Archive: April 2015

You Can Stop the Search for Retro Stationery Immediately

Pennychoo Launches New Retro Stationery Set.

Pennychoo have recently unveiled new retro stationery collection, Metroland.  Featuring six stylish notebooks, specially designed for the discerning vintage lover.

The range features striking 1950’s atomic patterns. Reflecting British design’s post-war fascination with all things scientific and space age. Each notebook cover has next been carefully distressed to give a worn look, perfect for the vintage connoisseur.

Pennychoo have continued the impeccable attention to detail found in all of their greeting cards into this new stationery range. Each notebook features a sturdy cover of heavyweight, warm white board and 40 pages of plain paper. Utilising FSC Certified paper stocks that are kinder on the environment.

A handy purchase for any retro stationery fan, the Metroland notebooks are A6 in size; an ideal fit for a small bag or pocket. Perfect for jotting, drawing and getting creative on the go!

The notebooks, priced at just £3.00 each are available in 6 stunning designs: Bloomsbury, Perivale, Pimlico, Metropolitan, Hampstead and Fitzrovia. The perfect choice for the mid-century enthusiast who favours pen and paper to new fangled gadgets and gizmos.

See them featured right here in the Pennychoo in the Piccadilly Lane directory then head over to Pennychoo to snap up your favourite design (or all six) before they’re gone.

Posted by Charlotte 15:11 29/04/15
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Here Are The Best Indie Shops Recommended by Mel Smith

Cool, Independent Picks from Mel Smith Designs.

Mel Smith is a designer passionate about pattern and colour. Through her company, Mel Smith Designs, Mel creates gifts and homewares with a modern retro / vintage vibe.

Combining pattern and colour, Mel’s unique designs aim to brighten your home and put a smile on your face.

For this week’s ‘Indie Picks’ we asked Mel to share her favourite independent boutiques and websites.

Urban Suburban, Teddington, SW London.

I absolutely adore this shop! It is full of such wonderful products – from homewares to gifts to accessories to furniture to cards & wrap … everything! I pretty much get all my Christmas presents here! The style is quirky and colourful and I see a lot of things I haven’t seen elsewhere. I also quite like that there is no website, FB or Twitter page – it makes visiting a bit more special, like you’re going to truly discover something no one else has found yet.

How Kapow, Bristol & Online.

What a wonderful collection of bright and quirky products! Everything about their site is fun, and Cat and Rog are so friendly. They have a clear love for bold and fun designs all the way through their chosen products and it’s just a visual delight!

Purple Holly.

A lover of all things purple! But not just purple … currently an online shop but also taking part in markets, they have just bought a showroom to expand into with furniture as well as homewares and gifts.

We Make London, Camden & Online.

A treasure trove of goodies from about 35 designer makers, there is so much to choose from … jewellery, mugs, baby clothes, prints, cards … you can most certainly pick up a gift or two here. And because of its location and tourist footfall a lot of the gifts are £20 and under. London themed products rank highly as well.

Boka, Exeter, Devon.

Beka (Boka’s founder) is an absolute delight to work with! Her enthusiasm and love for the products she chooses is simply infectious! She loves colour and shows off her bright palettes against a clean white shop … everything just pops!

Elephant & Feather, Bedfordshire.

Rachel and Shirley absolutely love their jobs! You can tell by their enthusiasm for discovering new designers and products for their lovely little shop in Bedfordshire.

Podarok, Cambridge & Oxford.

I think this shop really does have something for everyone – homewares, jewellery, accessories … it really is a one-stop-shop. Their 2 boutiques have absolutely beautiful window displays adopting seasonal themes throughout the year and showcasing the very best of British designers.

Zecca, Chiswick, SW London.

A beautiful kitchen and tablewares shop filled with contemporary collections from small producers and designers. They have a great selection of London based prints within their shop, and often have themed seasonal styles that they promote.

Curiouser & Curiouser, Edinburgh.

A fantastic mixture of pattern, graphics and illustration make this shop a wonderful source for gifts. They have a great print collection that really inspires me as well. It’s just a great showcase of artists talents.

Lady Butterworths, Sevenoaks.

This is a very cute shop with homewares, gifts for him, her and even baby … plus lots of cards. I felt like I was discovering a whole new secret level when I went down the winding stairs into the lower basement level!

Thank you for the recommendations Mel!

& don’t forget to check out the Mel Smith Designs website too.

Posted by Charlotte 14:00 24/04/15

New Nursery Prints Fit for a Royal will Make You Smile

Discover the Perfect Nursery Prints for Your Prince or Princess.

If you’ve got a new baby on the way or are looking for a special gift idea for a family member or friend about to deliver their own prince or princess today’s gift pick of nursery prints is for you.

When shopping for a newborn baby gift, christening or baptism present it can be easy to stick to the basics, gifts like baby grows and soft toys.

There is however an alternative.

As well as kitting out the kid, new parents also have to kit out a nursery and this is where you can create one less job for soon to be incredibly tired parents. For an easy way to make a new nursery look fab is with bright and beautiful nursery prints.

With this in mind we turned to our good friends Always Sparkle, purveyors of the very bright and bold prints we had in mind. We asked them to share their top nursery prints. The result was stylish typographic prints that make an affordable gift idea. A fun way to brighten up any nursery, children’s bedroom or playroom.


PS_Superhero Nursery Prints

PS_Sunshine Nursery Prints from Always Sparkle

Always Sparkle’s chief designer Alexa Stretton specialises in mixing typography, colour and pattern with heartfelt sentiments. The gift ideas shown in today’s post are a small selection of Alexa’s nursery prints. Designs are bright and appealing for little eyes and offer wise, wonderful sentiments for the adults. A perfect mix for the whole family.

Each design is printed on a 280gsm heavy weight paper stock with a smooth matt finish. The use of an archival quality paper stock means the print will not fade over time. A long lasting keepsake gift that will continue to look amazing as your child grows up. You could even save in a time capsule as a bright memento of their childhood bedroom.

The artworks featured in today’s gift guide include both mounted prints and framed artwork. With prices starting from as little as £20 there’s plenty of options for all budgets.

Inspirational designs for a princess, superhero and little rays of sunshine everywhere.

Dream_neautral Nursery Prints from Always Sparkle

Toys_blue Nursery Prints from Always Sparkle

Close Your Eyes Nursery Prints from Always Sparkle

You can see Always Sparkle’s shop showcase here in the Piccadilly Lane directory.

Alternatively head straight over to the Always Sparkle website to see and purchase from the collection.

Posted by Charlotte 10:00 22/04/15
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A Look Behind the Scenes of Swarm Design England

An ‘Inspiring Indies’ Interview with Swarm Design England.

If you love interiors you’ll love this week’s ‘Inspiring Independents‘ interview. We caught up with Swarm Design England’s founder Adam Slade to find out all about how this amazing indie brand got started.

What inspired you to start Swarm Design England?

I began trading as ‘Adam Slade Interior Textiles’ after I graduated in 2011. I always knew I wanted to design and sell under my own name rather than for another design studio or brand, and so I steered my degree work more towards finished interior products, such as cushions, fabrics and wallpapers rather than a collection of designs or samples.

My portfolio consisted of the drawings I used within my prints rather than a selection of print designs ready to be sold or shown to a potential employer and this really worked for me as I found that the attention I received was people buying into or commissioning my products rather than studios offering to buy designs or take me on as a designer.

After a few years of trading under my own name I felt I needed to strengthen my brand identity and create a really solid and distinctive style brand. I felt I was varying my style from collection to collection and that I had lost touch with what it is I wanted to convey as an interior textile design business and so I relaunched my business as Swarm Design England.

The rebrand involved a new website, logo and product list, cutting and dropping designs that I felt were no longer representative of the look and feel I had initially started with, and had became somewhat separated from the cohesiveness some of my other products held with one another as well as tweaking and reworking some old designs and ensuring that new work was much more synonymous of the new brand.

What can you tell us about your indie business? What sets you apart from your corporate contemporaries?

I can tell you that I am very passionate about my designs and products. A lot of care an attention goes into every stage of their development, from design concept, to art-working right thorough to printing and manufacturing. The drawing stage can take anything from a day or two, to a couple of weeks depending on the scale of the artwork and its intended application and then a similar amount of time is taken to digitally clean, enhance, colour and layout the drawings into a design. It is because of this meticulous design process that, although I know the work is only to very particular tastes and is most certainly not mainstream, I feel confident and proud enough to be able to refer to my products as high end/luxury interior products and as a result I aim them at that level of the market place.

I think I’m different to a ‘corporate contemporary’ in the sense that, although I feel I could sell more by being more commercial and less ‘quirky,’ it isn’t a route I would ever take, as I feel I would not enjoy the design process as much and I know this would show in the work. So although I may end up with products more commercial and ‘sellable,’ I would feel they were of an inferior quality and had not been given the same level of care and detail as something I have thoroughly enjoyed designing.

What’s your role in the business? What’s your favourite things about your job / running an indie business?

I’m the founder, designer, director, salesman, marketing … the whole lot, as it is just me. Without a doubt the designing is my favourite part. Admin, taxes etc … that is not fun. However I do enjoy the marketing side, I love exhibiting my work and following up leads from shows. Social media marketing is also good fun and surprisingly effective!

Are there other people in your business? What can you tell us about the rest of the team?

It is just me officially, although I won’t deny I have a lot of fantastic help from my partner Will, particularly with organisation! I maintain that creative people aren’t organised so a loving kick up the backside every now and then is very helpful!

Here at Piccadilly Lane, we believe that independents offer an amazing combination of unique design and high quality. Do you agree? How do you ensure this happens at Swarm Design England?

I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned above, the level of attention to detail in my design process ensures high quality products. I think a misconception is that people assume a large design team or studio will put out the best quality work as there are so many eyes looking over and ensuring there are no faults and the end product is flawless. Conversely, I believe that as it is just me, I see my products from beginning to end, through every stage of their development and so I am looking at a design for a much longer period of time than any one person in a team of people. So if an imperfection or flaw appears along the way I will notice it and ensure it is removed.

You recently took part in the Crafts Council 2014 Hothouse Program. What can you tell us about the program? How has it has influenced your business?

Well for a start my rebrand wouldn’t have happened had I not taken part in the program. It was the support from the program partners, coordinators as well as my fellow participants that gave me the confidence to relaunch and rebrand.

We all learned and gained a lot from each other and the main thing that was brought to light for me was how strong some of my peers branding and marketing was. I felt I wasn’t saying enough about my work through the lack of a strong brand identity. This was brought up in sessions and my thoughts about rebranding were backed up and reinforced by everyone and so I was able to take the leap and do it!

As well as this, small things which before I had taken for granted such as my organising and planning has been improved thanks to advice and mentoring on the program as well as a huge injection of general confidence. It is surprising how much confidence is takes to put yourself out there, at a show for example exhibiting my work and it’s even more surprising how much I did actually lack and how much more I have now, all thanks to Hothouse.

You currently specialise in interior products. What inspires you about this area of design? Do you plan to continue in this area or do you have plans to extend your collection?

I love a good interior. I don’t know when it happened or when the first time I walked into a certain room or space and said, ‘phwoar!’ but I do just love interior decor. I think I like it so much because, although my work is of a very specific style, I do like a mix of styles, colours, periods and materials in an interior. I think a good interior is one that allows a real mix of different things, all tied together with perhaps a colour or a material and I think there is much more scope for this to be acceptable than it is in other areas of design. Fashion for example, I feel is very collection driven and very conforming to current trends and seasons, whereas I feel interiors have the capacity to be timeless, if you get it right.

I think if I ever branch out into other areas for my work, it would possibly be more product driven. I recently added a wood-turned lamp base to my product range, which was a step away from textiles. There are a few disciplines I would like to explore, such as 3D design and 3D printing. I feel I would like to pursue lighting from a product design perspective in the future, perhaps a Swarm Design 3D printed chandelier? Who knows!

Your products feature incredibly intricate artwork. What can you tell us about the process of creating these designs?

I draw partly from what I see and partly from my head, so the things that end up on paper never really truly exist. This is why the drawing takes so long, as well as it consisting of tiny pen strokes, a lot of the time is me pondering what to add or change in the imagery to give it a little twist and make it that little bit different. Again, I spend the same time scanning in, manipulating and laying out the designs digitally as I do drawing them. If any stage is compromised for time, I know the result will be poor and I wont have enough conviction to put it out there to sell.

Your collection shows great attention to detail and quality. What can you tell us about the craftsmanship involved?

I class my drawing ability as a craft, and possibly slightly controversially I class my digital design skills as a craft equal to, if not slightly excelling my drawing ability. A lot of people think digital design and digital printing is easy. To me its the same as when people say that the piano is an easy instrument to play … It is easy to play, badly. And the same goes for digital design, it is easy to press buttons, change colours, move images around, blend things together with design programs such as photoshop, badly. I can look at a badly produced digital design and likely tell you every step, tool and process that was botched during its creation. If I look at a digital design and say, wow that’s good it’s because it’s flawless. Whacking things into a layout and printing them on cloth doesn’t constitute as digital design. Preserving every pen stroke, brush mark and texture of the paper it was drawn on is hard. Balancing the colours in a design is hard. Ensuring the scale of the artwork is correct and effective is hard. Creating a flowing, seamless and beautiful repeat design, is hard. But being able to achieve all of these things are what constitutes as digital design. It should be hard, if its easy, it’s probably naff.

Why should people shop with you? What makes you different?

I think I’m different because I’m not under any delusions when it comes to my products. I know they’re weird, a bit freaky and some of them a little scary. But I do know that every now and then someone loves them and that makes me love what I do even more. I’d rather sell one cushion to someone that absolutely loved it and had to have it because it’s so wacky and quirky because it’s got butterflies with skull heads on, than sell 20 boring cushions with flowers on because they’ve got flowers on and everybody loves flowers, to 20 boring people who love flowers because everybody else is boring and loves flowers. Harsh but true. Oh and honesty, I’m very honest!

We LOVE independents and think more people should be supporting them. Why do you think people should shop with independent businesses like yours?

Because there’s too much mass produced, churned out rubbish everywhere. Try something a bit different! Plus if people spend that little bit extra and buy something they love that little bit more, they’ll take much better care of it and it will last longer and stay beautiful for longer. It won’t be a cushion that after two weeks people have donated to the cats bed, or that one gravy stained cushion they put on their lap to balance their dinner on whilst watching Downton Abbey.

Last but not least, what’s your favourite independent business and why?

Easy. Timorous Beasties. As well as the obvious reason of similar taste in imagery, I mainly adore them because of their fearlessness and the drive they have to continue making the work they love despite it perhaps being non-mainstream. I feel they pioneered the use of unconventional imagery in high-end textiles and interior furnishing, and if it wasn’t for them I feel people would look at other newer designers such as myself with distain and consider us not tasteful. I think they opened people’s eyes to the weird and wonderful!

Thank you Adam!

& now it’s time to check out the website.

Posted by Charlotte 15:30 20/04/15
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The Best Indie Shops Recommended by The Little Brown Rabbit

The Little Brown Rabbit’s Emma Talbot Shares Her Favourite Indie Finds.

The Little Brown Rabbit’s Emma Talbot likes to make pictures & patterns. As a child, she simply couldn’t stop drawing. After winning an art competition aged 6, she decided that when she grew up, she would become a professional drawer! Her wish came true & since graduating from from Brunel University in 1997, Emma has been working as a professional illustrator.

Highly respected in her field, Emma’s work has graced some of the countries top shops including John Lewis and Liberty to name just two. With a passion for mixed media, textures, patterns & collage we knew Emma’s great eye for design would pick out some amazing independents.

We asked Emma to share her favourite independent websites and boutiques.

Little Birdy Crafts

I was introduced to this lady’s work through the renegade craft fair in London. I love the exoticness & playfulness of her work. T he bright & neon colours, mini pom poms, tassels, patterns & humour. Her designs are joyful. Her shop currently stocks cards, ceramics & pincushions.

Donna Wilson

I’ve been a fan of this lady’s work for many years now. I love the way old school knitted patterns & tweed patterns are used with quirky designs, characters & creatures. Her work is so tactile, you cannot help but want to pick everything up (& then take it home with you 😉 ). There are lots of different products available on her website, such as lambswool cushions, clothing, friendly creatures, hand painted wooden dolls, art prints & glassware.

It’s also worth mentioning that Donna is committed to using UK based manufacturers & suppliers wherever possible. Yay!

Freya Art & Design

Freya’s words & designs have a wonderful whimsical feel about them. The soft colours & sweet characters have a very heart warming & innocent feel to them.

Her cards & art prints have wonderful quotes on them such as:

‘Dream big little one, tomorrow you will move mountains.’

As well as cards & art prints, Freya now has a large amount of products available such as cushions, bags, jewellery & kitchenware. She runs her business with a strong sense of ethics & concern for the environment.

Laura Berger

Love this lady & her work! Laura is a painter & illustrator. Her cards are incredibly funny & I’ve been stocking up on them for a few years now. She also makes & paints her quirky characters too.  One day I hope to own an original Laura Berger painting!

Please do visit her website because her written words & the endearing illustrations that go with them make her cards irresistible.

Emily McDowell

I found this gal on Instagram & her handwritten words are so funny & inject joy into my day. Her company was founded on the success of just one valentines card & her business took off! As well as cards she now also sells art prints, kitchenware, bags, stationery & tattoos.

I love her art print which reads:

‘I will not compare myself to strangers on the internet’

And her belated birthday card which reads:

‘Oh crap I missed your birthday. I wish I had a great excuse like I was busy teaching life skills to at-risk youth or rescuing kittens from an abandoned mine, but really I was mostly just distracted by snacks & the Internet. So actually I’m just saying sorry for being a terrible friend. Happy birthday. Don’t hate me.’


Thank you Emma!

& don’t forget to check out Emma’s own fabulous collection.


Posted by Charlotte 14:54 17/04/15

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