We are married design duo Alex Sommer and Laura Keller.
For over two decades we worked in the fashion industry, the last 18 of which running our creative consultancy 2Som Studio, designing and providing trend forecasts to global casual and sportswear brands. We ran a pioneering fashion forecasting magazine, worked out of an amazing studio next to the flower market in Amsterdam. Life was a peach.
In 2010 we opted to slow down a little by moving to a sixteenth century cottage in Suffolk, but work was still relentless. After the birth of our daughter in 2013 we knew we needed a change - we travelled far too much, were getting a bit long in the tooth to keep up with the young fashion set and quite frankly, were after a fresh challenge.
Over the next few years we had many ideas of new projects and ventures but nothing quite stuck - Alex would think of something, but Laura wouldn't quite feel it, and vice versa - because the thing with us is, we work best when we are fully in agreement and inspired. We just couldn't both put our finger on what the next thing for us was going to be.
The start of 2018 changed everything.
Laura's Mum, who lives in another part of the UK, unexpectedly fell ill and had to spend months in hospital - it was touch and go for a while - meaning Laura was away from home a lot.
So after playing Mum and Dad to a feisty 4 year old, Alex found a new way to calm after the trials of the day by experimenting with concrete in the garage late at night.
Every time Laura came home she was inspired by his creations and vision no matter how seemingly bizarre: Concrete poured into a re-used kiwi tray, chopped-down plastic bottle, or empty butter carton; experiments with pigment to propel the usual grey concrete to new levels; a lightbulb pressed into the top of a bowl of concrete...
And then he made something that looked a little bit like a candle holder.
Laura was inspired to try to make candles to go with the concrete - and so travelled with bags of wax and wicks and fragrance samples and home made moulds when visiting her Mum, returning with candles to test. The two materials together, albeit so very different in nature, just worked so beautifully alongside each other it couldn't be ignored.
Our early tests even involved pouring wax directly on to concrete poured in a Twiglets tube. It didn't burn well, it didn't even look that good, but we knew we were on to something we both felt was right.
We thought of a name - nothing complicated - something understandable.
"How about Concrete & Wax"?
What are the chances in this day and age that the limited company name, website address and all the social handles haven't already been nabbed? We couldn't believe it - literally everything we needed was available! It was clearly meant to be. We joked that Alex should be called 'Mr Concrete', and Laura called 'Mrs Wax'. It stuck!
We set to work. Many head scratching moments followed. We didn't just want to bring a candle brand into an already saturated marketplace. We didn't want to just make concrete objects that appealed for a moment and then became surplus to people's interior style. Our goal and dream was to create something to last. Investment pieces that have potential to grow and change. Pieces that can be personalised by the way they are combined. Candle holders that are multi-functional and don't rely on always having to use the same candles. Concrete that can really live a good and useful life.
Designing the collection was the easy part - if you think about it the stackable, modular design attributes of our candleware are not all that different to a clever design detail on a technical sportswear jacket (such as a packable hood, or a hidden pocket). Designing our branding and packaging was also pretty straightforward as we have created logos and bold graphics for many clothing brands over the years.
Sourcing our suppliers was where it became slightly more interesting because our aim was for them all to be UK and as local to us as possible. It took time to find good partners, but it's something we are pretty proud of. We're also proud that we only use our own moulds. We hand pour each and every one of them from prototypes made by local engineers and carpenters from our designs.
Read more about our design details.
Designing the website however and trying to get our heads around instagram and the world of social media was the main challenge we faced. Wondering when to launch, how to launch, how to fund etc.
We launched very softly at the end of 2018 and have been growing ever since. The pandemic obviously threw a few spanners into the mix - especially when home schooling became a reality. Our kid (like so many others) just didn't enjoy being taught by Mum and Dad! Until one day she asked to pour concrete like Daddy rather than doing maths. The day before we'd been looking at some Jackson Pollock art together and she used this as her inspiration.
We showed her final creations on instagram - and they proved such a hit that splatter concrete became a firm fixture in our tableware collection - poured of course by Alex nowadays. So you see, our business truly is a family affair.
Last year our Modular Collection won 'My Gift of All Time' at the annual Gift of the Year Awards and our Tableware Collection was Highly Commended, which was a wonderful moment for us.
Receiving such recognition for our humble handmade homewares by industry experts is not what we do it for, but hey, it certainly was very gratefully and joyously received after all the hours of labour and love.
As for the future, we hope to keep growing, coming up with new and desirable designs - pieces that are built to last, bring happiness to the owner and look (and smell) amazing.
We truly value every single sale we make and will always ensure each piece is wrapped beautifully and sent with love.
Our journey has really only just begun and we can't wait to see what comes next.
Mr Concrete & Mrs Wax