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Valentine’s Day Styling

Love concrete letters

Valentine’s Day is a day when you can really show your loved one how much you care! And what better way than by adding some unique and romantic touches to your home.

Today’s lifestyle is often very fast-paced with little time to sit down with your loved one and just appreciate them for who they are. We rush around, juggling a hundred different things, often with little time just to ‘be’ together.

So this Valentine’s Day, why not take the opportunity to create a beautiful, romantic space for you and your loved one to relax, eat a delicious meal, chat and just be together.

I’ve taken part in a skills swap with the talented Sapna Odlin Photography and she has created some fantastic, romantic photos with my Valentine’s range. Check them out below, or click here to shop the range.

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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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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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Book review: “Concrete Design” by Sarah Gaventa

I was looking for other books about Concrete Crafting and this 2006 book “Concrete Design; the extraordinary nature of concrete” by Sarah Gaventa was suggested.

It was in Reading Central Library and so I went and perused it there. It is quite different to the other three books on concrete that I have reviewed they were all aimed at crafters, this is more aimed at people interested in design, and not focussed on making.

In the introduction the book traces the history of concrete crediting the development to the Romans, while indicating others had developed similar substances. The introduction also looks at iconic concrete builds ranging from Rome’s Parthenon to London Zoo’s Penguin Pool.

The body of the book looks at the work of leading designers and architects in the domestic context. Many of the examples are large, such as spiral staircases, walls, floors and concrete furniture. But there are also smaller examples, such as Kelvin Birk’s concrete bowls with silver liner and Kathy Dalwood’s planters. For me the most memorable picture is Ron Arad’s Concrete Record Deck, I have found a link to his complete stereo on the V&A site, if you want to see what I am talking about!

Before reading this book the only architect I could name who worked with concrete was Cesar Manrique, and that was because I have visited Lanzarote where he was very influential. I felt it a shame he was missed from the book, but then maybe his sphere of influence was limited.

If you are interested in concrete and design this is an excellent book to look through, the pictures are excellent. If you are looking for it in Reading Central Library it is on the first floor under Architecture, not the second floor under Fine Art as the catalogue suggests.

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Be my Concrete Valentine!

What better way to show your commitment and everlasting love than a concrete gift this Valentine’s! My concrete pieces are long lasting, solid and beautiful and really evoke a feeling of permanence. Give a gift that lasts this valentine’s rather than chocolates and flowers!

I have some special valentine’s pieces on offer this year which I think you will really like! Take a look below and contact me if there’s anything you fancy!

Also please pop by my Instagram account @gemsconcretegems tomorrow at 6pm (1st February) where I will be taking part in the @craftyfeatures valentine’s market. Lots of great offers to be had!

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Keeping it real in 2019

It’s always tempting at this time of year to make crazy unrealistic resolutions, whether for yourself or for your business, and I’m not saying that I’m not going to do the same, but it is so important not to put too much on your plate all at once either. This is perhaps why I’m writing this post now rather than 3 weeks ago.

I have some big plans and plenty of new ideas for Gem’s Concrete Gems for 2019, but I’m also massively aware of my limitations, the biggest one of which is my time. I’ve always said my business is going to be a slow burner, due to having small children which take up most of my time, and working 2 days a week, which pretty much takes up the rest of the time I have! I’m just left with evenings and the odd nap to ‘concrete’. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation really in that if I don’t have time to work on the business, it will never grow enough to be able to stop working at my ‘proper’ job, which would then give me more time to work on growing the business!! That said though, as the boys get older and start school / preschool, I will gradually have more time to devote to concreting anyway. So whilst I’m keen to move forward, it’s understandable if I don’t get very far I think.

Anyway, back to my big plans! I have set myself the usual goals of being more organised and spending less time procrastinating, and these have largely started out well (I think). I’ve bought some new shelving units (see below) and finally unpacked my stock after December’s craft fairs. This made me realise that I need to build up more stock, so I’ve been in the workshop a bit as well over the past couple of weeks.

Procrastination is a hard one for me, as I am trying to increase my social media following (in the hope of converting followers to sales) but this seems to require a lot of liking, following, posting etc. which feels like procrastination really. I try to do it whilst watching TV in the evening but then it feels like I’m never really relaxing, so I’m not sure whether I need to look at my approach a bit. I’m definitely thinking of scheduling more posts so that I can do more in one go and then ignore it for a while, but I guess it’s just one of those necessities when trying to run an online craft business!

Bigger plans that I’m not sure whether they are achievable this year are to get myself into a physical shop or two! This would be amazing, however it feels like a long way off yet. It requires firstly more stock, and secondly lots of networking and applications to stores. Obviously once again, these things take time, so I will see how it goes.

I’d also like to grow the blog, and possibly set it up so I can sell directly from it, but I’m not sure if this is feasible at the moment (possibly part of the 5 year plan).

New ideas!

I have so many new ideas floating around in my head that it’s impossible to put them all into writing. However, I’m currently working on some pieces for Valentine’s Day, which I will be selling over on my Instagram account @gemsconcretegems as part of the @craftyfeatures Valentine’s market on 1st February. Be sure to check it out!

I’ve also been working on some miniature pots like the ones below, which will be going on Etsy soon! Keep a look out or send me a message if you’re interested.

Colour is another area I am experimenting with at the moment, in particular marbling in the concrete, such as in the coasters below. I love the effect in these.

Marbled hexagonal concrete coasters

Finally I have started to offer personalisation, so that customers can have their initials or a word on their item, as below.

Hexagonal concrete tealight holder personalised

So, these are my plans, we will see how it all pans out, but I’m not going to be too disheartened if I don’t make as much progress as I’d like, because I have time and it’s better to get it right in the long run than mess it up now! It’s all about keeping it real and enjoying the ride!

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5 things to consider when preparing for your first craft fair

Prep for craft fair showing mock up display

Having a stall at a craft fair would initially seem to be fairly straight forward when you are already selling online, but think again! There are so many additional things that need to be considered, which I am just starting to find out. I jumped at the chance to have a stall at a local craft fair, thinking it would be an easy way to get some local exposure and see how my products fared (excuse the pun), before deciding whether to tackle a larger fair.

However, now that I’ve started thinking about it more seriously, I’ve realised how much there is to organise. So here is my list, from one beginner to another, of what you need to prepare in advance of having a stall at your first craft fair (bear in mind that this is my first time too, so there may be some glaring errors here):

Stock

My first thoughts were that I’d just take along the things that I already had – one, or maybe two, of each item – and that would be plenty. But what if you sell that item and someone else might be wanting the same thing? Or what if all your cheaper items sell really quickly, you’d be regretting not having more stock. What I’m saying is, take more products than will fit on your display, so that you can stock up if items sell out (which is what you want of course). And take a variety of different items, different colours, sizes, styles, in the hope that your customer will find at least one thing they like!

Prep for craft fair showing mock up display
Craft fair mock up

Pricing

Firstly, think about the pricing of your items. You might sell them online already, but this is not necessarily the price that you want to sell them for at a craft fair. The price you charge online may include listing fees, transaction fees, postage and packaging, which will not be applicable at a craft fair. However, you will want to factor in the cost of the stall and any other equipment you had to buy for the fair into your new price. So whilst it is more work, start your costing anew for fair items to ensure they are at a price that is competitive and reasonable.

Secondly, people tend to not want to spend hundreds of pounds at a craft fair, so having more lower priced items is probably a good idea. Take the high end pieces as well, but maybe be prepared to get a commission or that the person may want to order it at a later date, once they have thought it through or got the funds together. To this end, make sure you take plenty of business cards with you, so customers know how to get in touch easily!

Also, one thing that I think is really important is to put price labels on your products. This is especially so in the UK, where people do not like to ask questions about prices, and would often be put off buying a product if there is no price displayed. These can be bought very cheaply, such as 100 Quality White Strung Tags


.

Display

This is the one I am panicking about most. How do I present my products in an artistic, attractive way to entice customers to come closer and buy my products. Actually though, I don’t think it needs to be such a big deal. When you strip it back, the products are the most important thing, so just make sure these can be seen from a couple of metres away and let them do the talking! That said, you still need to think about things like a tablecloth, stands to put things on, boxes or containers to put smaller things in, colour schemes, etc. Think especially about items that normally hang on the wall or items of clothing and how best to display these so customers can see what they are looking at clearly from a little way away.

The fair I am going to is providing those metal tables with the fold out legs, which are not the most attractive, so I’m planning on covering mine with a cloth. I also want to have rows of items with the ones at the back elevated so that they can be seen. Some ideas for this are pedestals, blocks of wood, book stands, mini steps, or plastic stands which are available from Amazon per the picture link below. Or you could improvise with objects found around your house or garden. Be creative, but don’t draw the attention away from the products you are trying to sell.

Idea for displaying my hanging Christmas decorations by using an old mug tree
Idea for displaying my hanging Christmas decorations

You

You need to be approachable, friendly and helpful, but not overbearing or annoying. So many craft stallholders I have come across have started up a conversation and kept me hostage as it were, when I was just browsing, and it really put me off wanting to buy anything. On the other hand, you want to be ready to jump in if a customer shows interest in a particular piece or looks like they have a question, so that they feel at ease with you, and not like they are disturbing you. You might have brought some work to do behind the stall, but try not to be too absorbed in it either, so that the customer sees that you are approachable. Answer questions directly without skirting round the issue or waffling on. And most importantly, the customer is always right, so smile and nod, even if you don’t believe a word they say!!

To allow you to be the best ‘you’ you can be, there are certain provisions that I will recommend. Make sure there will be somewhere to sit or take a chair. Tired, aching feet can make me very grumpy! Take water and snacks to keep you going and also I would recommend taking a friend (at least for a bit of the time), unless you have a very strong bladder!

Point of Sale

So, you’ve done all the hard work and you have a customer who wants to buy something! Hooray!! Just don’t blow it at the last moment! I think it is really important that the purchase stage runs smoothly, so make sure you are organised for this. Have all your packaging ready to go and neatly stacked so you can quickly grab the correct sized box or bag. Although you want to be quick, don’t rush and compromise on quality. You still want your product to look beautiful once it is packaged up. For all my online orders, I wrap them in tissue paper before safely boxing them up for postage, but I’m not sure if gift wrapping would be too much at a craft fair. People don’t want to be waiting around for ages. That said, you could offer it as an option.

For the payment, this depends on the type of fair. For me, I am only going to accept cash this time, but at a bigger fair, it would be prudent to investigate card or phone payment options. As I’m going to be cash only, however, I need to make sure I have plenty of change. There’s nothing worse than not being able to complete a sale because you don’t have the right change, or you have to run over to your neighbour stallholder to beg for change.

That’s all for now. I’ll post again after the fair and let you all know how I got on!!