Meet the duo combining outdoors, mining, and art to make one-of-a-kind planters.

We could all use a pick-me-up, but who knew it could be as simple as buying some houseplants? It’s true — they can increase oxygen in the air, reduce stress, and improve mood. For those of us who struggle to get some quality time in nature, it’s truly worth the investment. And while you’re at it, Tal & Bert, a local husband-and-wife business, has some beautiful planters that are also sourced from the earth. 

Sharpsburg residents Ray and Val Talbert have found a way to combine their love of the outdoors, mining, and art to create one-of-a-kind geode planters.

“I feel it is important to just appreciate nature in its true and natural form,” Val said. “I think it helps keep us grounded.”

Ray and Val opened Tal & Bert Mercantile in Dormont during the pandemic, and they have a Sharpsburg location in the works, too. Here is our Q-and-A with Val; responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Ray and Val Talbert (📸: @talandbert)

You’re known for your chic, natural concrete and mineral planters. How did you come up with the design?

We wanted a way to combine industrial concrete and raw minerals in order to create art for everyday use. Our signature geode look actually first happened on accident. Which turned into a happy accident, as that is now our go-to design for our work.

How do you source your minerals? What kind do you use?

When we first started, many of the minerals were self-mined by my husband and I when we went on recreational mining trips. Now that our company has exploded in demand, we work directly with the mines we visited and the miners we met along the way to help source the minerals we need.

We use a variety and are always looking to add more! Some of our most popular minerals are amethyst, blue apatite, rose quartz, tourmaline, and carnelian.

Geode planters by Tal & Bert (📸: @talandbert)

What other items can customers find in your store (Tal & Bert Mercantile)?

In our brick-and-mortar store, you can find a variety of home goods and plant related items that are handmade by various artists & makers. We carry items like vases, planters, planet hangers, kitchen utensils, pot holders, ceramic plates & bowls, soaps, perfume, body & skin care, pillow, candles, and so much more.

Throughout the month of April, we’re featuring earth-focused and sustainable-minded stories. What is it about rocks/crystals/minerals that interest you?

I have always had a passion for minerals since I was a kid. I have always been fascinated about how crystals naturally form in nature and their molecular structures. It is fascinating how the environment impacts and creates these natural beauties.

Speaking of bringing nature indoors…If we walked into your home, what kind of design elements would we find? (From the looks of your store, I know you have to have a pretty stylish home!)

Our house is a mix between modern mid century and Art Deco for the most part with a splash of raw minerals. We have crystals all throughout our house, even hung on the walls. We have a minimalist look when it comes to colors, so lots of neutrals.

Geode planters by Tal & Bert (📸: @talandbert)

What local business do you think deserves a shoutout (and why)?

love, Pittsburgh & Inner Rutz – these two companies were the first to pick up our brand and give our products a chance in their stores.

What would you like to share with our readers about being a Black-owned business in Pittsburgh?

Being Black-owned in Pittsburgh does present its challenges from time to time, especially when it comes to finding resources. Being a new business & Black-owned has definitely been a struggle for us when it comes to finances and funding, as we pretty much have been running solely on cash this past year, and we have yet to qualify for any loans, grants or assistance from anyone. It has been discouraging at times, but our customers keep us going. It just causes us to push harder so that we can keep moving forward.

What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can The Incline readers help you with it?

We are currently working on a collaboration with a celebrity (we can’t announce yet) and her company to develop a one of a kind planter and candle.