Ray and Val Talbert try to see the beauty in everything, even if it’s a big pile of dirt.
The couple mines for gems and minerals, which they then use to create one-of-a-kind, concrete housewares.
Tal & Bert products, including planters, candles, candleholders and vessels, have been touted by CNN, Cosmopolitan, Pop Sugar and The Spruce. The buzz generated so much online business that they outgrew their Mt. Lebanon studio space.
This October, the Talberts will open a brick-and-mortar store in Dormont.
Serendipitously located at 2892 West Liberty Avenue in the former MoonStones space, Tal & Bert will be a cross between a plant shop and a home goods store. The Talberts envision offering a Plant-it Bar, where you’ll be able to create either a succulent or cactus garden in one of their signature geode planters. In addition to their own handiwork, they’ll carry makers and brands that create dishes, decorative accents, blankets, pillows, soaps, glassware and more.
Val Talbert grew up in Bucks County, Pa., where she developed an affinity for stones and minerals. She dabbled in recreational mining and when she started dating Ray, a Pittsburgh native, she got him hooked on the hunt.
“I think minerals are such an amazing natural occurrence and I love how the Earth creates something so beautiful completely on its own,” she says. “We choose concrete as our medium because we felt the raw and industrial esthetic of concrete best matched the raw, earthy feel of the minerals that we use.”
They still do a lot of self-mining in New York and North Carolina, and work directly with independent miners and small businesses around the globe to consciously source their materials.
The Talberts support Gem Legacy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating safe mining environments and stable work for miners in Africa. The specific initiative they’re focused on is the Precious Women’s Mine run by Kenyan women who are mostly widows trying to keep food on the table. Donations helped raise $9,500 to pay for a used compressor and jackhammer with installation, replacement parts and miner training so the women can continue finding small, richly colored Tsavorite Garnets.
“Self-mining is both an exhausting and relaxing task at the same time,” Val Talbert says. “It usually is an all-day adventure, shifting and digging through pounds and pounds of rock and dirt to find crystal pockets and veins. You also meet many creepy crawly friends along the way, but the end result is worth it!”