Inspired by... blog

71 posts categorized "Design"

14 July 2014

Kapow! Comic-inspired accessories by artysmarty

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The British Library Shop looks like an open page of a super-colourful comic book right now and I love it. Here I interview Angela Cuthill, founder of accessories business artysmarty, who's created a line of jewellery for us in celebration of our  Comics Unmasked exhibition.   

Kapow! birch wood necklace, £25.00 I have this necklace and I get a lot of compliments. Once a stranger on the bus leaned in to read it more closely and then touched it. A little awkward. 

Tell us a bit about artysmarty. Do you design and take care of the business side? Do you have a partner?

artysmarty is really a creation imagined and driven by me, so no business partner. I do all the design work and run the company, which gets pretty hectic at times!  I’ve had different helpers over the four years in business, and some of the boring stuff I can get outside help with, things like photography and accounting.  You can’t do everything and sometimes you don’t want to!
What has been the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of running your own business?

Lots of day to day challenges invariably crop up,  things that stop you from doing the bits you love, like dealing with the dodgy Wi-Fi provider and cleaning spray paint out of a carpet (true story) but I couldn’t really name one biggie.

I guess being creative on demand can be a bit daunting, but if you don’t think about it too much an idea worth investigating further will pop up.  The rewarding bits are thinking about where you’ve come from and the progress that you’ve made.  My first studio was in a basement on North Great Georges Street in Dublin that literally had no daylight.  I think making it to a south facing building has been up there!
How did your jewellery designs for our Comics Unmasked exhibition come about?

I met Duncan Sanders (British Library Retail Buying & Merchandising Manager) and George Gutcher (Buyer and Visual Merchandiser) at Top Drawer in London, probably about six months before we started to work on this project.  We’d talked then about some of the other pieces that I had in my SS2014 collection and how they’d tie in with some of the upcoming exhibitions.  There had been a few emails going back and forth after that (George managed to remember me via my bright red hair) and they asked if I’d be interested in doing some bespoke pieces for this exhibition.  I was delighted to put some pieces together, I love all of the art work associated with comics, it really fitted in with my love of bright colour and ethos of fun. Artysmarty_Brooch_zap

 Zap! birch wood brooch, £12.50

What kinds of things did you look at for inspiration?

I gave myself some time to take another look Lichtenstein’s work,  I remember studying him at college but he’d kind of dropped off my radar a bit.  I love his colour palettes and self-parody. The content of his work is quite funny and accessible.  I also tried to think of the essence of comic books, I think they’re a lot about action (sometimes violent action!), kapowing and whamming all over the place, so I really thought that aspect would have to be included.   I guess the colour was the other big hitter for me, there is a really distinctive colour palette which I wanted to use but in a contemporary way, hence the chevron and small triangle patterns.
If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?

The ability to keep my feet warm in any temperature.
Do you read comics, graphic novels? If so, do you have a favourite or one you’ve recently read?

Not really, but I do love Calvin & Hobbs and Robert Crumb.  I was at the Biennale in Venice last year and he’d somehow drawn the whole story of Genesis  into a room full of illustrations.  Wowzer!

Kapow! resin and mixed media earrings, £15.00

Can you tell us about your creative process? What’s your studio like in Dublin?

I love a good tramp around a museum of gallery and would take a lot of trips specifically to visit certain museums.  I had it in my mind to go to Russia this year and visit the Hermitage but might be a trip for next year now.

I go to Venice for the Biennale, love the cinema, and find nothing better than flicking through design and art books at the bookshop.  Life drawing has helped me keep up my drawing skills since college and sometimes I’d go to the Natural History museum here in Dublin and draw the stuffed animals.  Creepy.  Oh, and the studio is a mess. 
Your stocklist is long! I see you’ve designed products for the V&A and you’re stocked in Japan. How’s it all going? I’m curious what your bestseller is in Japan!

Been a really busy start to the year alright, but it does take a while to get a good client list and get your brand / brand recognition out there.  The Japanese audience is a bit different, as you’d imagine, and I’ve done quite a few pieces specifically tailored to them.  This season it’s been a ‘gem series’ of earrings but they also have a love of nature inspired pieces.  If I had to pick one bestseller it would have to be the ‘bird’ series of necklaces and brooches, they’re really colourful and easy to wear.

Check out artysmarty's AW2014 collection:

Artysmarty_acorn necklaces  Artysmarty_mountain brooch
Artysmarty_tree necklaces

If you're thinking of starting a creative business or want to grow the one you have now, check out our Business & IP Centre. We have loads of resources - from market research databases to workshops on how to write a business plan and increase sales.    

29 April 2014

Interview with Hend Krichen - homewares and accessories designer

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I met luxury homewares and home accessories designer Hend Krichen at an event in our Business & IP Centre. She was kind enough to give me this interview about her inspirations and challenges as a small creative business owner. 


Can you tell us more about your inspirations? 

My main inspiration comes from the Yasmin Revolution of 2011, but I also strongly draw on the ties of Tunisia’s history. I look at Phoenician influences, Roman Empire, Ottoman invasion and the French occupation.

I was born in Tunisia and I left at a very young age and was lucky (depending on how you look at it) to have been raised as an expat and lived almost my entire life away from Tunisia, immersed in different cultures.

My project Tunisia Made was built on a lot of passion to help promote Tunisia and its craft industry. My brand is based on little chunks of Tunisian history and culture - it’s like taking a piece of history to your home as well as supporting ethical craft and design.



How much of your time do you spend on inspiration versus business?

I spent the first eight months working on inspiration. Once I had established my group of manufacturers and my concepts and designs were in place, I then began to focus on the business side.

I work on the marketing, branding, networking and PR. Sales take up a lot of my time. Designing, development and manufacturing takes up about 30% of my time and the rest is 70%.

What did you get out of the 'Selling creatively online' event at our Business & IP Centre? (Shout-out to our partner Patricia at The Design Trust who provides practical tips on how to sell expensive crafts online here!) 

It was insightful to hear the retailers themselves ( and Etsy) speak about how it all works. Being a designer and a creator, the retail side of business can seem alien at first - how to approach them, how to sell yourself to them, how to negotiate with them. This event helped me focus and make decisions about my business.

What’s been the most rewarding and challenging part of running your own business?

The most rewarding part about this journey is building my brand around me, my interests, my work and my life experiences. When I finally built up the courage to share that with people and the response was positive, it was such a great feeling.

It can be daunting to become an entrepreneur right now. I’ve had to push even when all doors were closed. You just have to keep pushing and take risks, that is the biggest challenge.


Hend is taking part in Clerkenwell Design Week 20 – 22 May 2014 in the Additions show dedicated to small design pieces and interior accessories from international and emerging talent. The Crypt on the Green, St. James Church, EC1R 0EA. Find out more here.  




04 March 2014

A focus on film: Spring Festival 2014 line up

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I'm very happy to announce the line up of events in our third Spring Festival at the British Library. A celebration of fashion, film and design - we invite you to play in our building, explore our collections and find inspiration for your next creative project. I hope to see you there! #BLSpring 

Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age
Friday, 28 March 18.30 - 22.00

Join fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart and the ever dapper Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty in this illustrated talk about the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood. Ruffled gowns, sequined hats and zoot suits - this stuff never goes out of style darlings! 

Followed by a cocktail party hosted by The Vintage Mafia - the first round of 'Prohibition Era' drinks are on us. 

British Library Images Online


Hanif Kureishi - My Beautiful Film Career
Saturday, 29 March 13.30 - 18.00

Double bill of acclaimed screenwriter Hanif Kureishi's  My Beautiful Laundrette and Le Week-End. In between screenings Kureishi will talk about his work with fellow writer Rachel Holmes. Plus you get an exclusive viewing of material from his personal archive, acquired by the Library this year. 



History Relived - Storytelling Worshop
Monday, 31 March 10.00 - 16.00 

Twitter in the 1890s - what would it look like? What events would people tweet about? Find inspiration in our massive British Newspaper Archive - over six million digitised, searchable pages you can play with. Create characters, bring them to life and share your stories on social media. Hosted by our friends Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs

Above - Illustrated Police News, 1892 - The British Newspaper Archive

Inspiring Filmmakers with Tony Grisoni
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.30 

Whether you're looking for inspiration or on a fact-finding mission for your film project - there's something for you in the Library. Award-winning screenwriter and director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kingsland #1, Southcliffe) and art department researcher Celia Barnett (Harry Potter, Quantum of Solace, Gosford Park) talk about how they've used the Library to do research - joined by production designer Tony Noble (Moon).

Followed by Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival screenings - including the winning entry of our short film competition inspired by British accents and dialects. Co-hosted by Cinema Jam. 



Inspired by... vinyl records
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.00

Our vinyl collection is enormous. It's also largely unknown and we want to change that. Our curator of popular music Andy Linehan looks at the history of vinyl and digs into the archive to bring you cool record sleeve art and unique album titles including some rare bootleg records.  A perfect event for graphic designers and music lovers.

"If ever there's a nuclear war, I'm coming here with a portable record deck." - Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft.  


Protecting the big picture

Thursday, 27 March  10.00 - 12.00

Intellectual property can be a boring subject but an understanding of it is absolutely vital for anyone producing creative works - whether it's film, fashion or design. This is a practical and informative event where you can ask questions to a panel of  IP specialists. In partnership with ACID, Anti Copying in Design


Book tickets here. Press release here

09 January 2014

Highlights: London Collections - Men 2014 and British Library Flickr

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London Collections: Men is the capital's three-day menswear fashion showcase. From established brand Thomas Pink to emerging talent Adrien Sauvage the runway shows, which finished yesterday, celebrate the best British brands. 

The Evening Standard recently reported that menswear contributes £10.4billion a year to the UK economy, and its sales are expected to outstrip those of womenswear in 2014. There's definitely cause for celebration so these are my highlights coupled with inspiring images selected from the British Library Flickr collection. (We just uploaded over 1 million images to Flickr Commons and we want you to have a play - find out more here.) 

 E-Tautz_LCM14  E-Tautz_LCM14_3
E. Tautz designer Patrick Grant recently gave a talk at the Library on how historical resources inspire his designs. I love the sumptuous fabrics of the outfit on the left and the bold heraldry-like pattern of that coat.  (Images via

Die-Volker-des-Erdballs-British-Library-Flickr-000284476_b  Heraldry_British-Library-Flickr_001203024

Left from Die Volker des Erdballs nach ihrer Abstammung und Verwandtschaft... 1845, right from The Church Heraldry of Norfolk, 1885

I had the pleasure of giving YMC founder Jimmy Collins a tour of the Library recently. I hope we get to collaborate with him and designer Fraser Moss. (Image via

Letter Y_British Library Flickr_002207932   Letter M_British Library Flickr_002750050   Letter C_British Library Flickr_003419604
Y from The Works of John Locke, 1714; M from Inaugural Ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, 1868; C from Poems upon several occasions, 1713

Louis Leeman Paris (Image via

Mr Hare (Image via

From John Cassell's Illustrated History of England, 1856.  

Crombie. I would wear this.  (Image via

From Upper Canada Sketches, 1898.  I would wear this too. 

Hacket London. Classic and sleek. (Image via

From John Cassell's Illustrated History of England, 1856.  I true gentleman is one who can pull off high-waisted trousers indeed. 

Jonathan Saunders_LCM14_Red sweater
Jonathan Saunders. Fun is what I think this outfit looks like.  (Image via

From Red Apple and Silver Bells, 1897

John Smedley_colours_LCM_via Guardian Helen Seamons
John Smedley. These joyful colours will brighten up a grey and wet London day - and it looks like there will be many this year. (Image via

Katie-Eary_LCM14  Richard-Nicoll_LCM14
Left Katie Eary, right Richard Nicoll (Images via

From Our Earth and its Story, 1893


From British Mineralogy, 1804


From British Mineralogy, 1804

If you're interested in starting a fashion business, check out our Business & IP Centre industry guides here. 


30 September 2013

Webinar series for creative businesses with The Design Trust

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I've come across a lot of creative businesses run by small teams or one individual. It's a common challenge for these businesses to create new work and take care of the business side.

Elizabeth Carrick, designer of womenswear label Blonde + Ginger, said her biggest challenge is "Needing to do everything yourself and trying to be good enough at it all! I love the designing and the creative side of the business but I need to develop my skills in other areas, such as marketing. You are never going to be great at every role you need to do but you can’t afford to not try your very best."

This afternoon I ran into Eleanor Lewis-Bale of letterpress label Marby & Elm. She's been so busy doing business admin like invoicing and packaging that she hasn't had time to explore and be creative. She finally made it to the Library to look at our typography collection for inspiration.

To help creatives get organised, learn business essentials and stay sane(!) we've partnered up with The Design Trust to deliver a FREE webinar series. These are perfect for pre-start and start-up creative businesses including freelancers, sole traders, practitioners in design, crafts, fashion, photography, video and film.

Webinar 1: Create your business plan for your first year
Thu 17 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00
You can write a business plan to get finance or funding, but also to plan ahead and prioritise your workload.  Think of a business plan as a roadmap for your journey. In the end you will have the tools to create a business plan that you will be proud of and will be using regularly.

Webinar 2: Your first 10 steps in marketing
Thu 31 Oct, 11.00 - 12.00
We'll look at how to do practical market research and why niche marketing is essential for small businesses. You'll get loads of practical tips and marketing actions that you can use to help get your business started on the right track

Webinar 3: How to cost and price your work 
Thu 7 Nov, 11.00 - 12.00
Pricing your products or services isn’t easy. You might not know how to do the maths, or you find it hard to put a value on your creative ideas. This is a step-by-step session on how pricing and costing works. Learn about different models, international pricing, discounting, premiums and more. 

*Webinar 4: First steps to creating your brand and choosing a business name 
Tue 19 Nov, 11.00 - 12.00 
Choosing a business name is a big part of the creative and business process. But naming your business (or even just a new collection!) can be tricky.
We'll cover how to create your own brand based on your values and ideal clients.  We'll share case studies and practical tips. *Part of Global Entrepreneur Week  

We'll end the series with an event at our Business & IP Centre on Selling creatively online (save the date 7 February, booking link coming soon). 


26 September 2013

Designing a recipe book - Interview with Mellissa Morgan of Ms Cupcake

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Mellissa Morgan founded London's first vegan bakery Ms Cupcake in 2011.  She reveals her scrumptious recipes in her book Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.  In this interview she shares her experience designing the book and how her grandmother inspired her business and personal style. 

You can meet Mellissa and learn about how her book helped raise her business profile at our free speed mentoring event Think it, write it and get it published! 


What kind of feedback are you getting about "Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town"?

The responses have been really incredible.  Everyone seems to be finding the book straight-forward and really easy to use.  Also, the feedback on the look and design of the book has been great.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing peoples’ pictures that they are taking of the creations they are making from the book. They look just like our treats!  I’m so glad that our recipes are translating well into everyone else’s kitchens. 

How involved were you in the design of the book?

I was very involved in the look of the book.  We had a number of different publishers interested in publishing our first book, but Square Peg (Random House) really ‘got me’ and was willing to help me see my vision for the book through.

I insisted on a full colour picture with each recipe (a deal-breaker in my opinion when we’re talking about a cook book) and they allowed me to work very closely with the designer and photographers for the book.

The majority of props and accessories in the pictures are my own personal possessions and the people filling the pictures of the book are all my wonderful staff members.  The book is very much ‘us’ at the bakery.

You've got a delightful 1960s-70s style in the shop, the book, on the website and your own fashion. It all reminds me of Bewitched! What inspires you? 

It’s actually quite funny, my flat looks pretty much like the shop!  Same colour scheme, same retro touches and decoration!  The shop, the book, and the feel of the business is very much tied into who I am and the things I like.  I figure, if you are going to create a business, you might as well create one that inspires and excites you aesthetically as well as intellectually.

My grandmother is very much the inspiration behind my ‘look’ and the Ms. Cupcake character.  She was a bit of a kooky lady who had a penchant for horn rimmed glasses, crazy hats and some pretty eccentric hobbies (like collecting over 800 statues of penguins). She had a hearty laugh, a zest for life and was always there to give anyone - even a stranger - a big cuddle if they needed it.  I couldn’t have asked for a better role model!

Our Business & IP experts have put together industry guides to help you research all types of sectors including books and publishing, organic food, drinks and much more. You can download the guides for FREE here. 

Mellissa talks about her baking process, business  and winning the 2011 British Baker's Rising Star Award. Love those vintage specs!  



18 September 2013

London Design Festival - Craft Central's Imprint exhibition

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As part of London Design Festival, our friendly partners over at Craft Central launched Imprint, a cross-disciplinary exhibition of print design. I popped over last night to have a look. Here are my highlights:


Don't let the rain keep you from visiting! The exhibition is open until 21 September from 10.30 - 18.30 (Craft Central 33-35 St John's Square, London EC1M 4DS. Tube: Farringdon or Barbican)


DesignK's Tea for One Table - "Handmade in England and inspired by traditions like afternoon tea, these cheery designs melt our hearts." I agree!  


Katie Brown - Silk scarves designed and finished in Northern Ireland, printed in Macclesfield. On my Christmas wishlist. 


Stylist Marlies Winkelmeier and designer Alice Fleger of Dandelion Tree admiring Thornback & Peel designs. 


Thornback & Peel's shop is just down the road from the British Library. We'd love for founders Juliet and Della to visit the Library and check out our print collection


Eleanor is behind the Hampstead-based letterpress design studio Marby & Elm. I immediately thought of the Library's Evanion Collection of Victorian ephemera when I saw her designs. The type she uses has a very similar style and feel to Victorian posters and handbills produced for plays, exhibitions and circuses. When I told Eleanor I worked at the Library she squealed with delight and plans to come in and check out our typography collection. 

There is so much for designers to be inspired by at the Library. Check out our FREE show & tell of our gorgeous Exotic Prints and Drawing Collection. I could see a lot of the birds and flowers in the collection designed for a scarf, table or wallpaper and hopefully then sold at Craft Central!

12 September 2013

Interview with Olivia Twaites - Propaganda design competition winner

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Last night we presented Kingston University graduate Olivia Twaites her prize of £1,500 for her winning British Library and Arts Thread Propaganda design competition entry Shred Heads.

Find out more about Olivia in the interview below and come and see the Propaganda exhibition - it closes next week! 

Propaganda design competition winner Olivia Twaites and British Library Curator Jude England
Head of Social Sciences and curator of Propaganda: Power and Persuasion Jude England and Olivia Twaites. 

Tell us about your creative process for this competition.

The project evolved from conversations I’d had with some close friends of mine, who told me they were feeling unhappy and unfulfilled in their full time jobs. It was obvious to me that this unhappiness was more than just a feeling of dissatisfaction and was perhaps something deeper.

After hearing these first hand experiences I wanted to find out what information is available online for those who suspect they may be suffering from work related depression. I also wanted to look into what research has been undertaken to test possible links between depression and certain types of employment.

The majority of my research was online, on health websites and forums. It is reassuring to know that there is an enormous amount of support available for people who may find themselves in this situation – the psychological impact of our day to day routines and how they can affect us is widely documented and understood.


How does digital content inspire you compared to seeing the real thing?

I generally tend to feel more inspired seeing a physical exhibition than I do looking at images online. I think it is important to experience it, and 9 times out of 10, there is something unique to the venue or exhibition going on, that you would otherwise miss online. I think our concentration spans are limited when looking at online media and so the work often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, so in my mind it’s best to go out and see it exhibited when possible.

What was it like studying graphic design at Kingston University? Can you tell us about your projects?

Since graduating, I keep getting asked the same question, “Do you think your degree was worth it?” I can honestly say, yes it most definitely was.

I am reassured whenever I look back on the work I produced during my first and second years and seeing the noticeable difference in quality when compared to the work I was producing in my final year. I clearly learned a lot, and I don't think I could have reached where I am now without doing the course.

Sure, anyone can learn how to use the software, but the critiques, group work and discussions develop your understanding of how to think creatively and conceptually. A course like the one at Kingston also encourages you to work collaboratively, which is an essential skill.

You are interning at communications company Matter & Co. What’s the experience like?

I’m loving being in London and working. The company has already provided me with an eclectic mix of projects and tasks to get my teeth into. It is brilliant to be putting everything I've learnt in to practice.

At the moment I think that there is some confusion over the difference between an internship and work experience. I was always under the impression that an internship was set up to provide the prospect of a job if the intern was suitable. These days it seems that the term ‘internship’ can apply to a few weeks of unpaid work or a full year of paid work in the form of a graduate scheme with a different name.

It is in the benefit of both the employer and the intern if the intern is paid, even if it’s the minimum wage. An intern is likely to put in a lot more effort into their work if they are paid, out of loyalty and out of a sense of self-worth.