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71 posts categorized "Design"

23 September 2014

Meeting design businesses at Top Drawer

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One of my colleagues, Christina Murphy, recently went to check out retail event Top Drawer at Olympia. Top Drawer showcases over 800 suppliers in the gifts, lifestyle and fashion sectors.

She met some of the businesses that have used the British Library, including our Innovating for Growth programme, and to also find new ones who might be interested in taking part. Our programme offers free, bespoke support for growing London businesses to develop innovative products and services.

Here are her highlights from the show:

Thabto close up

Thabto (which stands for ‘two heads are better than one’) make quality, quirky and original lifestyle items for those who seek something different. It was set up in 2008 by British designers Steven Smith & James Wosiek. Today, from their base in Notting Hill, London, their young creative team produce a range of award winning items that can be found in design stores around the world.

Founder James Wosiek took part in the Library’s I4G programme’s April 2013 cohort, and says, “I4G could not have come at a better time. The advice we have received and the exercises we've carried out/yet to carry out will give us the foundation to grow faster and with a more managed approach had we not have done the course!”

Victoria Eggs fa2r

Victoria Eggs designs and manufactures premium quality, brightly inspired, home ware and gifts, all handmade in Britain. Its strapline is “proudly saluting all that makes Britain British.” Founded by its namesake in March 2011, her premium quality homeware, gifts and greetings cards that are all made in Britain.

Owner Victoria Eggs took part in the April 2014 cohort of Innovating for Growth. The programme gave her access to branding and marketing experts, which helped her to refine her brand, design and build a new website. Victoria says, “It's allowed me to take a step back and really look at the business and what's working and what isn't.”

Rose Hill Designs

Rose Hill Designs is a creative independent illustration based company, with a British Pop Art trademark for greeting cards, stationery, artworks and commissions. Rose has worked with ZSL London Zoo, Ted Baker, Harrods and Rockett St George.

She used the Business & IP Centre databases and resources to research her markets and develop her business plan. She has taken advantage of many of the free or low-cost workshops and events that the Centre runs, including the Spring Festival, Inspiring Entrepreneurs and Speed Mentoring.

12 September 2014

Follow the British Library on Instagram

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Hello readers, I have some good news for you. I'll be looking after the British Library Instagram account for a while; I'll be posting pictures of our flagship St Pancras building, amazing collections, exhibitions, events and the people that use us. If you post a picture of us, tag it with #britishlibrary and I'll 'regram' some of the best.

02 September 2014

5 ways Etsy has changed the small business landscape

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This week I went to the RSA to find out more about Benedict Dellot’s research document about how Etsy and online craft marketplaces are changing the nature of business.

In case you don’t know, Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade goods and vintage items. Its strength is that it gives designers a cheap, quick and respectable store front for their goods, and shares them with a global audience. To give you an idea, in 2013, Etsy sellers sold nearly 1.35 billion dollars of goods and it has 36 million members in total. We’ve been in talks with the Etsy team recently about how we can work together.

So what came out of the report?  Here are the top five findings that grabbed my attention. 

1. Women are leading the way
I knew it would be high, but a whopping 90% of Etsy sellers are female. While the average self-employed person is male, middle-aged and relatively asset-rich, the typical person selling on Etsy is female, young and without significant amounts of capital to their name.

2. Low risk and low start-up costs
Starting an Etsy shop requires little financial outlay. 47% of sellers said they were able to rely on their own savings to get the business off the ground and 40% required no funding whatsoever.

3. Part-time business: the new 5-9ers
The Etsy model is very flexible; you can run your own Etsy shop and work in full-time employment (hence the new 5-9ers), or be a stay-at-home mum. Half of Etsy shop owners spend less than 10 hours a week on their Shop and more than a fifth have a full-time day job in addition to their Etsy venture. 

4. Boosting your household income
For the majority of sellers who work part-time on Etsy, their shops make a modest but meaningful contribution to their earnings. More than half have shops that add upwards of 5% to family income, which equates to £1,150 a year for the typical household.

5. It’s as much about the creative process and camaraderie as the cash
Etsy shop owners derive equal (if not greater) satisfaction from the very act of selling. A number of participants spoke of a feeling of ‘validation’ whenever they sold an item and how their shops gave them a sense of purpose that was absent in their day job.

Obviously to a large extent the shop sellers are competing with each other. However, what surprised me was that 47% said that they recommend the products of other sellers to their buyers, while 37% said they will source materials and supplies from other shops on the site. 37% say that emotional support from other sellers is important to them.

You can find out more about selling with Etsy through their Seller Handbook and Etsy School. You can also apply for opportunities to showcase your work, like their art exhibition for London Art Month. Etsy is offering British Library users an introductory offer of 20 free listings for all new Etsy shops. Enter the code: BRITISHLIBRARYFREEat www.etsy.com/promotion.

 

25 August 2014

The Bompas & Parr effect: Day-glow ice-cream and cooking with lava

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On Monday 22 September 14, we'll be hosting another Inspiring Entrepreneurs event in our Conference Centre, run by our lovely Business & IP Centre team. It's also available as a free webcast. The theme this time is 'Movers and Shakers': companies that have disrupted the status quo in their sector. We've got founder and CEO of Moshi Monsters, Michael Acton-Smith OBE (expect a games-themed blog soon) and Sam Bompas, the co-founder of Bompas & Parr.

When I looked at their website, I was absolutely blown away by their creativity and ingenuity. Their brand is so playful. I'm driving everyone in the office mad by raving about how much I want to eat their glow-in-the-dark ice-cream. I love how they can move between fashion, products and experiences so freely, responding beautifully to any creative brief they're given. Here are some of the projects they've been working on, in their own words. Fancy coming to hear them speak?  You can book your tickets here.

Glow-in-the-dark Cornetto, Leicester Square, July 2013
The world’s first glow in the dark Cornetto, created for a film premiere of The End of the World.

Glow ice cream Bompas and Parr

Jellies for any event
Bompas & Parr supply a customised jelly service – they even have a jelly technician! They offer innovative and bespoke moulds, created in their in-house workshop.

Jelly 2 Bompas and Parr

Jelly Bompas and Parr

Jellyscape Bompas and Parr

Cooking with lava – Syracuse, USA, June 2014

Go into the kitchen of a top steak restaurant and you’re likely to find a £18,000 Josper oven, favoured by chefs for its searing 300°C cooking temperature. At Bompas & Parr they didn’t think that was anywhere near hot enough, so last month they headed to Syracuse University in upstate New York, where Professor Robert Wysocki has over-clocked an industrial bronze furnace and is busy working up an expertise in creating artificial volcanos and streams of man-made lava.
Prof Wysocki and his team have done 100 lava pours so far, for artistic and scientific purposes, but have never actually used the lava’s 2,100°F heat to do something as ubiquitous as cooking. See what happens when super-heated liquid rock meets an icy crevasse and a 10oz ribeye.

Scent of darkness - It's Nice That Magazine, March 2012
London’s smells represent an invisible architecture, shaping and enhancing our experience of the city’s urban environment. Certain odours created intentionally or not act as sensory landmarks, hardwired into your brains. Bompas & Parr traversed London between sunset and sunrise to chart the scents of the city at night. London’s aromas were composed as perfumes and shipped to Thomas Brown who photographed them with stylist Lyndsay Milne for Its Nice That.

London Smells Bompas and Parr

Tutti Frutti Garments by Kit Neale – Sold by Opening Ceremony, A/W 2013

Earlier this year Bompas & Parr worked with printmaster Kit Neale on the staff uniforms for the Tutti Frutti installation at Kew Gardens. Kit Neale’s prints intermingle obscure and forbidden fruits like the durian with more familiar fruits like bananas and pears, with the images sourced from Kew’s archive. The collection garnered so much interest it was put into production for Opening Ceremony launching in time for a fruity Christmas.

Tutti Frutti Bompas and Parr

 

September 2014: You can read write-ups of this event here and here.

21 August 2014

Brand new Gothic artwork from artist Dave McKean revealed

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Gothic Terror and Wonder exhibition artwork Dave McKean
We’re delighted to reveal the exciting new artwork created exclusively for our upcoming exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination. Designed by Batman Arkham Asylum artist Dave McKean, the new image takes inspiration from the iconic Gothic titles in the show, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Terror and Wonder celebrates 250 years of Gothic literature and shows how the genre has inspired so much of the pop culture that surrounds us today, from Whitby Goth Festival to catwalk looks created by Alexander McQueen.

Greg Buzwell, co-curator of the exhibition, gave us a quote:  “Dave’s artwork brilliantly captures the drama and intensity of the Gothic imagination, something which we explore in detail in Terror and Wonder. Ever since the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic themes and ideas have provided a rich source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers, artists, musicians and fashion designers; adding colour, wonder and a dash of delicious fear to our lives.”

The new artwork will appear on the exhibition poster across London (look out for it on the tube) and as a six metre high installation in our entrance hall. 

The exhibition opens on 3 October and runs until 20 January 2015. Tickets are already available to book online, and we’ll have a full events programme for you including comedian Stewart Lee, Sarah Waters and a very spooky Halloween LATE.

18 August 2014

From the felt Cornershop to Marinetti’s Futurist Tin Book

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Lucy Sparrow’s felt Cornershop project is all over the news at the moment, and it sounds so fun. She raised £10,000 on Kickstarter to create a cornershop in Bethnal Green with products made entirely out of felt. And I mean everything. Chewing gum, fish fingers, Irn Bru, cat litter and instant noodles.  Even the cash register is made of felt!  It’s open until 31 August if you fancy a visit.

Cornershop felt product
Image: Fish fingers from the Cornershop

It got me thinking about some of the books we have in the British Library collection that are not made of paper. They fall under the category of 'artists' books' and we have items from around the world. Our Curator, Carole Holden, has written in the past about Andy Warhol’s Index Book which includes a balloon and Klaus Scherübel’s Mallarmé: The Book, which is made of styrofoam.

With help from The Art Fund, in 2009 we acquired Marinetti's metal Futurist book Parole in Libertà, also known as The Tin Book. Its full name is Parole in Libertá Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (‘Futurist Words in Freedom - Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal’). It is about rejecting the current format of sentences and words and moving towards "words in freedom".

The production of the book is fascinating. Its designs are lithographically reproduced over 30 pages. It was manufactured in a tin can factory in Italy. And of course, the tin pages reflect the Futurist love of the machine.

Marinetti British Library  3
Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

Futurism was an artistic movement celebrating the beauty of technology, with the belief in looking forward, rather than the past. Marinetti even went so far as to say “destroy the museums, the libraries...” A little ironic in that his book is now in our collection, to be preserved in perpetuity.  I’m very glad we do have it, as it is visually stunning.

Marinetti British Library  4
Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

If you’re a fan of his work, you’ll be interested to know that the British Library has over 70 books written by Marinetti (1876-1944), as well as a number of his manuscripts and sound recordings. It’s a fantastic collection.  You can find out more about how you can use our collections on our 'Help for Researchers' page for artist's books, fine presses and book art. And I've done some of the hard work for you - here is the catalogue link for our Marinetti Tin book.

Marinetti British Library 1
Image: Marinetti's Parole in Libertà

12 August 2014

What’s the creative process in visual merchandising? Arantxa Garcia on Comics Unmasked

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Coming back from maternity leave, one of the first things I noticed is that the British Library Shop has had a major refresh and is looking fantastic. The displays leap out and grab your attention, it’s full of shoppers and there are plenty of products I have got my eye on (I like Alison Hardcastle’s Map of London and our Beano greetings cards). I find the process of retail and visual merchandising fascinating. I like the careful balance between creativity and sales figures.

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 1
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

I got in touch with Arantxa Garcia, our freelance visual merchandiser, who has a wealth of experience in the museum sector. As well as designing our Comics Unmasked displays, she has worked with the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Museums Greenwich and Historic Scotland.  I asked her a few questions…

Hello Arantxa! Just to start off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into visual merchandising?

I guess it was a natural process for me to become a visual merchandiser. I was born into a family retail business and from an early age I worked for my pocket money. I helped my dad checking off delivery notes and assisted my mum with the window dressing, (who by the way is my fiercest critic, being a VM herself) and as I got older I took part in buying and visiting fashion and trade shows. In Spain I freelanced for high street retailers, where I gained most of my experience.

I moved to London when I was 20 to study fine art and always worked part time in shops during my degree. After graduating, I worked at the National Portrait Gallery shop, where I helped to set up of exhibition shops and visual merchandising until one day, while scanning postcards as you do, I had a moment of clarity and decided that this is what I needed to do for a living: visual merchandising for cultural enterprises. It was the perfect blend for me, just like the perfect marriage, between my retail background and my interest in art and history. It just felt right!

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 3
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

What is the process involved in creating a display for an exhibition like Comics Unmasked?

We always start with a kick-off meeting with the buyers. It is crucial to understand what’s behind the ranges and to buy into their vision. These meetings are full of adrenaline, catalogues, samples, and lots of: “have you seen… Just like that…I wish we could….”

The approach I took was to recreate a comic scene in itself.  A fun and humorous space almost like a caricature and exaggeration of the elements. The exhibition ends handing over to the public, almost saying: “here you go, we have given you the inspiration and the tools, now you go and create your comic”. The public exits through the shop, so somehow the shop needed to be a continuation of this message.  So I did some research on what a comic artist studio might look like and the common elements between them: reading lamp, drawing table, a stool of some sort and lots of paper everywhere.

The Reading lamp had an important stake in the setting. It could not be any lamp; it had to be the lamp, that timeless design that would embody the right reading lamp of all time.  That’s when I thought about collaborating with Anglepoise, who very kindly loaned one of their giant lamps to us for the duration of the show. I guess the symbolism of the lamp, the light or the bulb, can be interpreted in many ways.  A popping bulb encircled in a cloud pointing at a character’s head always makes us think about that great idea, and so on.

It is important to remember that visual merchandising is a commercial resource used to drive sales through creating spaces that enhance the customer to interact with the product and purchase.

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 7
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Do you have any particular favourite displays or shops in museums and galleries?

Well, that’s when my mind goes blank. I love Museum shops in general. I´m an easy person to sell to. I loved the exhibition range for Elizabeth I and her people, which was hosted at the National Portrait Gallery last September. I especially like souvenirs with Queen Elizabeth I on them. It can be from a fan to a spectacle cloth!  I enjoyed working on Georgians Revealed at the British Library; that was a great range to work with.

What makes a museum shop good is the buying, product development and the use of collections in doing so. I find it really interesting how you are able to describe an era or a personality through product, and in this way you bring it closer to the visitor. So my favourite shops are those that are true to their collections. Those who do it well! Inspiration comes from everywhere: art, architecture, theatre, colour, interior design, conversations, History books, junk shops. And from walking around with your senses fully open.  

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 6
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Are there any trends for visual merchandising for museums and galleries at the moment?

I’m not sure if it is right to talk about trends in the museums and galleries sector, as the trends are given by the shows they have on at the time, or just by the nature of the institution itself.  This is part of the beauty of the job, which allows you to travel through time: one week, the Elizabethan era, and the lavish Georgians the week after. It is true though, that as Museum and galleries become mindful of their retail resources and income generation, they look outside - at how the high street does it, and the techniques they use to drive sales. Nonetheless, it is crucial to keep up-to-date with the general trends in art, fashion, current materials used in interior design, colour combinations, contrasting textures, and general ways of creating ambiences and spaces. 

British Library bookshop Comics Unmasked 5
Photograph: Anna Bakosova

Arantxa will also be helping us with the visual merchandising for our Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination exhibition in the autumn.

22 July 2014

Made with the British Library - Illustrator Eleanor Stuart on business and inspiration

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We love it when illustrators find inspiration in our collections and create new products. Eleanor Stuart did just that with her Alice in Wonderland-inpsired ceramics. Since our last interview with her back in August her business has taken off and here she tells us all about it. 

  
Made with the British Library  Watch more videos of people who have been inspired at the British Library to create something new.

How has your business has grown since the success of PopUp Piccadilly last August?

Since PopUp Piccadilly the business has grown beyond what I could have imagined this time last year when I started. I always wanted to work with great British retailers and when I started I imagined that one day, many years in the future, I might work with places such as the British Library, Liberty, the Royal Academy and Somerset House and yet within my first year I’ve been lucky enough to work with them all so I have to pinch myself sometimes!

I’ve also designed two new collections since Piccadilly which has been great to flex my illustrator fingers trying out new styles of illustration; my Animal Collection in particular was an exciting new abstract style of illustration for me which has proven to be successful so far – it even caught the eye of Rick Stein’s team who loved the Octopus and Seahorse so much they commissioned a Lobster and Crab so they could stock a whole sea-life inspired range in their Padstow shop, so what started as an exotic collection of animals now also includes a humble crab and lobster!

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your Animal Collection? I love the seahorse!

The Animal Collection was born from a humble doodle. I had been toying with the idea of creating a series of illustrated animals for a while but couldn’t quite imagine how I wanted them to look, and then one eve in December I drew the outline of an elephant and started to draw shapes and lines within it and as it came together I realised I really loved the abstract and detailed quality to the drawing as I love quite simple and geometric shapes.

I was keen to explore exotic animals as they tend to have more unusual shapes, patterns and vivid colours which was perfect for my simple and abstract style of drawing. After going through an entire alphabet of animals I finally settled on my final six – an Antelope, Flamingo, Octopus, Parrot, Peacock and Seahorse and on Christmas Day, I started drawing the Antelope in the morning and by Boxing Day morning finished off the final line of the Seahorse and an Animal Collection was born! 

Some designers create work in line with trends. Do you keep up with trends or do you just create what you like and let your work sell itself?

Very much the latter! I think as an illustrator, and for any creative person, it’s important to at least start from a point of creating what you love, otherwise you will forever be chasing trends and you’ll never really develop your own confident style. I think from that point onwards you can then introduce elements of trends into your work rather than attempting to mimic styles and trends other people have set; for example if neon pink was suddenly on trend it might be fun for me to produce a limited run of neon pink Flamingo prints, but I wouldn’t necessarily design a whole new bright pink product for the sake of it (my eyes couldn’t take it!)

 


Animal_plate_medley_large
Eleanor Stuart Animal Collection - fine bone china 

You're getting a lot of press coverage – how has that helped?

Having your pieces in the press is always exciting – I think the best moment I had recently was reading through the Metro and coming across a large picture of my ‘Girl with a Hot Air Balloon’ plates as part of a feature on decorative plates when I had no idea it was going to be in that particular issue so that was a nice surprise – if not a little surreal! Press pieces are always great for publicity and exposure and the more targeted pieces such as featuring in a weekend magazine interiors section can really directly boost sales.

Have you taken on more staff?

I have recently taken on a much needed member of staff! I’m currently doing a pop up shop in Camden and after working in the shop every day for five weeks I thought it’s about time I get a little help and so I now have a great assistant who works with me. 

Have your business challenges changed? 
 
The challenge now, having created a number of products which I’m really proud of, is getting the world to notice me! I think with any small business, particularly a product based business, marketing is key and with social media and a little press release writing savvy it’s not as daunting as it seems. It does have to be an almost daily consideration, marketing yourself and your work, because if no-one’s finding you no-one’s buying from you!

I also love meeting fellow small businesses at events such as fairs and markets and going to talks such as the recent Crafty Fox Talks where one of the speakers was the PopUp Britain and Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones who since PopUp Piccadilly has been such an inspiration and help to me as I’ve built my business over the last year.  

If you want to start or grow your creative business we have tons of resources at our Business & IP Centre. Check us out!