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Ladybirds Story

Posted 21/1/2023

Ladybird now feels more than just a business, it feels like a big part of the Caldicot community. Our customers and the whole community have welcomed us and supported us, so Deb and I feel that because you have been loyal customers, we owe it to you to explain what our situation really is.

If you live in or near Caldicot you probably want to understand why so much is changing or closing, Ladybird has also fallen victim to the sudden price raises and the down turn in sales, but for us this is only the tip of the iceberg.


Firstly, the staff were told a few days ago, they have been given time to digest and ask any questions they might have. We are hoping they will continue to work for us until the end, but we are also keen they follow any good opportunities that may come their way before we close and if this happens, we will both encourage them to go for it and wish them well!


Secondly this may not be the end of Ladybird. Deb and I are keen to emphasize that we are open to offers to buy the name, equipment, stock and if required, a hand over period with me and Deb. So, this may not mean another empty unit in Caldicot and wouldn’t it be lovely if Ladybird could become an even more community based business like a peoples cooperative? Where a group would own the business and run it not for profit, but for the community to both have a lovely, relaxing place to buy lunch or cakes, but also to teach those who may not get a lot out of mainstream education. Unfortunately, we also have to consider what happens if we don’t find a buyer.


With any new business you expect a time of working long hours for little to no money while establishing the business. Then you would expect some growth, and this would be the time to really cement what you are about, how the business will run and what you expect it to look like in the near future.


Ladybird opened on Caldicot high street at the end of 2016 after trading in Tintern for 2 years as just a Paint your own Pottery shop. We quickly increased our range both in craft and in the coffee shop, so much so that the unit just wasn’t working for us, it was too small to hold enough customers at peak times, but wasn’t able to make enough money from the customers we could fit in to make it a viable business. Deb and I looked at a lot of other units, as soon as we viewed the old Barclays bank, we knew we could do a lot in this building. The building had so much potential and being just off the high street meant much lower business rates. In a nut shell it had a lot more to offer for a very similar price to those units on the high street.


For those of you who followed our renovation work of the Barclays building you’ll remember the awful state the building was in. We only had a tiny budget, but with a lot of help from family and friends we just about kept to our budget, in return for a good discount on the rent we were able to make the building homely and comfortable, but with more work needed as funds became available.


When we opened in the current building in July 2019 we were overwhelmed by the support from the local community. We had a fantastic summer, Christmas and into the beginning of 2020, Deb and I thought 2020 would finally be the year we would be able to pay ourselves a reasonable amount every month. But I don’t need to tell you what 2020 brought us… We were lucky to get grants from the council to help with paying the rent, but me and Deb received no financial help ourselves.


Every time we started to come out of the lockdowns it was like starting a new business. Advertising we were open, encouraging an understandably nervous public to return and spend their money was difficult, time consuming and expensive. We hadn’t been making a profit before the lockdowns and there were still so many jobs to do on the building just to maintain it, it took any spare money we had. This was ok because we planned to build the business, to increase our product range in craft, craft workshops and the coffee shop, to employ more staff, even increase opening hours so Ladybird could become a place for customers to enjoy as well as train new staff in hospitality and increase confidence.


Then Brexit happened and brought the problems with supplies and delivery drivers, which effected both our craft and the coffee shop aspects. We battled on because more than anything me and Deb love our jobs, we love the community feel of the shop, meeting people and encouraging crafting for all.


At the beginning of 2022 things seemed to improve for the whole country and problems with supplies and drivers were less often, our customers were more keen than ever to come out and support us. Again, Deb and I dared to believe that we could pay ourselves a wage.


While we are so fortunate to not live in a war zone, the war in Ukraine has hit the UK more then I think any of us could have imagined. Prices are raising quicker now than in the last 40 years, and we have tried to keep our prices as low as possible, after all we all need to enjoy a cuppa and cake now and again. But I’m sure like many of you, we are really feeling the crush in food and electric prices. Our customers are understandably counting the pennies at the moment and buying less luxury items.


It’s the prefect storm when it comes to running a small business. If one of these phenomenon’s had happened alone, we could have weathered the storm, but with rinsing prices after Brexit, after covid on top of being a relatively new business with no profits to fall back on, then all you have left is two very tired, poor and burnt-out ladies. Deb and I, along with our very understanding and patient husbands, have discussed the business at length over the last few months, and we are all in agreement that its time to call it a day on us owning Ladybird Craft centre. This is a real heart ache for us, but it is now time for Deb and I to focus on our personal lives.


The lease finishes next year and if we can’t find a buyer soon, we will close in approx. spring 2024.   


We hope you will continue to support us until then.

Jo and Deb.

Posted 10/7/2022


Back in May I attended a stoneware glazing course and loved it!Tall backer during paintingTall backer during painting
I was so excited to bring stoneware back to Ladybird and start running workshops straight away. The first couple of people signed up and we got painting. The second firing of stoneware is very different to earthenware (the pottery we sell normally in the shop is earthenware). Mug before firingMug before firingStoneware is fired to a much higher temperature so I was rather nervous about the first firing. I've seen photos of the disasters that can happen when the kiln isn't programmed properly. For 
Tall backer after firingTall backer after firing
example earthenware fired to stoneware temperatures can completely melt, turning the kiln shelf into a fantastic piece of abstract art, but no use as a shelf any more.
With the first stoneware firing complete I couldn't wait to open the kiln, unfortunately it didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped. 
Mug after firingMug after firing
Although I made sure all the bottoms were wiped clean
 of glaze, most of the pottery still stuck to the shelves. I'm seeking advise so to avoid next 
Wide bowl before firingWide bowl before firingtime, but I wonder if its because I mostly use earthenware glaze and there could have been dust from this left on the shelves?
Wide bowl after firingWide bowl after firing
Deep bowl before firingDeep bowl before firing
Anyway the mugs and bowls were mostly ok and i was able to clean the foot of the pottery to a smooth finish, so they are still usable. The kiln shelves also came up well, but they are due a Batt Wash....Deep bowl after firingDeep bowl after firing
The last photo is how the shelves cleaned up this afternoon, I'm happy they got this clean, as I only had a hand tool to clean them. The shelves 
have to be covered with a mixture called Batt Wash. Traditional batt wash comes in a powder, you mix it to the desired consistency, then paint 3 coats on each shelf. Approx once a year all 3 coats need 
scraping off every shelf ( I have 5 shelves) and reapplying, its exceptionally difficult to remove all the old batt wash, so no one likes doing it. 
Tall backer bottom has stuck to shelfTall backer bottom has stuck to shelf
However this year I've discovered a new product that comes in liquid form and once applied never needs to be removed, only reapplied!! Now all I have to do it remove the old batt wash so the new batt
Kiln shelves after firing, before cleaningKiln shelves after firing, before cleaning
 wash can adhere to the shelves. I'll work on them this week, needless to say; with an electric tool!
Kiln shelves after cleaningKiln shelves after cleaning
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Afternoon Teas at Ladybird

Posted 4/6/2022

We're so pleased to be offering Afternoon Teas again at 

Afternoon Tea for 2Afternoon Tea for 2

Ladybird Craft centre. We are only doing them on certain dates, so don't miss out, get yours booked for either Friday 29th July from 2pm or Bank Holiday Monday 29th August between 1pm to 3pm. The afternoon teas are only £14.99 per person and include a selection of sandwiches, pork pies, quiche, coleslaw, scone with jam and clotted cream, grapes, strawberries, a selection of our homemade cakes and bottomless tea or coffee. Sorry we can't do a gluten free version at the moment, but we do gluten free bread and cakes to order as usual for the coffee shop. 


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Going 'Cheep' this Easter

Posted 30/3/2022

We are all too aware that everything is going up in price and while we have tried to keep prices as low as possible, it’s inevitable that our prices have had to follow suit, however… We will try to 

bring you affordable crafts this school holiday. We will bring you pocket money items including crafts for £5 complete and deals on last chance pottery (won’t be restocked) and seconds 

(small fault). We’ll also have a small amount of ‘disabled’ Decopatch animals at a reduced price 

to purchase. These items have broken legs, tails or horns, but are very much in need of someone to love them. We have found that most breaks in Decopatch are easily fixed

 and hardly show after the Decopatch papers are stuck over the break. All of the low-cost crafts will be available during the Easter holidays (11.4.22 to 23.4.22) while stocks last.

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New Beginnings

Posted 3/10/2021

Four and a half years ago a young girl came to me in search of a Saturday job. She was bold enough, at 15 years old to approach me herself, to ask for work and give me her CV. StephSteph I saw something in this young girl, so that when a job became available, I was happy to give her work, and she didn’t disappoint me. Steph has been a valued and respected member of staff since, and when she leaves us this month to start a pharmacy apprenticeship, she will be greatly missed. Steph may look young, but she’s a well organised, clean working and efficient worker who has always shown good leadership skills. I especially will miss Steph as she helps me enormously with managing stock levels and reminding me of upcoming appointments. The shop won’t be the same without her, but we wish her all the best with her new career. In Steph’s wake, we felt we needed 2 new members of staff and welcome Nina and Faye to the team. Jo

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History in the making?

Posted 5/9/2021

10 years ago I was made redundant from a very stressful job managing a specialist dementia home care team in Bristol, I got work doing nights in a dementia care home in Chepstow, the money was good, but the hours were terrible. Care work had been something that had kept the wolf from the door, and there were times I enjoyed it, but for me it wasn’t enough, I wanted something to really get my teeth into. I thought about teaching computer lessons or maybe a glass decorating business-Ladybird Glass, but neither was quite right.

Then I found a lady in Pontefract that would teach me all I needed to know about starting my own Paint your own Pottery business, finally something creative I could do! So, I spent time learning about bisque and glazing, painting techniques and firing the kiln. It was a lot of money to start up and what if it didn’t work? But I wanted to move away from care work and so I had to make it work! On 1st September 2014 Ladybird Pottery was started as a mobile business visiting groups. InOctober I opened a small shop in part of the Abbey Mill at Tintern.

This was a brilliant way to cut my teeth in retail, the shop had a steady flow of tourists browsing, and I sold a lot of my own hand made ceramics, I was also able to rent space to other crafters to sell their wares. But I was still working nights in the care home and Tintern was very seasonal, lots of people on warm sunny days, but I could go a whole day without seeing anyone when it rained, so I was unable to take any wage from the business.

In December 2016 I took the plunge and left my night work to open a shop on Caldicot High Street. My husband was brilliant, building a kitchen in 7 days so I could serve drinks and cakes, and with one member of staff and of course help from Pauline, we managed to open 6 days a week. It was slow at first, most businesses are, but once summer 2017 had arrived trade improved greatly.

The staff team started to grow with student staff working in the holidays and Deb volunteering with the children’s activities. Deb then started helping with the coffee shop and later we joined forces and became a partnership with her decoupage and my pottery. Before we knew it, we had grown out of the first shop unit in Caldicot and were looking for a bigger place. We felt so lucky finding the old Barclays building as it has the car park at the back, the lawn at the front and lots of different rooms inside.

It took a lot of work to change the building from a bank to a colourful, creative place, and some things still need finishing. We changed the name to Ladybird Craft Centre when we moved in 2019, it made sense as we offered more than just pottery. In regards to surviving the pandemic, we’re not out of the woods yet, but things have improved, so let’s hope we’re here to tell the tail in another 7 years…or maybe more! Jo

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A crazy week.

Posted 1/8/2021
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Posted 1/8/2021

Well, where do I start? What a crazy week we had at the end of July. Its now 2 years ago that we moved to a bigger building and business was booming. Takings were up and we were able to take on more staff and offer more craft and food options. Me and Deb had put so much time, money, energy and love into the business and now as 2020 started we thought we would be able to take a proper wage, we could continue to grow and maybe even work in the community as well as within the shop.

But then the pandemic came, and things couldn’t have been more different. March 2020 felt as if we were entering a huge storm, staff one by one went home to shield, customers were few and far between. We closed off areas of the shop we weren’t using, reduced the menu partly due to stock being very unpredictable, all classes and groups were cancelled. The first lockdown came as a relief, finally the government were going to help in the way of grants while we were closed. We were able to scrape by, and as lovely as it was to reopen in summer 2020, we never recovered properly.

Another 2 lockdowns later and May 2021 comes with us being able to reopen for indoor seating. But still things don’t improve, the grant money stops, but business doesn’t go back to 2019 levels, instead its like starting a new business but with overheads of an established business. Starting from scratch, trying to get the word out of what we do, the services we offer, the fun, the crafts and the cakes! Again, our regulars come as much as they could, but everyone has had struggles over the last 18 months, everyone has had some change in their lives.

So, me and Deb had a chat, and talked about ending it all, closing Ladybird for good. But we couldn’t

 help thinking Did the community want us to stay? So, we told the truth, if business didn’t improve, we would be forced to close, and the community came out in their hundreds! We are still completely overwhelmed by the support, the reviews and recommendations we have received! It’s only been a week, but we hope if business stays like this, me and Deb can finally take a wage and Ladybird can stay at least a few more years. Jo

Upcycling a Cycle

Posted 7/7/2021

Brian taking the bike apart. Brian taking the bike apart.

By now you’ll have probably seen the recycled bike outside our shop, upcycled by our Irene, but do you know the story behind it?

While Sue and Brian were holidaying in Builth Wells a few years ago, they visited an antique show. Brian spotted the bike and thought it would make a great project, before Sue knew what was happening he had paid for it and was trying to work out how to fit it into her Fiat 500. 

The old bikeThe old bike

After borrowing some tools from a very nice man, they managed to squeezed it and themselves into the car, but once at home the bike just sat in their garage. This is where Irene comes in…

“I loved painting this bike, it did take some effort to remove the 4 layers of paint! Black, white and 2 shades of blue! 

The upcycled bike in place at the shopThe upcycled bike in place at the shop

Wouldn’t it be great if those layers of paint could talk? As I worked on the bike, I wondered over the years who rode it? For which shop? A local butchers or bakers maybe? Carrying sausages or crusty bread? How many travels did it do? And did the bike have a squeak like Arkwrights?! 

Its all restored and upcycled into a Café sign now, not bad for something that was heading for the tip!” Irene Quelch.

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Newsletter and classes

Posted 31/5/2021

For some reason it takes a life time to put together a short newsletter and the list of craft classes. Or maybe its the fact I have to chase the tutors 3 or 4 times before getting dates and details out of them. They must know what I'm going to say as I head towards them, so now I just put the diary in front of them and ask them to pop some dates down. This works well until they have left the shop and I realise a date is all I have from them.

Monster Milkshake with vanilla shake, smarties and doughnut. Monster Milkshake with vanilla shake, smarties and doughnut.

 But I'm no better, I know what classes I want to run, or I can find some dates that work, but matching them up doesn't seem to be my forte!

I'll stick with writing the newsletters... but again I sit down to write, and lets face it I always have an opinion, but suddenly I can't think of a single thing to write about. 

Today was a little different. We don't usually open on Bank holidays, I don't know why but people have always assumed we'll be closed, however this bank holiday being part of the actual school holidays has usually been quite good. Today was our usual bank holiday though, with just turbel weed passing by, so when someone ordered a Monster Milkshake 3 of us staff jumped on the order! We love making them, they are indulgent, extravagant and Messy! We pile them high with cream and sweets and sticky sauce, then try to keep it all in place while we carry the glass to the table. The look on the kids faces is of amazement, the look on the parents faces is of concern. 

Once I'd started writing about the Monsters, the rest just seemed to flow and in no time I did have a newsletter, a little late, but finished. The newsletters are emailed monthly, the craft classes are emailed as soon as they're available, to sign up click here.Jo


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Exciting times

Posted 16/5/2021

I had intended to write an entry in the blog every week, but like most of you in UK lockdown, you'll know there has been very little to write about. Well that's about to change!

We are so excited that from this Monday we'll be able to have indoor seating again. It's been lovely having outdoor seating, but the weather hasn't been very kind to us and many days we've been finding small jobs for the staff to do like cleaning or decorating or finding a place for the Christmas tree to live (spoiler; the tree is just sat in Debs craft room). New meeting roomNew meeting room

We did decide to have a move around upstairs though. We took half of Debs stuff out her craft room, started moving her into the old staff room (the one with the sink in), then thought wouldn't it be great if we moved the other half of Debs stuff into my craft room (the one at the back with a table in) then move some of Jos stuff into hallway for a week. You see we have been very lucky to get a second kiln! So until this arrived and was placed in the back of the room with the sink then I couldn't move anything else in. Meanwhile Deb somehow managed to completely move out of her old craft room and into the one with the table, meaning she'll be able to hold small classes in there now. Her old room has been turned into a beautiful meeting room with wall mural by Irene, this will be used for customers as we continue to social distance, but can also be reserved for private groups as well. With the kiln now in place in my new craft room, the rest of my things could be moved in. While I was away last week, the staff continued to move my stuff. So I no New kilnNew kilnlonger have to trek up my garden, over slippery decking, though the chicken run and into a spider invested shed to put pottery into the kiln :D Now I just have to climb over piles of stuff I'm not sure where half of it came from, to reach the indoor kiln that isn't actually plugged in yet as an electrician is needed to deal with the fattest cable in the world.

Well we have 2 weeks to get back in the swing of being busy again before we have our first school holiday being open since last summer (we had to close for October half term, the Christmas hols, Februarys half term and the Easter hols). The staff have been enjoying planning for the holiday with special offers on Monster Shakes and classes for all ages. I'm sure we'll be pretty tired by the end of it, but how wonderful to have the building filled with happy customers again!Jo

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Ladybirds Log


Sunday 9th October 2016

It's so exciting to finally have something to update the public about the new shop in Caldicot. It's just a shame the update is that we're still waiting!

On Thursday I thought I would pop an update on my Fb page and it was received well :) So today I thought I would write in a little more depth about how we got this far.

In May I signed up to the website they put me in touch with a company that would help me apply for a start up loan. Craig was assigned to me as my mentor and gave me templates and advise and sent me off to write my business plan. And then re-write my business plan. Then tweak my business plan. Then add a couple more bits to my business plan. And a cash flow forecast needed filling in for 2 years- well I still don't totally understand a cash flow, but I put numbers in boxes and somehow got it done.

Craig then asks "What evidence do you have to show that Caldicot wants this?"

Enjoying drinks and cakes outside Donnies Cafe, MagorEnjoying drinks and cakes outside Donnies Cafe, Magor

So I created a 10 question survey and with the super powers of Facebook I got 248 completed surveys in just a couple of days. Me and my husband had the hardship of visiting coffee shops and cafes in Chepstow, Caldicot and Magor to see what the competition was like and all this new info was added to my business plan and cash flow forecast.

By now it was the end of June and Craig advised me I had to apply for the Start up loan before my business turned 2 years old at the start of September.

Time was against me and it felt like everything else was against me as well. After filling in the application form for the loan Craig went on holiday and wanted to be back to work before the application went in as the process includes his company reviewing the application and Craig was needed to field any questions they had. Once the application was in some questions did come back and it involved me tweaking the business plan again. I then decided I needed a holiday- Well it had been booked 2 years previous and the timing now couldn't have been worse. I spent the week leading up to the holiday on the phone to Craig or the estate agent , sorting the Tintern shop ready for me to leave it in other peoples very capable hands and serving the Tintern customers as we were now in the first 2 weeks of the school holidays.

When I couldn't think straight anymore we went on holiday, and I did manage to relax and not think about the application for a while.

The day after we returned Craig phoned me and said my application had been accepted and the money would be in my account in the next few days. I said "Thank you". I'm not sure if it was the shock, the jet lag or the thought that now things are going to get very real, very quickly, but Thank you was all I could manage with no enthusiasm at all.

Craft Coffee LeafletCraft Coffee Leaflet

A couple of weeks later, overflowing with enthusiasm, I made the finally decide on which unit on Caldicot High Street I was going to have and handed my notice in to my well paid care job.

Well that's the story as far. I'm petrified! .....and still waiting to get access to the unit- the landlords lawyers are doing ....something or other (probably nothing to do with my unit!) but it's them I'm waiting for.

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