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Xmas or Christmas

The other day Gemma asked whether people liked the abbreviation “Xmas” my natural reaction was that I didn’t, but I have no idea why – so I thought I better find out the back story of Xmas. As a child I don’t remember anyone talking about the abbreviation as good or bad but I do remember seeing it on Christmas cards. So I decided I had better find out a bit more about the history of Xmas.

According to Wikipedia the prefix “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is written as 𝛸 (that looks like a normal X). The suffix “mas” is an abbreviation for mass (a church service).

There are examples of the use of the term Xmas going back to the 16th century, historic authors including Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll used the term. While the BBC reports use in Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 1021, suggesting it would be a parchment saver… Indeed, the use of Chi as part of an abbreviation for Christ goes back to the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300s.

So Xmas is a well established term, we can each choose whether we like it or now, but now when I see it I will remember it is steeped in history.

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It is not Christmas Time yet

Christmas is several weeks away, and in my opinion it is too early for putting up Christmas decorations. But if you are thinking about making your own decorations/gifts or buying from a crafter now is the time to act.

The tree (on the right – in case you didn’t realise it was a tree) was my first attempt at needle felting, which the help of the lovely Jan of Dye it Yarn Self. The Nordic Gnome is from Gemma’s Concrete Gems. I’ve also baked my Christmas Cake.

I’m planning to do some more Christmas shopping at upcoming Christmas Markets. I am wondering about what else I can make for Christmas…

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Christmas Fairs (Real and Virtual)

Shirley (aka Grandma’s Corner) says:

When I was young one of the highlights of the year was an annual fair held in the local church hall. My parents were involved in organising the event, and for months before we would be making things to sell. Knitting egg cosies and hot water bottle covers; decorating jars for baths salts; padding coat hangers; and nearer the actual day, baking. I remember the joy of seeing someone buying something that I had help make.

With this in mind I love buying from a small maker because I know that my purchase will make them happy.

If you are looking to buy gifts try to find time to go to a Christmas Fair and buy something from a local crafts person. If you aren’t able to physically go to a Fair there are virtual fairs you can join in. Now I have to admit, I don’t understand how these work – so I am hoping Gemma is going to add a bit below to explain to us how they work!

Remember when you buy from a small business you make somebody really happy!

Gemma (Concrete Gems) says:

There are lots of online craft events happening this year. The ones I am involved in are on Facebook and Instagram, but I imagine other social media channels also run them.

On Facebook, an event or group is created and images of products are uploaded with details of prices, sizes etc. On the day of the event, often a password is provided and you would use that password to comment on the item you would like to buy. The seller then contacts you to arrange payment and delivery, which can be through their website, PayPal, etc.

Instagram works in a similar way, except the items are just added as images to the business feed.

Online markets that are coming up as as follows:

Facebook Snowflakes and Keepsakes Christmas Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/516451422527464/

UK Crafters Online market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/459309824617879/ on Facebook, or https://www.instagram.com/ukcrafters_marketplace on Instagram

Facebook Stocking filler frenzy: https://www.facebook.com/events/336409273668553/

Concrete Gems will also be at the following actual Christmas markets:

Norden Farm Night Market, Maidenhead, Fri 15th November 5-10pm.

Willowbank Junior School Christmas shopping event, Woodley, Reading, Fri 29th November 6pm-9pm.

Etsy Made Local, ST Laurence’s Church, Reading, Sat 30th November 11am-6pm.

Reading University Christmas craft fair, Thurs 5th December 5-7pm.

craft fair virtual or actual set up at maidenhead

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Seasonal Home Decor

Do you redecorate/rearrange your house to match each season? I don’t and didn’t really know that it was a thing until recently. But it seems that seasonal home decor is a thing and that maybe I should be making more effort!

The reason I don’t change my home decor is purely time. In between working the day job, running Concrete Gems and looking after my boys, there isn’t much time left. What time remains is spent enjoying family time and trying to redecorate the house to bring it up to date from the 80’s to 2019, which has taken 2 years so far. So redoing the decor for each season isn’t really achievable.

There are, however, plenty of easy and quick things that you can do to make your house reflect the season, without spending loads of time and effort.

Nature

Bring natural elements into your home that reflect the season. Daffodils and succulents in spring, for example, bright coloured flowers in summer, herbs and colourful fallen leaves for autumn, and of course pine cones for winter.

Colour

Again there are different colours which emulate the seasons. In spring I like yellows and greens. For summer, I like bright blues and pinks. Autumn is about reds, oranges and browns. And winter is white, gold and silver.

Learn more about seasonal colour palettes here.

Decor

In winter, I like to have lots of pretty lights and candles around the house. In spring it’s more about fresh, clean, minimalism. For summer I like fresh flowers and bold prints. And for autumn, why not try some of my concrete pumpkins and some dried autumn leaves to set off your seasonal home decor.

Concrete pumpkins https://www.concretegems.co.uk/shop/mini-concrete-pumpkin-grey/
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Too early for Christmas?

There’s a lot of debate in the crafting world around when the best time is to start advertising and selling Christmas products, and I don’t think there’s a right answer.

Concrete Christmas star

I had a sale of a Christmas decoration in February, and that couldn’t be much further from the next one.

Generally though, I don’t think people start buying Christmas stuff until after a specific date, such as Halloween or a birthday. For me, is after my birthday in October. However there are, increasingly more it seems, people who like to get organised and start stocking up throughout the year.

So what’s the best way to capture these sales but equally not annoying the people who don’t want to think about Christmas until at least the autumn.

From my limited experience, I think the products should be available from July/August time but posting about them should come slowly. Maybe test the waters in August, but don’t go full on Christmas in every social media post until October.

That said I know of some who have already been making Christmas orders, so who knows really. Let me know what you think!

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Gifts for Teachers

There is an expression “Apple for the Teacher” and I assume in the olden days if you wanted to ingratiate yourself to the teacher your would give him or her an apple. When I was at school we didn’t have an apple tree nor did it ever cross my mind to take a gift for my teacher. When our children were at school it wasn’t routine to give gifts to teachers, although at some point one of them would announce they would like to give something to Miss X, this was usually the evening before the end of term and we would have to hunt around for a suitable something.

Since then it has become routine to give gifts to teachers at Christmas and the end of the school year. My daughter is a teacher and I know she has no expectation of gifts, and I have used surplus chocolates/biscuits from her to bribe my postgraduate students to meetings.

If you are thinking of getting your children’s teachers gifts here are a few things to think about:

  1. Fresh flowers are lovely, but it is best to present them early, they can brighten the classroom or their home, and you are not risking them going off if the teacher is going away as soon as term ends.
  2. Hand made is lovely, but have you and your children got time to do what you have in mind?
  3. How would you feel if you discovered he/she had re-gifted your present?
  4. Each of your children may have more than one teacher and teaching assistant.

If you’re looking for point number 2 and want something handmade, have a look at Gemma’s online shop.

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

All of the grandchildren like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and both Mr 1 and Ms 2 like it singing at nap time.

The older boys know different versions: Mr 4 sings Twinkle Twinkle Chocolate Bar, while Mr 3 sings Twinkle Twinkle Christmas Star.

Mr 3’s mummy makes some concrete stars. Maybe I should buy and teach the children: Twinkle Twinkle Concrete Star.

You can buy these stars at GemsConcreteGems Etsy shop.

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Craft fair debrief

Last weekend I had a stall at my first ever craft fair and it was certainly a fantastic learning experience! I didn’t sell as much as I’d wanted to and only really sold to friends and family, which is definitely not the way to have a profitable business, but hey ho it is still early days.

Gem's Concrete Gems craft fair stall display

The above picture is my stall table. I think it looks quite good but it definitely couldn’t have had anything else on it. I actually requested a smaller table, not realising quite how much stock I had and how big some of the pieces are. Luckily they were able to squeeze in a bigger table for me, but I did feel a bit silly and guilty for messing them around. So I’d really recommend doing a full mock up of your table before you go if you can. I only mocked up a few items at home beforehand but that obviously wasn’t enough.

It took a lot longer than I thought it would to set up my display. I had a lot of stock as I didn’t want to risk running out, so it took quite a few trips from the car to bring everything in and then I had to unpack it all and figure out how to display it best. I moved things about quite a lot and rearranged it as the afternoon went on. This is definitely one of those things that gets quicker with practice and experience.

My biggest light bulb moment though was that it is so important to present your items to the right demographic. The fair I attended was in a church, where the majority of footfall were the elderly population, who were buying things like cross stitched Christmas cards, mini paper Christmas trees and stained glass decorations, all of which were at the lower end of the price scale and were quite traditional in design. It seemed like a lot of people weren’t even there to buy anything, except many some tea and cake! My products are definitely more on the modern and on trend size of things, which is in opposition to the majority of customers.

Now I did have items on my stall which fitted a range of price points, but I think that my ideal customer just wasn’t there. So many people complimented my products, which suggests that they are aesthetically pleasing, but obviously they didn’t like them enough to actually pay money for them! My ideal customer is in the 25 to 45 age bracket, mostly female, with disposable income and a liking for unique, modern trends, and that is not who came to visit my stall!

Another factor in this was that there just were not that many people attending and there were not that many craft stalls either, which wouldn’t have helped bring in customers. So I now know that I certainly need to consider who might be attending a fair before I decide whether to have a stall there or not! If I want to make a profitable business, then I need to be a bit savvy in this respect, otherwise it is just a waste of time.

However, in spite of this, I think this was a really beneficial experience as a first attempt. It made me consider how to set up as stall, what stock and equipment I’d need and how to behave whilst there, so now I feel much more prepared to tackle a bigger fair in the future!

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Christmas Products

Concrete star tealight holders with gold or red glitter decoration

I’ve been busy preparing for my first craft fair which is on Saturday, so I haven’t had much time for the blog, however, with only 2 months to go till the big day, I really wanted to share with you my Christmas products which are available over on my Etsy shop.

All of my Christmas items this year are made of concrete (of course), and decorated with either glitter or glitter paste. Click the links below to get a similar effect.

Craft Planet Glitter Shaker, Pack of 6, Multi-Colour

Imagination Crafts Glitter Sparkle Medium Clear Gel 50ml – Bright Red

The first two items are hanging concrete stars. There are two sizes available in my shop. I love the mini ones, they’re really cute and not at all like concrete really. The decorations are not very heavy despite what you might think.

They look great hanging on the Christmas tree, but would also work really well hanging from a mantelpiece or any other Christmas decor you have. I think they work in both a modern and a more traditional setting.

To buy the hanging stars, click here and for the mini ones, click here.

Also available are hanging Christmas trees, again decorated in glitter or glitter paste.

I think these look really lovely hanging in the real Christmas tree pictured here.

To buy the larger trees click here and for the mini ones, click here.

The last decorations that I want to share with you today are definitely my favourite. These are tealight candles in the shape of a star or a tree with glitter decoration. They come with a tealight candle as well. These look fantastic as part of a Christmas table decoration or mantelpiece display. Look out for a post soon on my table decoration styling, where I will be showing how you can display my decorations over Christmas.

To buy the star tealights, click here.

To buy the tree tealights, click here.

I hope you like my decorations, and if you do, please head over to my Etsy shop and take a look at my other products.