We have worked with a variety of interesting gift and homeware companies that produce both functional and often quirky ceramics, their designs sometimes telling a simple story, portraying a character or even expressing a feeling. Cats, sheep, 'Batman' and bats can all be found on contemporary ceramics and from Sweden, subtle patterns and colours that give that 'hygge' feeling to your eating experience.
With the BBC's 'Great Pottery Throwdown' the world of pottery making and ceramics has seen a resurgence in interest in the making and design of pottery and ceramics.
The first use of functional pottery vessels for storing water and food is thought to be around 9,000 or 10,000 BC with the potter's wheel being invented in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC. Fast-forward and by 1800 the UK pottery industry was well established and expanding with over 300 potworks in north Staffordshire
A significant pottery producing area for centuries, Staffordshire has plenty of clay, lead, salt and coal in the area which made it a perfect place for pottery production. The world-renowned Staffordshire pottery is produced in area of the United Kingdom centred around six separate towns (Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke and Tunstall) which are now known as Stoke on Trent.
In the early days potters would simply dig up clay from roads which is thought to have led to the term ‘potholes’! It was quite common for farmers to make pottery at this stage - the land was not good enough for them to make enough money from farming so many worked as potters as a sideline. Gradually many of the farmers moved into full-time pottery production.
In its heyday there were hundreds of manufacturers producing all kinds of pottery in Staffordshire - some of whom became famous names and some of whom are still producing pottery to this day.
Some of the best known names include:
If you like your ceramics to have character then there's no shortage of designers out there to make your wish come true.
Blob Birds, Little Bean Farm critters and Puffin Cove colony are waiting to meet you at Helen Russell's studio in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 with a BA(Hons) in Three Dimensional Design. Helen Russell Creations was launched in April 2011.
As well as the natural world, Helen has a fascination with the way people ‘collect’ items to remember events, holidays and loved ones. She enjoys using animals to create scenes that echo human nature and hope's that her work supports memories old and new. Helen has created a playful, happy land that welcomes visitors old and new. She likes customers to join her and her creatures round the campfire and share stories and happy memories through homeware, surface pattern and sculpture. Imagination is the only luggage you need!
Graphic designer Jinny Ursell from Hove (actually!) in Sussex launched her range of home & giftware in June 2013.
Jinny had been a designer for several years and had her own graphic and web design business. During that time she developed a very clean and simple style and she wanted to bring this style into a range of products to offer consumers a fresh choice.
The designs feature plenty of space, simple objects and occasional subtle humour. They are a contrast to the busy lives we lead. It’s design that tells a story and is designed for people to create their own stories - as a reminder of something that's personal to them.
Made to make you smile! - Inspired by the local lovable Herdwick Sheep, Herdy uses distinctive the Herdwick sheep design throughout it's range of products.
The Herdy Companyʼs addictively popular gift and homeware range includes vibrantly coloured fine bone china mugs, terracotta kitchenware, 100% wool throws and Herdwick wool rugs. Everything Herdy does starts with good design and they design everything themselves from their base in the Lake District. Herdy aims to be socially responsible and create beautiful gifts and homeware of the highest quality.
Volpe and Volpe was born from founder Trish Scorgie’s passion for ceramics and Britain’s golden age of manufacturing. Having scoured second hand shops to build a collection of vintage ceramic swan vases, it occurred to her that they could be updated for modern homes by creating an edition in more contemporary colours.
Trish has an eclectic mix of ceramics including:
The Preservation Plates series highlights declining and no longer found species in the British Isles.
A collaboration with Robert Dawson of Aesthetic Sabotage the designs include The Last Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bats, Hedgehog, Lynx and Wolf.
The Bison Plant Pot is a collaboration with Lesley McShea and newcomer Clare Parkinson. The animals are first modelled from Vulcan black clay and attached to pots hand thrown by Lesley - they make for beautiful and unique plant pot holders.
Designers Susanna Theander and Helena Åkesson-Liedberg from Sthål have a passion for food and good company. They were always searching for dishes and bowls with colours, shapes and patterns that stood out from the ordinary - tableware that would do the food visual justice and create the right atmosphere with a touch of comfort or ‘hygge’.
As working with ceramics was a hobby for both of them, they decided to create exactly what they were looking for. The result is bohemian everyday ceramics that brighten up any day of the week. Their first collection, Arabesque, cleverly combines both Swedish and exotic influences. Finding inspiration in oriental pattern and ornament the range of bowls, plates and platters is available in a selection of Scandi-influenced hues and has been designed to mix and match with old and new favourites.
Helen Russell Creations - https://helenrussellcreations.com/shop/pow-mug/
Jin Designs - http://www.jindesigns.com/
Herdy - https://www.herdy.co.uk/
Sthal - http://sthal.se/en/om-oss
Volpe and Volpe - http://shop.volpeandvolpe.com
With ever increasing energy costs and concerns over the impact on the environment from fossil fuels and nuclear power, solar power generation has increased massively and its uses are amazing - from automatically opening a farm gate to providing power for an entire island.
Friday 26th May 2017 proved to be a landmark day for the UK as a record amount of solar power was generated. As Britain basked in sunshine and temperatures of up to 28C, 8.7 gigawatts (GW) of electricity had been generated by lunchtime, representing 24.3% of total generation across the UK, the level tops the previous record of 8.48GW set on May 10th.
The amount of solar power added worldwide increased by some 50% last year because of increased capacity added largely by the US and China. New solar photovoltaic capacity installed in 2016 reached more than 76 gigawatts, a dramatic increase on the 50GW installed the year before. China and the US led the surge, with both countries almost doubling the amount of solar they added in 2015, according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body.
Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.
The island of Ta’u is located about 4,000 miles from the West Coast of the United States and has a population of around 600 residents. A project funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior implemented a solar array project which is composed of 5,328 solar panels that can run the entire island on solar energy for three days. The system can fully recharge with just seven hours of daylight. The island previously relied entirely on diesel generators for its power.
Renewable energy like solar is susceptible to peaks and troughs throughout the day but energy-storage systems such as the Powerwall by SolarCity combat the problem by effectively smoothing the output of these sources. By storing energy at peak times and releasing it when it is needed , they make renewable energy a far more viable option.
Tesla, probably best known for its electric cars, is leading a revolution in the solar market with battery storage solutions. Tesla’s company SolarCity makes the Powerwall 2 home battery and has just launched in Australia. The company is pretty confident that its new sustainable battery storage solutions could fix power blackouts experienced in South Australia which has been suffering from ongoing problems – with the latest one being last month with many people are blaming it on renewable energy sources. Tesla recently installed an 80MWh grid-scale battery farm in southern California within just 90 days which they say shows they have the solution to South Australia’s blackouts.
Solar Gate Gate Systems offers a great solution for powering an entrance or exit gate on a farm, estate, livery yard or a private house by harnessing the power of the sun.
The award-winning, market-leading automatic solar powered gate products are manufactured specifically for use in the UK. In many rural situations, keeping a gate closed is not practically possible; either due to a lack of an electricity supply or the sheer daily complications of manually opening and closing a busy gate. The solar-powered system from Solar Gate Systems is suitable for remote installation where mains electricity isn’t available or would be too costly to install or to save on having to lay cables under existing driveways.
Does it really work in rainy old Britain?
Yes, but good planning is vital. Solar panels use crystalline photovoltaic cells which simply require day light to produce electricity, so even on a cloudy winter’s day, the solar panels still provide charge.
Solar Gate Systems set their solar panels at 23 degrees to the vertical to maximise the winter harvest. Panels also face solar south, which can be very different to magnetic south and are combined with a 24volt DC system, proven to be up to 50% more efficient than the usual 12volt DC system.
With an ever-increasing variety of mobile devices using rechargeable battery power there is often a need for mobile solar charging when you are on the move. If you are walking across the Yorkshire Moors using GPS on your mobile phone the last thing you want is to run out of battery power.
The Extreme Solar is one of many charging devices. This lightweight, clamshell solar panel, offers a 5 watt, 5V 1A output - perfect for charging smaller devices such as smartphones, GPS systems and handheld action cameras on the move. The panel opens to a 210 degree angle, making it easy to attach to back packs, tents or bike panniers whilst allowing optimum power from the sun.
The Extreme Solar features useful 2-colour LED indicator; when the LED shows red, solar charging is at a minimum, when the LED shows green in colour, solar charging is at an optimum level. Housed in a rugged, water-resistant casing, the extreme solar includes MPPT technology which means the panel will still deliver power even in low light conditions - offering users reliable solar charging from a compact unit.
Solar lighting has come a long way and as photovoltaic technology improves so the prices for the technology are coming down. Longer-lasting solar technology is becoming more and more apparent - from your back garden to street lighting, the uses for solar power to light up our lives are growing year on year.
All solar lights come with either an external or integrated solar panel. This panel has a photovoltaic cell inside and this converts sunlight into an electrical current. The size and quality of the solar cell will influence how effective the solar panel actually is.
What happens when there is no sunlight?
Due to the advancements in solar technology, they will normally continue to work all year round, even on dull and rainy days. The performance will not match that during the summer months though, especially when it comes to the lower price bracket of solar garden lights. The obvious time to enjoy them is through the summer months, when due to the longer daylight hours but even on a dull day you should still receive a significant amount of charge from them.
Once the solar cell has converted the sunlight into an electrical current, the re-chargeable battery will store this electricity. With solar lights, NiMH batteries are normally used, as they stand up better to daily charging and have a significant environmental benefit, as they can be disposed of without harm to the environment. This is opposed to the standard NiCAD batteries used in regular electrical goods.
Norfolk is certainly open for business - from a new caramel vodka to a jewellery business owned by two Norwich sisters and a graphic design-led lifestyle brand there's a wealth of creative talent launching innovative products that are putting the county well and truly on the design map!
One of the key flavours and ingredients to have created a buzz in the last five years is caramel. Brainchild of Matt and Steph Brown the Norfolk business that’s recently hopped onto the caramel train is Nelson's Gold, a decadent new flavoured premium vodka and sister to their original Wild Knight English Vodka.
Having tried a number of different ingredients they settled on Norfolk-grown barley as the best as it produces a completely different flavour compared to the traditional potato-based vodkas. Made in small batches, Nelson’s Gold takes the smooth, eminently sippable qualities of the original vodka up a notch with the addition of caramelised Norfolk sugar beet resulting in a flavour that is incomparable to the many other caramel vodkas on the market.
Steph and Matt, who both have backgrounds in marketing and design, created a non-alcoholic drink in 2010.
“Matt went away to Mongolia because my brother-in-law was getting married to a Mongolian lady,” says Steph. “In Mongolia they drink a lot of vodka and he came back and said, “I tell you what Steph, why don’t we make vodka instead?”
When it came to branding their drinks, Matt and Steph wanted to connect the vodkas to their British and Norfolk heritage. Wild Knight relates to both the knights of the realm of old, and to ‘wild nights’. But they dug a little deeper to christen their caramel vodka. Nelson’s Gold is named after the original ship, HMS Victory, which was the inspiration for Nelson’s Victory and of course the tiny Norfolk village of Burnham Thorpe is the birthplace of Horatio Nelson.
Don’t be surprised if you see Wild Knight and Nelson’s Gold on your travels across the UK or worldwide in the near future!
In late 2012, sisters Jenny and Sophie Laslett used some borrowed money a spare room and bought a small batch of jewellery from a manufacturer in the Far East. Their only customers for the first Christmas of trading were friends and family.
Today the pair are sitting at the head of a successful digital business, selling more than £1m of jewellery online each year and employing ten people. Working all hours of the day, driving sales through online marketplace Not On The High Street and a particularly successful necklace design have helped the sisters achieve their dream business, J&S Jewellery. So far they have sold more than 125,000 pieces of jewellery and are now looking to grow their brand using their own website.
Jewellery designer Jenny previously worked for top-level clients including Marks & Spencer and Sophie worked as a photographer at The Times. They didn’t expect their business to progress quite so quickly but opened their first dispatch office in Earlham House Norwich in 2014 and have since expanded into a second office, so things are still going incredibly well for these two entrepreneurial Norfolk sisters.
Nor-Folk began in November 2014 when founding couple Fiona and Bobby Burrage - who also run branding agency The Click Design Consultants - created the Nor-Folk logo for another project which did not go ahead.
Hoping to make some use out of the design, they printed the logo onto a collection of tote bags, which they sold on the online site Etsy.
Following on from the surprising sales on Etsy and while searching for simple clothes for their three-year-old the brand idea began to take off and they started to produce some designs of their own. From there they shared some photo-shopped visuals to see if stockists would be interested in them.
Within a couple of weeks eight stockists were on board and orders of about £8,000 had been secured - enough to start production of their first collection of t-shirts. Nor-Folk now sells thousands of items of children’s and adults' clothing, gifts and homewares each month and turnover is well into six figures. The couple saw growth of more than 30pc for several months in a row and distribution has moved from a series of boxes in the living room of their converted-factory apartment to a warehouse in Long Stratton Norfolk where the picking and shipping is out-sourced.
The Burrages have grown their business by sharing a polished version of their life on social media and developing a community of followers. In an interview with local paper the EDP Bobby said “A lot of people have no idea Norfolk is even a place when they buy our stuff. We would love to be able to push the county more.”
Despite Norfolk not being on the map for many, Nor-Folk's popularity has led to collaborations with other brands - they have teamed up with Japanese business Tokyobike to design a children’s bicycle, and Fiona has been asked to work with women’s clothing brand Long Tall Sally.
For more information about these brands:
Nelson's Gold - https://www.nelsonsgold.co.uk/
Wild Knight English Vodka - https://www.wildknightvodka.co.uk/
J & S Jewellery - http://www.jandsjewellery.com/
Nor-Folk - http://www.nor-folk.com/
Everyone is talking about ‘hygge’ (pronounced hue-gah) – the Danish word for taking time out and making simple things feel special and it looks as though the once redundant piece of retro furniture - the drinks trolley - is poised to make a comeback.
Retailers stocking the comeback trolley include Oliver Bonas and John Lewis who now refer to it as a ‘bar cart’. Invented in the 1920s as a smart way to serve cocktails to house guests, the lifestyle friendly drinks trolley remained a hugely popular feature in British middle-class homes right through to the end of the seventies, when they suddenly fell out of fashion.
These days the drinks trolley can double up as a chic side or hall table, or be used for bathroom or kitchen storage when it’s not needed for entertaining. It can be taken outside in the summer and used to store condiments and crockery for a barbecue. If you’re very short on space and worry you still won’t have room for one, look for a fold-up version, that can be neatly packed away in a cupboard or loft when not in use.
With prices ranging from several thousand pounds to around the £50 mark, you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get the glamorous retro bar cart look. If you are on a tight budget, you can often pick up vintage drinks trolleys in charity shops or car boot sales for very little money.
Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and cold beer. In essence hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking – preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life.
Perhaps the Danish idea of hygge explains why the beginning of Autumn is the perfect time to cosy up your home. The Danish concept of hygge is keeping upbeat throughout the colder months to create a warm, friendly and comfortable ambiance in your home. Wrap up warm in blankets, lounge on oversized cushions, light candles and invite friends & family round for cosy nights in.
The tourist board for Aarhus declares " Come to Aarhus and hunt for 'hygge' in Denmark's cosiest city!"
Aarhus - along with the Central Denmark region - has been appointed European Capital of Culture 2017. You can expect an abundance of cultural events, gastronomic delights and an all round vibrant atmosphere! With its mix of youthful energy and blasts from the past, Aarhus is truly a city with an energetic beat of the pulse. Like to cycle? the beach, harbour and forest are all within reach of a 15-minute bike ride.
Designers Susanna Theander and Helena Åkesson-Liedberg from Sthål have a passion for food and good company. They were always searching for dishes and bowls with colours, shapes and patterns that stood out from the ordinary - tableware that would do the food visual justice and create the right atmosphere – ‘hygge’.
As working with ceramics was a hobby for both of them, they decided to create exactly what they were looking for. The result is bohemian everyday ceramics that brighten up any day of the week.
Their first collection, Arabesque, cleverly combines both Swedish and exotic influences. Finding inspiration in oriental pattern and ornament the range of bowls, plates and platters is available in a selection of Scandi-influenced hues and has been designed to mix and match with old and new favourites.
Further information on:
Oliver Bonas products - https://www.oliverbonas.com
Sthal ceramics - http://sthal.se/en/om-oss
Which trade fair to visit with your gift and craft products?
We spend a lot of time visiting trade fairs up and down the country seeing and supporting clients who are showing at them and talking to potential new gift and craft PR clients.
Trade fairs can be a great way to showcase your brand to potential customers but it's essential you research them thoroughly and decide in advance what it is your trying to achieve by exhibiting before committing to such a large expense - don't just take the advice of the show salesperson that their fair is the ideal one for your brand - remember they have sale targets to achieve!
The Harrogate Home and Gift Fair is a good all round trade fair covering Giftware, Homes and Interiors and Accessories, Jewellery & Fashion, Greetings & Stationery. The range of products on show varies greatly and looking around at this year’s fair one of the new products on show was this interesting and useful lifestyle product - Cycloc.
Cycloc is the global leader for stylish bike storage. Although the first commercial Cycloc product was produced in 2006, it was actually developed several years earlier by company founder Andrew Lang to satisfy a personal need for storing bicycles at home.
For more info on Home & Gift Harrogate visit - http://www.clarionevents.com/
For more info on Cycloc see their website - http://cycloc.com/ps/19-bike-storage-systems
If your interested in design, homes and interiors then September is full of places to go and do your research, such as: