15 October 2021
In our Meet the Maker blog series, we profile the independent creative businesses behind some of our product ranges in the British Library Shop (both online and at our St Pancras, London site). This month, we meet Eleanor Stuart, who designed our new Book Lovers Christmas jumper, baubles, and greeting cards.
Eleanor is an illustrator and designer based in East London, who creates bold, fun and colourful designs with the aim of bringing a smile and a bit of joy to people’s lives.
‘I gather inspiration from a wide range of sources and am always collecting ideas and images from galleries, literature, shops and across the internet. I find I can be inspired by anything from Banksy to a random window display I've seen so I'm always on the lookout for something new. I keep an ongoing book of ideas and products I'd love to create so there's always something keeping me busy!’
The business started back in 2013, with the first collection based on Alice in Wonderland. The British Library Shop was one of Eleanor’s first stockists, with a selection of her plates forming part of an Alice-themed range. Eleanor used the Library’s online collection as inspiration for the range – you can find out more about this in her case study video.
Almost a year ago, we met with Eleanor to talk about bespoke book baubles for our 2021 Christmas range, which expanded into Eleanor adapting some of her Christmas card designs to give them a book-lovers spin, and turning these into gift wrap. We liked the initial designs so much we asked Eleanor if she would design our new Christmas jumper too!
‘It was my first time designing a jumper and I loved it. I was lucky that the British Library team gave me quite an open brief for the design but obviously it had to be festive and book themed!’
After ‘a bit of a light bulb moment’ whilst singing Mariah Carey’s classic All I Want for Christmas Is You, Eleanor gave the song a literary twist and the jumper design was born. Made in the UK from cosy knitted acrylic, we love the Book Lovers’ Christmas jumper, and have been delighted with the really positive feedback and great sales since its launch earlier this month.
‘Being stocked in the British Library shop is particularly special to me because it's one of the first shops I supplied and it made me feel so excited to see my products in a real shop! It's also always meant a lot to me to supply and support such an iconic British institution.’
So what’s next for Eleanor? She has recently moved into a new studio, and, having worked ‘from kitchen tables to windowless self-storage rooms and everything in between’, Eleanor’s delighted to have a beautiful space for her growing business. There’s also the launch of more textiles, mugs and tea towels to look forward to, along with Christmas sacks and stockings. Eleanor would also ‘love to get a dog to bring to the studio if that counts as business planning!’
Eleanor’s advice for anyone starting out with their own business?
‘I would say find a way to just get out there and start doing it, even in a small way. I know when I started it was easy to get bogged down by all the 'what if's' and I realised that I just needed to get my work out there and see what happened and what people thought of it. I started very small doing local craft fairs where people seemed to love my products, then I grew to pop up shops and trade shows and now nearly 10 years on it's a full-time business.’
Browse the British Library Shop’s Eleanor Stuart range
Visit Eleanor’s website
Follow Eleanor on Instagram