Monday, June 20th, 2016
Or maybe they found me? I was very happy when Ben from Old English Company got in touch with me. Old English Company has some really cool stationery. Their focus is on witty captions and minimalist illustrations. I immediately laid eyes on the bear wall hanging and I can proudly say it’s now hanging amongst my collection which I’ll share with you soon. I also had the chance to find out more about Old English Company. Get to know the man behind the company and read the inspiring interview with Ben below.
Old English Company is the brain child of myself, Ben Treanor. I studied design at Leeds Metropolitan and then went on to work for a small design agency. Working my way up I became head designer for Waterstones, the leading high street book store chain in the UK. While there I worked on various projects, including the designing of their own brand stationery (greeting cards, notepads etc). It was this that sparked an interest of designing stationery and homeware to sell. I illustrated a small range of cards and sold these online. While my designs became more and more popular I realised it was time to leave my day job to pursue Old English Company full time. Since then we’ve relocated studios 3-4 times (if you count my bedroom being the first studio space). Currently we’re a team of 4, and based in the beautiful historic town of Stamford, my home town.
A day at the studio will normally consist of getting all of the orders made and packed, ready to be sent out the door. I’ll then try to have an hour or so designing/illustrating, however we’re very busy around any seasonal holiday (Christmas, Father’s Day, Valentine’s) and any upcoming trade shows, so this effects how much time I’m able to spend on illustrating new ideas.
It’s hard to know exactly where my inspiration comes from. I love to look at old vintage signs with bold typography and will often go to our local antique shops (Stamford has a lot of them!) to see what I can find. Also hand lettering, anything hand lettered and monochrome will always catch my eye.
Old English Company is always growing. Over the past year we’ve been exhibiting at more and more trade shows, and have found ourselves stocked in various stockists including Urban Outfitters and Oliver Bonas as a result. We’re looking at exhibiting at trade shows in America, as we’d love to have more stockists on that side of the pond. I also want to look at increasing the range of stationery and homeware products that we produce.
Staying creative can be difficult at times. I think if you speak to most designers / illustrators you’ll hear that they will often have design slumps, when ideas just don’t seem to materialise. I find it important to persevere through these slumps. Having a sketchpad and pencil to hand always seems to help!
Do you love Old English Company as much as I do? Then you’re lucky! I’m giving away two Old English Company coasters (2 surprise coasters).
Monday, June 6th, 2016
I was very fortunate to meet Kate of Isla Apothecary a few weeks ago at the bloggers’ workshop organised by Makers & Friends. She was one of the makers who used the pop-up concept to test and sell her products. I immediately loved the idea behind her new brand as well as the design of the bottles and tubes. Kate and I went for a coffee a few days after and I had the chance to get to know her a little better. I was very inspired by our conversation and I wanted to give you the chance to get to know her as well. Therefore, I asked her a few questions about Isla Apothecary and Kate’s own creativity. I think this interview is truly inspiring and I hope you will love it, too.
Tell me a little bit about Isla Apothecary.
Isla Apothecary is an expression of my positive experiences with conscious and botanical led self-care and skincare and my take on both of those. I draw on the principles of aromatherapy, olfaction, a dedication to beautiful, natural remedies, and my belief in the power of the skin to heal and thrive with the assistance of nature uninterrupted.
I handcraft everything in the product range in small batches and I have two primary concerns when I create a product; that I use the finest raw and natural, and where possible organic and wild crafted ingredients for their therapeutic action, and that the end product smells good; but of course the last bit is totally subjective.
Why did you start Isla?
How I spend my days is important to me. Time was passing me by and for much of it, I felt increasingly disconnected, disheartened, and disoriented in what I was doing.
I got to a point where I struggled to justify always feeling that way so I started to address that discomfort. Part of my process included placing greater emphasis on exploring new things and spending time on things I already enjoyed and were relatable to me i.e. experimenting with natural ingredients and alternative therapies. By doing that I started to feel more enriched and looking back, I think it gave me confidence to believe that feeling good about what I do isn’t out of reach.
In the summer of 2014, I started to sense I was edging closer towards some semblance of what Isla was to become. I was also entering a period where I was trying out a more holistic approach to living and that actually extended to my career choices. Suddenly, the question of ‘why can’t I add the things that really make me tick in to my every day?’ wasn’t yielding any worthwhile answers.
Around this time though, I was very close to pursuing a career in law, having just finished a law conversion course but I struggled to see myself in that world even though I was (and still am) fascinated by the subject. Isla Apothecary wasn’t a business idea per se and nor was it borne out of a business plan, but all of these factors I describe strengthened my resolve to move forward with it. It is simply reflections of my life, experience, habits, desires, lifestyle choices; and finally feeling inspired and encouraged by all of the above. They came together in their own time and timing is everything.
What are the biggest challenges of having your own business?
My day-to-day consists of me tempering strategy with creativity and unavoidable administrative tasks. Naturally, there are aspects that I favour over others and I am still learning to put equal effort in to all of them.
But probably the biggest challenge I have is switching off. I love what I do, however it is constant and it’s as if I run out of time a lot! So my mind churns with to-do’s, ideas, deadlines and that’s tricky to curb. Being aware of that though is helping me to work harder at being more present in other areas of my life.
In our conversation you mentioned you never thought you were creative. Can you tell me why you thought that & what changed your mind?
I always thought I was just more the academic type and therefore not creative, as if being academic and creative are incompatible. I loved and still love learning; studying and researching new subjects! I just had lots of interests and passions that seemed to be congealing with not much coming out of them. I suppose Isla Apothecary represents my readiness to cross over from theory into practice with a wider application in mind, and that’s when I realised that I was capable of my own version of creativity.
For me, creativity is also a conduit to freedom and vice versa. Freedom of expression. They say that there’s an art and a science to aromatherapy and what I like about that is that whilst there is this huge frame of reference, there is a lot of freedom to play around. It works for me. I’m not into hard and fast rules.
How do you stay creative?
Caring about what I do keeps my creativity switched on I think; and to sort of answer the question above in another way, doing what I get a lot of joy out of is a big factor in that. I always wanted to find, or be able to create and do what I loved. It is something that Steve Jobs said, which really spoke to me – “you have to find what you love.” You may not know what you love and that’s fine! Being open and trying new things is a great place to start. I digress! Determination to grow, progress and push ahead (especially when I make mistakes, there are many) means learning the lessons and moving on quickly, and trying new things; and that spurs creativity, if only by accident.
I tend to say ‘yes’ to trying new things out for the business and I try to get out there as much as possible. You never know when and how you can be inspired.
Travel seems to renew my sense of curiosity and I like to imbue that in the brand. I wish I could do more of it! I’m going to India in January on an Aromatherapy tour of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which combines the educational, the hands-on and the travel and I can’t wait! I hope it’s the beginning of many more trips like it.
What are your thoughts about this interview?