[Behind the scenes] And Interview with S-Gerth Designs

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-01I have been really fortunate to have cross paths with some amazingly talented people within the creative community in London this year, and many (if not all!) of whom I find are genuinely wonderful and really inspiring! So, on that note, I’m delighted to introduce you to this month’s featured designer and small business, the lovely Sabine of S¯Gerth Designs! I first met Sabine, through Viktorija (of And Smile), at the Crafty Fox talks held at the Collective Hub in Camden back in August and within minutes of chatting, I learnt that she was the creative genius behind the beautiful handmade leather coin purse I had been drooling over since spotting Viktorija with it earlier in the year! Like the rest of her products, what I love about this purse, is the sheer simplicity in its design – driven by clean lines and geometry – and the way in which it is beautifully and cleverly constructed….oh and that hint of colour along the edges…..a reflection of quality craftsmanship, really! What I also find appealing about her high quality leather products is that they are all made from off cuts, sourced from suppliers in London, that would normally have gone to waste – an ecological approach to design making each piece even more unique! Fabulous, isn’t it? She’s definitely one to look out for!! Well, I shall quit rambling on and let you read my recent interview with Sabine on the story behind her business:

Hello Sabine! Tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide into wanting to become a designer? I was born in Hamburg / Germany. My school career wasn’t extremely successful but I always loved making things. So after my Abitur (equivalent to A-Levels) I went on to study Communications Design with a focus on Graphic & Typography, but once completing my degree in that I decided to follow my dream in Fashion and did a Masters Degree in Fashion Design in Berlin. After graduating, I did a few internships and worked as an Accessories Designer for 3.5 years.

How did you come about setting up S¯Gerth? And what determined the brand name and range? To have my own label just happened, I never really planned it. But I guess it started with a bit of a shock as my dad died 2.5 years ago and I had to go to Germany quit a bit to sort everything out, which eventually made me take a year off from everything. When I finally got back to London I needed a creative project so my partner and I came up with a gallery project which we held in the bin shed that was in front of our flat and called it “limited space”. As most of it was Darren’s work, I felt the need to create something of my own work to showcase so started making a little range of things like few croched necklaces and small leather coin purses to put on display. I got really good feedback and took this as a push to open an Etsy shop and sell at a few markets. The name is obviously my own family name and Initial.

What five words best describe you and your style of work? Simplicity, practicality, colourplay, accentuated, geometric

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-04I absolutely LOVE your products since I first set eyes on your leather coin purse with the pink edges! What’s the main source of inspiration behind your work? What made you decide in making these lush leather products? I take inspiration from everything I see; I especially love vintage things and all sorts of graphics. For instance, the coin purse you so kindly praised (Thank you!) is based on origami folding and an old purse I once saw! Once you are able to develop the idea, the more and more ideas pop up and you end up with a range of products!

How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? Normally I scribble ideas down on little scraps of paper (unfortunately these get everywhere – should be a bit more German and organize them better, ha-ha!). I revisit the ones that I still like, after looking at them a few times will develop into a pattern and a toile and then change and change until I am happy with it! The nicest thing of the whole process is to hold a finished product in your hands and then, of course, the very nice comments and reactions from my customers!

How long would it normally take to create your final product; from inception to completion? Oh that is very difficult to say as it completely differs each time…can take a day, a week or moths to develop, some ideas get lost!S-Gerth-Designs_Web-02 S-Gerth-Designs_Web-03S-Gerth-Designs_Web-07

Is there any craft/art medium that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? There are hundreds of things I like to try, but there is a knitting machine waiting for me at my partner’s Dad’s place for when we might have a little more space…..I get absolutely excited at the thought of trying it out someday!

Would you say it’s been difficult breaking through into what is a booming and competitive creative industry? If so, what are the kind of challenges you have faced? Yes, it is quite difficult – I don’t think I have had a full break-through yet myself, but it is very rewarding so far. Surviving the first year was a big challenge, but I did it and feel a bit more confident now. Promoting my work and approaching new shops is always a bit daunting, but once you have done it you feel great about it!

What would be your ‘top three tips’ for like-minded individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this creative field? Not sure I am the right person to ask for advice as I am still in baby shoes myself, but what I can say based on my experience so far, is that being persistent and positive about what you are doing, as well as being open towards any opportunity, helps a lot! S-Gerth-Designs_Web-05

What would you say is the best part part of your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business or something you run on the side? The best part is being my own boss and making my own schedule, so I can decide myself when to take an hour off or even a day. It is my full time profession since a bit more than 1 year. It is difficult to stop working, so it is very rarely a 9-5 job! Very often I work quite late in the evening, but the workload varies, really. With Christmas round the corner, it gets quite crazy but I like that though.

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-08Of your current range of work, what ‘piece’ or ‘collection’ would you pick out as your favourite? I use almost all of my products and obviously like them all, but I recently picked out a new wallet in black with teal edges and love it to bits!

When you’re not in a design mode, what else do you enjoy doing – any other hobbies or past time favourites? One of my favorite things is going to car boot sales and charity shops. I am a passionate bargain hunter, if I may say so myself! ;) Otherwise I do love cycling. If find it the most convenient transport around London but that may depend on the distance though as I have an old bike with no gears!! Oh and before this became my full time job, I had started learning tap dance, which was brilliant! Right now, it’s hard to find the time and the money for that but so hope to get back into it again soon!

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-QUOTEWhat are your favourite bedside book/s or blog/s at the moment? First and foremost I wish I would read more, as I really enjoy it but these days, I’m not sure where the time disappears to!! I love Margaret Atwoods books; my two favourite ones are ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Year of the Flood’ – the last one of this trilogy just came out which is on my Christmas wish list so hopefully it will end up on my bedside table!

Name three things you just could not live without? I believe I could live without most things but the tree things that make my life much better are: my bike, chocolate and kissing ;)

Are there any illustrators, artists, designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or you think are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? Oh, I met and know a lot of very talented people; a lot of them are friends from the markets, so now I have to pick a few? Well, there is the lovely Viktorija from And Smile, Helen from Mr.Peebles, Jonty and Sascha from Hampsonwoods and Jane Sarre but I could list so many more!!

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-06What would we expect from S¯Gerth in the future? You have been busy with a few craft fairs recently like Broadway Market, Thames Festival and Crafty Fox…..are there any more this year, that we should know of? I hope that S¯Gerth will grow to produce a wider range of items. I am planning to make a few bigger bags in addition to the small accessories and extending the unisex and mens range. If you would like to visit me, I have a stall at the Broadway Market in Hackney every Saturday. Also, for this winter season, I will be showcasing at the Dalston Christmas market on the 1st of December and the Crafty fox on the 8th of December. And in addition to that…..(biggest and most exciting news) I will also be participating in the Handmade in Britain Christmas Arcade at Somerset house, starting from mid November! So hopefully see you at one or more of these events!

Wowee – that is one busy lady! Aren’t her products amazing? (I totally forgot to mention my other favourite piece; the nifty little key holder!!) Anyway, a big THANK YOU to Sabine for taking the time out to share your story and for providing all the fabulous photos – I think it’s wonderful for folk to see how much heart, soul, effort and hard graft goes into each and every bespoke product that is beautifully made! Good luck with all your future endeavours but I think you have a very promising future, If I may say so myself! :) So folks, please do check out her lovely Etsy shop for a more handmade leather accessories….and if you’re based in London (or visiting this season) then I cannot recommend highly enough to drop by at any of those aforementioned markets and events, even to say ‘hello’ (she really is so lovely!). With Christmas round the corner, what better excuse!! Otherwise, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram to keep in the loop of her whereabouts and creations! ;)

[Image credit: Sabine Gerth and Cara Bermighmam]

[Weekend encounters]: Thrift shop finds

Hello folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend (for those in the UK) and managed to catch up on some much needed R&R as well as some sunshine if you were lucky! I for one had an amazing one having flown over to the green isles to visit the in-laws and the family. It was a surprise visit for the in-laws and seeing their not-sure-what-hit-them expressions when we turned up at their doorsteps was simply priceless! :) Anyway, my mother-in-law, myself and my husband had the whole day to ourselves on the Friday so we decided to go into town for a bit of window-shopping and spot of lunch. Well…the window shopping turned into an actual shopping spree (woops!) and our “spot of lunch” turned into a mighty big Greek feast…. nevertheless we had a ball of a time! :D

Oh and we managed to have a nosey through some thrift shops along the way where I picked up a few bits and bobs for the house at an absolute bargain (!) which you can see below. What do you think? I’m not sure if it’s in the hope of sunny weather but I’ve recently been adding pops of yellow through out the house (my last one was Tobyboo’s ‘Oranges & Lemons’ cushion cover) so the tea set, the milk jug and the sugar jar are a great addition to my growing collection! :) xDSC_2741 WEB DSC_2780 WEB DSC_2781 WEB DSC_2795 WEB

[What’s On]: Tobyboo at the Corner Shop, Clerkenwell Green

I had a rather busy afternoon running errands in town and I decided to finally pop along to Craft Central’s Corner Shop in Clerkenwell Green  to catch up with Tina of Tobyboo. I had been meaning to drop by sometime earlier in the week but seeing as I was up to my eyeballs in work I kept postponing my trip so I was delighted to finally have dropped by before heading home! Oh and I even got to meet the little man Toby himself…..he’s such a cutie! :) Anyhoo, if you haven’t come across any of Tina’s work before then can I urge you to do so :) While many of us choose to draw/sketch with our pens and pencils, Tina uses her sewing machine to create her wonderful freehand machine embroidered illustrations that you see on her products. And boy does she do a great job of it….and it’s the one thing I think that makes her work so different from the others. Well, she’s all set up at the Corner Shop (21 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DX) for a week (she’s there till this Sunday) so please drop by and check out her marvelous work – she has everything from cushion covers, aprons, tea towels to tea ware, stationery and children’s wear…….perfect place to treat yourself or to find a gift for a special someone. I took some photos from this afternoon which I hope should help tempt you lot even more! :P And FYI – after eyeing it up for a few months, I’ve gone and bought her ‘Oranges & Lemons’ Cushion cover (the bright yellow one!) to add a burst of colour to our couch – happy days!! :D

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[Behind the scenes] Tobyboo

DSC_0837 WEBMeet Tina Crawford, the wonderful, quirky, fun and talented designer-maker  behind the fabulous homeware and accessories that is Tobyboo – named after her little boy Toby. You probably have seen (or even bought) many of her finest pieces at places like House of Frasers, Museum of London, Not On The High Street, Etsy and many more. What I love about Tina’s work, a signature element to her design that distinguishes from the others, is her lovely free hand embroidered illustrations! I first bumped into her at the Made in Clerkenwell event back in November last year (see my blogpost here) where both her and her work made a great big lasting impression on me! And what’s even more admirable is how she’s made herself known in this competitive industry after facing a few obstacles of her own. Anyway, if you haven’t as yet come across any of her work…..well then here’s a glimpse into her work and what goes on behind the scenes of her creations!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself – Have you always wanted to be an illustrator/designer-maker? Oddly, when I was 15 I wanted to either be an artist of some sort or work in television… the first job I had was making the makes on children’s BBC art program SMart!
  2. How did you come about setting up Tobyboo? After years of working in television I became suddenly ill and was sent home never to be able to do ‘that’ sort of job again. Housebound and sometimes bed bound to stop myself from going bonkers I started making handbags which went really well. Our son Toby was born in 2007 after years of struggling and well, a sudden surge of baby gifts lead to the start of Tobyboo – named after our little Boo. IMG_1899 WEB 2
  3. What five words best describe you and your style of work? Ooh can I use other persons descriptions? Fluid, unique, nostalgic yet contemporary (yes I know that’s cheating a bit) and well, British
  4. What’s the main source of inspiration for your creations? So far I’ve not looked very far, pretty much looking into my childhood has given me both Oranges and Lemons (a collection based on the verse) and Wish You Were Here which bore out of a childhood holiday that – lets just say – wasn’t sun, beach huts and bunting!
  5. How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? My process for me is very organic and to most others an unpredictable risk – well I suppose it is. I don’t draw before I sew, my illustrations are all free embroideries – my sketchbook? scraps of fabric on the floor I literally draw with the needle. To be honest I don’t see the point in drawing before, why bother to sew it – its the sewing that creates fluid lines and mistakes that add charm. Some designers draw and sew over the top – what’s the point! DSC_0807 WEB DSC_0827 WEBtobyboo quote.2
  6. Is there any craft/art medium you haven’t tried but want to? And why? Er…. I can’t think. During art foundation (before my degree) you get to try pretty much everything. My degree was jewellery.
  7. There’s been a huge boom in craft and design in the last few years – would you say it’s been difficult breaking into this competitive world? My need is because I have to – I have illnesses which mean that I can’t go into full time ‘normal’ work so its frustrating competing. I would love to have this as a luxurious hobby because making money from it is so so hard but it’s one of the only ways I can earn a living.
  8. What do you like most about your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business? Full time doesn’t describe it! Theres no switching off I work though the night sometimes till 3am which with a sewing machine is slightly noisy. I love creating a design and seeing what it turns into, and when it does get onto a shop shelf its a great feeling!
  9. When you’re not in ‘designer-maker’ mode, what else do you enjoy doing? My husband and five year old do get some time with me! We tend to make the most of London – museums get a lot of visits from us. tobyboo oranges & lemons cushion 2 WEB
  10. Have you any tips for like-minded creative individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this field? Try to apply what you like and get employed by someone! It’s a jungle out there! I sort of think that but really – go for it, if it’s what you want to do you’ll regret not at least trying it. Get business advice; I did the Doug Richards School for Creative Start ups, joined Craft Central and make the most of the 1-2-1 mentor sessions and see an advisor at The East London Small Business Centre – I’d be lost without them.
  11. Are there any designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? Eloise from Hidenseek I found on Etsy, she’s an incredible illustrator and was the first to tell me to go for it. I love Yas-Ming ceramics and have been lucky enough to be along side them at recent trade events. 
  12. Of your current work, what piece would you say is your favourite? I really love the Gull ‘n’ Chips china pieces and the platter is probably my favourite – I think the stitching comes out so well on china. But I’m most proud of the work that I created for the Museum of London’s exhibition; Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men – it’s a fantastic exhibition which is on till April and well worth the visit. tobyboo quote
  13. What would we expect from Tobyboo in the future? Hopefully a lot more, my designs have been taken on by other companies so there’s a large melamine collection – my fingers are crossed for more of this and collaborations.
  14. Finally, where can we find more of your wonderful creations? And can we find you at any craft + design events this year? My pieces have been taken by Somerset House, the Museum of London and House of Fraser there are new stockists in Ireland and Switzerland from this year too! The one thing about expanding and going into retail is that there’s less time for markets so 2013 seems to be the first year not doing any.

A massive ‘thank you’ to Tina for taking the time out from what is clearly a very busy schedule! Please do have look through her online shop or keep up to date on where you’d find her next by following her on Facebook or Twitter! Also, note this in your diaries: Tobyboo will be hosting a pop up shop at Craft Central, Clerkenwell Green for one week only starting  April 8th!!!xx


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