Concrete artist Shamila Varner has turned a unique type of handmade artistry into her fully family-run business: concrete home decor under the name QC Crete.
From planters to candle holders, jewelry trays and hanging art, every single one of Shamila’s products is handmade with love in Charlotte with the assistance of Shamila’s husband and sometimes even their children.
“I started making candles because I was tired of spending money on candles that weren’t even good,” Shamila explains. “Then I quickly expanded to planters and homewares once I got concrete down.”
It’s a further bonus that the concrete is a renewable resource, and one that Shamila enjoys changing the perception around: Concrete isn’t just for sidewalks or cinder blocks. It can be beautiful, too.
Concrete artist Shamila Varner’s designs are eclectic, clean, and often modern or mid-century modern.
“Concrete is so versatile, which is what I love about it.”
What did life look like for you before starting Queen City Crete?
We lived the 9-5 life, and I missed a lot of time with my babies while they were growing up.
How did you apply the skills you learned from your previous jobs to this business?
I have a background in sales and retail so I apply that daily to business. Also, I learned about social media marketing with a previous job and it helped grow our business tremendously.
Why did you choose to use concrete instead of any other material?
I chose concrete because when I started making candles the vessels I poured in were boring; everyone had them. My husband and I were working on a fire pit for our back yard using concrete, and I just had an idea that maybe that could work for candles. It wasn’t really popular when I started in late 2018 so the only way to know was trial and error. I made molds with recycled juice boxes and that’s when our business was born.
How did you go from concrete artist to family business?
When I started it was just me; our business is female-founded and family-run now! It grew so much and so fast that my husband left his full-time job in mid 2020 to help me. Now it’s our family business.
How do you come up with the names of your planters?
Most are named after family members and influential people. For instance, I have three named after our children, two named after our family pets, and some are influential women like our Joan vessel, named after Joan of Arc.
What does the process of coming up with designs look like?
Nature is often an inspiration. A lot of our layered vessels are inspired by the sunset the night before or the sunrise that day, or art we see around us. We don’t sit down and plan it out. It’s also heavily influenced by music we listen to.
What new designs can we expect?
We would love to expand into lighting fixtures and more furniture this year! Terrazzo tables have always been something I’m drawn to.
What plans do you have for the future of Queen City Crete?
We have a 5-year plan that incorporates both of my passions. I’m not ready to let the cat out of the bag yet but expect big things from us!
Shop QC Crete online or in person at 224 East Blvd Ste. B in the shared creator space Concrete Jungle CLT.