06 April 2022
In our Meet the Maker blog series we shine a spotlight on 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 time, we meet Craig Yamey, who runs Museo Design, creators of the bespoke designs in our stunning new Alice in Wonderland range.
Craig is a London-based designer who specialises in creating custom ranges for museum shops, which allows him to combine his ‘passions for illustration, graphic design, and product development’. Working to briefs for different brands means that Craig takes a different approach to each project rather than working in a set style, ensuring that every range has its own distinctive aesthetic. Having been in business for 26 years, he has worked on a huge variety of projects for institutions such as the Science Museum, Houses of Parliament, and the National Maritime Museum, as well as the British Library.
‘When I embark on a new design, I ensure that I have fully assimilated the nuances of the brief and always begin with a moodboard of images, colour palettes, and typography. I present clients with several design options so there is always a lot to choose from.’
Craig has a studio at Cockpit Arts Holborn, a ‘social enterprise for craftspeople’, where he enjoys working alongside lots of different kinds of creative people. ‘I share my studio with a jeweller, leather worker, a weaver and a product designer. There is always a great exchange of ideas and it is wonderful to be part of a wider community of designers.’
Since 2014, Craig has created more than 16 ranges for the British Library Shop, including for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition range in 2017, and the recent The Wonderful Wizard of Oz collection. In 2021 we approached Craig about working on a new Alice in Wonderland range for the Shop, to give a modern take on the much-loved Sir John Tenniel illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s famous story. Our brief was quite broad, as we were keen to see what ideas Craig had from looking at the source material, and we were delighted to see the initial designs.
‘My aim was to capture the beautiful etched lines of his [Tenniel’s] artwork from the late 1800s by incorporating ornate Victorian frames and etched illustrations, but adding a contemporary twist with letterpress typography. I was very excited as the brief allowed me to incorporate gold foiling which informed a lot of the design process. My initial moodboard included Victorian playing cards, printed letterpress and antique book covers.’
After working with Craig to narrow down the potential options, we focused on a few items to build the bespoke parts of the range around, made up of tote bags, notebooks, bookmarks and enamel pin badges. Once we had these, we added some additional items featuring the designs, and incorporated products from some of our other excellent suppliers to complement the designs Craig had created. Craig’s favourite product from the range is the Alice Box Bag, which features letterpress-style quotations up the sides and across the handles to give that extra wow factor.
British Library Shop Buyer Charlie says, ‘We are delighted with the new Alice in Wonderland range, and love how Craig has combined Tenniel’s iconic original depictions of the characters with modern pops of colour. The gold foiling accents on the prints and leather items add a beautiful quality, and it’s been great to add some new product types such as the box bag and the pouch. The enamel pins are a triumph and I can’t wait to buy one of each!’
The Alice Box Bag and ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ Recycled Leather Notebook from the new range
What’s next for Museo Design? Craig is an avid painter, and is currently working on a product range featuring his own designs, which will be screen-printed onto items such as tote bags and cushions.
Craig’s advice for anyone starting out with their own business?
‘My advice is to start small and build up your business slowly. Make yourself stand out from the crowd by bringing something unique to the market.
It is important to equip yourself with the necessary business skills to price your work and services appropriately. I found a wealth of information online and took many free courses to improve my business acumen. As someone working on my own I find being in a shared studio a great source of inspiration and appreciate the advice and support of others.’
22 November 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 Katch Skinner, who hand makes unique ceramic items with character.
Based at Northlight Art Studios in Hebden Bridge, a not-for-profit cooperative, Katch started making ceramics as a spare time project before stepping up production after winning a Liberty open call in 2018. Katch is inspired by the idea of adding personality or history to otherwise everyday items.
‘My auntie used to have these amazing ceramic mugs with feet on, which always fascinated me – that idea of taking something from the mundane and giving it a narrative is the starting point of a lot of my work. I also have a love for Staffordshire ware and commemorative ware and how it’s used to document historical events, from political satire to holiday souvenirs.’
As well as egg cups and domestic ware, Katch also produces exhibition-related pieces for museum and gallery shops, as well as one-off items for exhibitions and commissions. Everything is made completely from scratch – the process starts with the design, before sculpting, mould making, casting, fettling, painting, firing and glazing. This level of handcrafting rather than mass-producing is what gives the pieces their uniqueness, with each item appearing to have its own personality.
‘For a little cup like 'Mary, Queen of Scots', once the mould is made, it can then take over a week to make a cup: it is slip cast, fettled and needs about a day or two to dry before underglaze and sgraffito are applied. This is then fired to bisque which takes around two days in the kiln. This then has to be glazed and re-fired to an earthenware temperature, taking another two days.’
We are delighted to be stocking four of Katch’s egg cup designs at the British Library Shop, with 'Brontë' and 'Austen' as part of our main range, and 'Elizabeth I' and 'Mary, Queen of Scots', as part of our Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens exhibition range. Though they are designed as egg cups, they can have lots of functions such as salt pots, jewellery dishes, small planters, and more. Buying and Merchandising Manager Maxine says:
‘The British Library Shop has always prided itself on supporting designer-makers and working with small businesses to offer products that are unique, innovative and design-led. When I first came across Katch Skinner’s ceramics, they ticked every box for us and we were sure our customers would agree.’
Having run ceramics classes at Northlight for about seven years, Katch has this year taken a step back from teaching to focus more on producing work – such as a fun project designing exclusive 'Queen' and 'Corgi' egg cups for the National Portrait Gallery. Katch is currently working on a project about local folklore, with plans to exhibit the resulting narrative pots and plates in the places where the stories are from, and hopes for a bigger studio to enable production of larger items.
Katch’s advice for anyone starting out with their own business?
‘I have made lots of mistakes – communication is the key with new stockists. Make sure people understand your processes – with my work being handmade I just make to order so turn-around can be from one month to over a year depending on the items. If people understand how you make your work it leads to better partnerships and fewer disappointments.’
Browse the British Library Shop’s Katch Skinner range
Visit Katch’s website
Follow Katch on Instagram
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