, designed by Warner Brothers Studios, is a theater in-the-round featuring 4 stages with a volcano with fiber optic lava flows…30 feet up the walls, waterfalls and many artificial concrete and epoxy trees. The Showroom was designed by Warner Brothers Studios. Casey supervised all artisans involved in creating the indoor showroom.
While there, he traveled the islands designing and building exotic swimming pools for resort hotels and exotic homes. Casey and Amy’s first child was born in Hawaii. A year and a half later, Casey was offered a prestigious job with Anheuser Busch in Tampa Florida at Busch Gardens Zoo and Theme Park. In 1989, Casey incorporated Natural Creations (NC) and the Anheuser Busch project was his first contract. He now owned his own company. He supervised the design of the scale model of the Myombe Reserve – a ninety-foot tall mountain that houses gorillas, chimpanzees and alligators. Casey had the difficult task of contracting all the texturing and coloring of artificial rock formations in the Myombe Reserve. Casey personally carved over 80,000 square feet of textured shotcrete. The project went well and after a year and half, the project was completed.
Casey and Amy decide it was time to move his business to Seattle, Washington. Casey joined his father’s construction company for a brief year, as he was awaiting a large swimming pool request from a Seattle architect named John Paul Jones of Jones and Jones Architects (a senior Seattle architect film). John Paul asked Casey to help build his vision of a woodland pool for Harriet Bullitt at the Sleeping Lady Retreat and Conference Center in Leavenworth, Washington. This was Casey’s first job that Natural Creations contracted in Washington. The job was $309,000 in 1994. Casey had to hire experts to dynamite into the hillside five times so he could create the pool vessel in solid granite. He was asked to make molds of boulders on the Icicle River just up river from the Sleeping Lady and was given access from the Parks Department to make molds on the banks of the river walls and the spectacular river-washed boulder tops Harriet and Casey found to their liking. Casey had special shotcrete equipment and all the skills to take the molds from the river and set the molds up to shoot one inch of cement into the molds. Casey and his team cast rebar anchors into the wet cement so that when the cement hardened, he could attach the panels to the pool walls. The pool and spa are joined by a waterfall and can be enjoyed to this day. Harriet Bullitt was a very inspiring philanthropist that brought out the talents in all she blessed with her presence. When the snow began to fall, Natural Creations couldn’t work on the pool, so Harriet suggested we go look at an old building she thought might be a good location to have a wine and grotto bar. She just didn’t want Casey and his team to leave and go back to Seattle, and get interested in another fascinating project. She wanted Casey and his talented team of artisans to turn the room into a grotto bar. She gave Casey the artistic license to design the interior. Harriet and Casey walked into what was a rectangular room with a solid concrete floor. Casey’s first thought was to saw cut the concrete floor to lower one third of the room by three feet and create an indoor circular fire pit. She loved the idea and the team spent the entire winter creating the grotto bar with the rock panels Casey and his team had created. The Grotto Bar is entertaining guests to this day. The Sleeping Lady Woodland Pool Project was complete, so Casey went back to Seattle to design and build many more exciting projects.
It was always a dream of Casey’s to have a warehouse that produced artificial rocks, fountains, boulder top landscape rocks and precast waterfalls. In 1995 Casey designed a hillside poolscape—Haner Heights on Tiger Mountain. It was on this job Casey was introduced to Jose Perez, a worker from Aguascalientes, Mexico. He was working in Washington and supporting his family back in Mexico. Casey and Jose became very close as Casey saw how Jose had great craftsmanship and paid attention to details. Jose worked hard building with Natural Creations and saved his money in order to move his wife Rebecca, a nurse in Mexico, to be with him in the United States. Jose and his wife were reunited in 1995 and had their two daughters in the same years as Casey’s children were born. Jose was asked by Casey to be superintendent of precast and distribution of Natural Creations products to all nurseries and garden centers. You can see photographs in the Seattle PI, Saturday January 8, 2000, that show Casey and Jose at their precast warehouse looking over some 150 Natural Creations products we created for reproduction and distribution nationwide.
He spent two years buying unique boulders and columns from various stone yards. Casey made many molds and began to show his precast products to all of the local nurseries and garden centers. All the while, he maintained his crew of craftsmen in the construction field as he also maintained the precast employees, reproducing Casey’s garden items in precast concrete. The precast business began to grow rapidly. It wasn’t long before Natural Creations had their precast products in over 150 stores. The company attended garden center trade shows across the U.S. with their precast waterfall kits and fountains. Costco called and asked that Natural Creations bring any and all samples to their headquarters. We loaded our distribution truck with all our precast creations. In 1999, Costco began showing our precast bench rock boulders and landscape boulders in their home stores in Southern California. The home stores were phased out by Costco and it wasn’t long before the internet was formed. Costco came back to NC and asked the company to sell our waterfall kits and fountains online. NC sold and distributed to Costco online buyers nationwide for seven years. NC recently stopped shipping to Costco as shipping costs were prohibitive across country. Natural Creations still produces their precast products for long standing accounts.
In May 2005, Casey went to China to develop his precast concrete waterfalls into a resin-based light weight material. Natural Creations had provided precast concrete for over 15 years, and it was time to develop “kit” waterfalls that fit in a box at larger stores, such as Costco. Costco asked Casey to make a lighter weight waterfall in a “kit” form. So Natural Creations shipped a container load of their precast molds to several factories in Mainland China. Casey and his brother Sean oversaw the manufacturing of their resin-based products. Casey traveled to China eight times to fulfill orders for Costco. As the economy was slowing down, Natural Creations phased out their overseas resin-based waterfalls and kits. Travel and shipping costs outweighed the benefits of providing the products.
Casey has been focusing on developing a talented group of craftsmen and artisans. Casey’s son Julian, now an adult, was named after Casey’s mentor Julian George. He is now a very skilled artisan in the family business. Julian is taking the company in new and exciting directions. Natural Creations is proud to announce that the company is offering pool service to all pool design and construction clients. Casey’s new focus is bringing his son into the service end of pool maintenance of all the pools NC designs and builds. NC’s customers for years have asked us to maintain their waterfall and pool features. NC now offers a pool service maintenance contract with every pool the company builds. Casey and his team of craftsmen do many different projects outside of pool construction. It has always been Casey’s passion to design custom swimming pools that utilize the creative techniques of “form and function” in his pool designs that will be sure to unite friends and family. Thirty one years of concrete design and construction have given Casey many ways of looking at how NC pools can create a more unique pool environment in the same budgets of traditional waterline pools.
Casey’s Crew of Craftsmen and Artisans
Our employees have been formally trained in many different aspects of artistic construction…from patios, cement pouring with many kinds of looks and finishes. They have attended many classes held by industry leaders in artistic cement products. We strive to learn and know all the latest techniques of current technology advancing in color cement, texturing, staining and sealing cement. Our continued thirst for knowledge has our team participating in seminars in how to create puzzle stone walls and English stone walls all by techniques, our company has paid our artists to broaden our knowledge by leading sculptures’ teaching the latest in rock sculpting techniques. NC was at the forefront thirty years ago with learning artificial rock techniques. We feel it is important to be current with all the new upcoming seminars and industry knowledge, along with all classes available to our team of NC craftsmen. We choose to be well informed in our schooling and updated techniques. We are a pioneer in the industry and very much intend to keep on the cutting edge of what is on the horizon in the concrete world of artistic construction.
Joining NC in 1994 after graduating from the Art Institute of Seattle in Computer Animation and Graphic Design, Kenny (Casey’s cousin) has been a lead artistic superintendent for Natural Creations. Kenny is lead artist in sculpting and texturing and oversees Natural Creations’ staff of artisans. Kenny also does all of the 2-D CAD designs for NC Pools customers. His work can be viewed here (link to renderings coming soon).
Casey’s View on Designing a Pool
It has always been Casey’s passion to design and build custom swimming pools. When he moved back to Seattle to start his own swimming pool company, he thought it would best if he worked with a swimming pool company in Seattle to learn the ins and outs of the Seattle pool market. Casey went to work for the largest pool builder in the state, which is still in business. He took a pay cut to work for the big pool company, but still maintained his precast business with Jose Perez, overseeing production and distribution. In the two years he worked for the pool company, he learned all the pool prices, options and how they design/sell and market themselves.