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Make your own Concrete Bowl

This is a super easy tutorial to get us started with the tutorials that I’m hoping to share with you. I discovered this when I had some left over concrete from another project I was working on.

You will need:

Concrete mix*
Plastic bowl, such as these
Water
Acrylic paint, such as Artiste 2 oz Acrylic Paint, Metallic Copper

*You can use a ready made concrete mix such as this Hanson Multi Purpose Concrete or you can mix your own with cement and sand following the guidelines on the cement packet.

Method:

You will want to work on a protected surface and wear protective clothing whenever you work with concrete. Gloves and a dust mask are essential but I would also recommend safety glasses and protective clothing as well.

Take your concrete mix and put around 200g or a yoghurt pot full in a pot to mix. I use a large yoghurt pot or salsa pot to mix in.

Concrete Mix in plastic pot with wooden stirrer

Add water a small amount at a time until you reach a homogeneous but thick consistency. It is important that you do not add too much water, otherwise the concrete will slide down the sides of the plastic bowl.

Stirring concrete to a thick batter consistency

This is where it gets messy and you will definitely want to wear gloves for this step. Lightly grease your plastic bowl with cooking oil. Gather up the concrete in your hand in a ball and place it in the bottom of your plastic bowl.

Lump of concrete in plastic bowl ready to be smoothed out

Start pressing the concrete down into the bottom of the bowl. Gradually work the concrete up the sides of the bowl until it is a uniform thickness of around 1cm.

Smooth out the concrete as much as you can until you get a look you like. You can leave the top edge wavy or smooth it out as you like. Gently tap the bowl up and down to remove air bubbles but be careful not to knock the sides down. Leave to cure as per your concrete mix instructions. To remove from the mould, gently flex the plastic bowl and it should easily slide out.

Cured concrete bowl moulded freehand in a plastic bowl

Sand down any rough edges until you get a look that you like. You can then leave it as it is or decorate it how you like.

I used copper acrylic paint to decorate the inside of my bowl which I think has come out really well.

There are so many different options with this bowl idea, from simply changing the size or the decoration, to trying different shaped moulds or even adding texture to the outside of the bowl.

I’m thinking mine will be used for keys or small change!

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Cement vs concrete

There is generally quite a bit of confusion surrounding the terms related to concrete. Consequently many people misuse these terms, which makes learning about the subject quite difficult, especially in relation to concrete crafting, where there is also limited specific information for a U.K. based crafter. So to briefly clarify:

Cement is an ingredient of concrete, which binds the other ingredients together. It is never normally used alone (although could be for small craft projects). Cement is made of clay, limestone and sand which are combined with other materials and heated to high temperature before grinding down to a powder.

Concrete is made of cement, sand and aggregate/gravel/stones. Other ingredients such as plasticisers and fibres are also added to give additional properties. Colour can also be added.

I should also mention mortar which is made of cement and builders sand and used primarily in brick-laying.

In the U.K. concrete is not widely used as a crafting material, unlike in the United States and across other parts of Europe. We only have a relatively small selection of concrete products to choose from here which makes using it for craft much more difficult. There are only very few (and therefore expensive) specific craft concretes available. These generally come in small amounts and are usually sourced from abroad, but they are really great in terms of the quality of the finished product and ease of use, such as this one: Viva Decor Concrete for Creatives, Grey, 1.5 kg. The remaining concrete market is geared towards building work and therefore it usually contains large aggregate (stones) which is not so good for crafting with.

There are a few ways to get round this if you don’t fancy forking out for the craft concrete from abroad. The first, and probably best option is to make your own concrete as you can then design it for your project. Alternatively you can buy ready mixed concrete and sift out the larger lumps (but this will be dusty). Another thought I had but haven’t tried is using a ready mixed mortar as this will not have stones in it but it might not be as strong because of this.

I make my own concrete mix which I am constantly tweaking as I learn more about the stuff. I’d love to hear any insider tips if you have discovered something interesting in your experiments. 😀

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Packaging

I’ve thought a lot about packaging over the past couple of months, as it is something that really resonates with me and there are lots of different angles to consider.

Firstly, there’s the environmental issues to think about. I try to only use either recycled or recyclable materials in my packaging. In an ideal world, I would use products that are both recycled and recyclable but that then can cost more than I can afford in some cases. I’ve been reading and thinking about our plastic impact on the earth and am consciously trying to slowly reduce my plastic waste and replace items with more sustainable options. As well as being something I want to try to mitigate myself personally as much as possible, it is also definitely something that many people consider now when making purchases.

Secondly there’s the cost angle. When starting out as a small business, there are so many start up costs and spending a fortune on packaging is not really an option, so I have been looking for something relatively cheap but also environmentally friendly.

Thirdly, aesthetics have to play a big part. As an Etsy seller, I’m well aware that receiving a beautifully packaged handmade gift is one of things that can really make a buyer remember you and come back to you again and again, and obviously this is super important.

Gem's Concrete Gems product packaged in orange tissue paper in cardboard postage box
Gem’s Concrete Gems packaging

I wrap all my products in tissue paper, secured with string, before packaging them safely in brown cardboard boxes for postage. I think it looks pretty and I love the orange colour against the brown card.

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My Workshop

When we moved into our house a year ago, I was super excited that the house came with a little workshop in the back of the garage, and it has proved so useful now that the business is getting going. This is where I do all my concreting and anything messy, which I couldn’t do in the house.

I have all my tools, moulds and materials sorted in various cupboards, with enough space to leave the concrete curing overnight on the worktop and floor space to mix and store my various bags of sand and concrete!

I also have a room in the loft for finishing off my products and packaging. Only a couple of months in and I’m already taking over the house!