Suffolk duo, Mr Concrete & Mrs Wax (aka Alex and Laura) are gracing my blog this week – Mr Concrete makes modular, stackable candle holders from hand poured concrete; and Mrs Wax makes the most delightful scented soy wax candles …or non scented beeswax candles (with a slight natural aroma of honey) to match. Coming actually from a fashion background, they decided to launch Concrete & Wax In November 2018. I caught up with them recently to find out more about their delightful products ….
Hi! We are married design duo Alex Sommer and Laura Keller. We live in a sixteenth century cottage with our 6 year old Marley and slobber-dog Boadiin the Suffolk countryside. We worked for over two decades in the fashion industry, the last 15 of which through our creative consultancy 2Som Studio, designing and providing trend forecasts to many casual and sportswear brands. In 2018 we decided to combine our creativity with a new focus and, after many months of development, launched CONCRETE & WAX, a collection of concrete holders and natural wax pillar candles, all hand poured in our Suffolk workshop.
After a background in fashion including the running of a trend and forecast magazine – what inspired you to start your company, CONCRETE & WAX?
After Marley was born we knew that we needed a shift in career so that we travelled less. We batted around a few ideas over the years but never both felt equally passionate about one in particular. A close family illness at the start of 2018 meant Laura was away for long periods of time and in the evenings Alex distracted himself by tinkering with concrete. This inspired Laura, when at home, to experiment with wax, believing that the two contrasting materials would work beautifully together. It was like a ‘POW’ moment for us – we knew this was what we wanted to do. Alex suddenly became Mr Concrete and Laura became Mrs Wax! Alex’s love for modular, intelligent design in clothing transferred easily into the stackable, interchangeable collection of holders and candles that we have today. We love to think that our customers can put together their candle arrangement depending on their mood, in the same way they might pull together an outfit from their wardrobe.
I am amazed at the colour versatility of the modular, stackable concrete candle holders – and the Wax candle essence range, especially the unusual “tobacco & oak”. To date, what has been the most popular colour candle holder & popular wax candle fragrance?
Our customers seem to love the monochrome colours the best: Grey, white, black and, for the more adventurous, a little snocam camouflage paired with our white soy wax candles. Lime, Basil and Mandarin is the number one fragrance for women and Tobacco and Oak for men. It always amazes us to see how our customers style the products they’ve chosen to light there space.
What’s your most favourite item(s) in your collection?
It’s hard to pick favourites really, because they all have such unique personalities even though they really are very simple in design. But, our favourite thing by far is the fact they are modular and so can be stacked in many different ways. During the design process it was critical that we created product that would stand the test of time. Knowing the concrete would outlast the candles, and not wanting our customers eternally restricted to buying candles from us, the fact each holder has been designed to fit any standard tealight is a design element we are very proud of.
Mrs Wax, when deciding fragrances to add to your soy wax candle collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other candle makers, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?
It’s absolutely been about personal preferences. I’ve worn Lime, Basil and Mandarin perfume for most of my adult life so naturally this was my first development. The other fragrances I’ve added for the simple reason that I like them. There is nothing too sweet or overpowering because I don’t like to walk into a room and feel overwhelmed by a fragrance.
We’re not quite at the personal request stage just yet in terms of our customers contacting me to ask, but I am completely open to that idea, so if anyone has a favourite they’d like me to look into then please get in touch.
I love that you are bringing to life candle holders using hand poured concrete – I love the smooth texture, the colours, the sheen & the fact that no two holders will ever look the same! – they all look fantastic! Mr Concrete, how long does it take on average to make a concrete candle holder? Which part of the process gives you the most satisfaction?
Thank you. After pouring the concrete, it sits in its mould for 2-3 days, before I remove it – which is the best moment because it’s only at this point that I can see the unique characteristics of each piece, due to tiny air bubbles forming during the initial drying process. The concrete is then left to cure for two weeks before I add our branded cork foot to the base and apply a natural waxed oil protective coating. It goes back on the shelf for another week. Then it’s good to go. The camouflage concrete is always the most fun to pour because Mrs Wax helps me with this, as it is a two-person job. As there is no exact science to our pouring technique, no two pieces are ever the same and we love that fact.
Mrs Wax, can you tell us more about the different types of wax candles you make? What are the properties of the different type of waxes used?
I use only natural wax for our candles. The fragranced white candles are a blend I developed combining soy wax with a sprinkling of beeswax. The beeswax is important to add strength to the pillar candles because soy wax is a much softer wax, hence the reason it is usually used for container candles. And the yellow candles are natural beeswax. I just love the subtle honey aroma they throw out.
As CONCRETE & WAX is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide?
Yes – we ship internationally, but as we make concrete, it is a heavy product to ship and some countries are absolutely weight dependent in terms of shipping costs. This has an impact on the price we have to charge for shipping and we fully appreciate that many customers are not prepared to pay for that. All we can say is, as we get bigger and ship bigger quantities we’ll have more negotiating power with the shipping companies and then the costs will come down.
Are there any new products or candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2019/2020?
Yes, we have three new colours in concrete in a tranquil, calming palette. They are lovely. And we’re also working on a couple of new candle fragrances. It’s a little early to specify exactly what yet because many are still in early testing phase, but Mediterranean fragrances are the inspiration, such as fig, orange, rosemary and basil.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
L: Jeans, a casual top and easy footwear. As I’m a working Mum to a 6 year old it’s mostly about throwing it on in the morning to get breakfast, hair style and tooth brushing sorted in time for the school run (all of those things for her by the way, not me). Once that’s done I’d love to say I come home and glam up, but I usually jump straight on to the computer or into candle making.
A: A rather more masculine version of what Laura wears! Or camouflage overalls when I’m in the workshop.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
L: When I have an hour or two to spare I love a good hunt through the rails at TK Maxx as invariably you can find something special at a great price.
A: Goodhood or End Clothing are my go-to sites.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
L: Something glamorous for the Christmas season.
A: I’m on the hunt for a vintage quilted leather jacket.
Boots or Shoes?
We hate to admit it, but usually trainers. After working for so many years in the sportswear industry, it’s a tough style choice to shift because there are just so many great ones out there – and you just can’t beat the comfort.
L: Although saying that I have been wearing a cute pair of pale grey suede Chelsea boots quite a lot recently.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about CONCRETE & WAX
Facebook & Instagram: @concreteandwax
I hope your business continues to burn brightly – I really am amazed at the colour variations available for concrete!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of CONCRETE & WAX