hole in my pocket creates giftware featuring storytelling characters

Hole in my Pocket creates giftware featuring storytelling characters

Homegirl London pays homage to Hole in my Pocket.  This is a design business owned by architect Allistair Burt to explore his creative side.  He uses a mix of styles from bold contemporary graphics, to a faux naïve childlike drawing technique and more traditional illustrations.  His inspiration comes from books so it’s no surprise his designs include characters with their own stories to tell like the lumberjack, grumpy bear and wee bean man.  His key collection is called ‘A Life on the Ocean Waves’ which is about a ship’s crew and their adventures on the high seas.  Allistair’s designs can be found on plenty of giftware like contemporary greetings cards, stationery, wall art prints, t-shirts, mugs, aprons, tea towels, shopping bags and Russian dolls.  I caught up with Allistair to discover more about Hole in my Pocket.

hole in my pocket selection of stationery products

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Stationery Selection

Meet the Hole in my Pocket Designer

Allistair studied Architecture at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.  He tells me – “It was a very interesting and flexible course that allowed you to tackle problems in your own way.  Where else could you push an air-hostess trolley full of wine around Scotland gathering stories from the people you met and get a Post-grad degree by designing buildings based on those stories?”

hole in my pocket allistair burt

Hole in My Pocket – Allistair J Burt (with one of his sculptures)

Allistair reveals – “For the last ten years I have been a rather Jekyll and Hyde character.  Working as an Architect for a large commercial firm by day and running an art practice by night. Under the name of Hole in my Pocket I’ve been involved in all kinds of projects, from making short films for Channel 4, to designing exhibits for museums or showing my painting and sculpture at major art festivals.”

hole in my pocket product range

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Collection

This second job started during Allistair’s first year of practice, he reveals – “I got bored with the day to day functions of a graduate architect and needed a creative release.  I teamed up with a friend and entered design competitions winning the first one that we entered.  There was a decent amount of prize money and I decided to use that money to fund projects.  The aim was to make life more interesting and enjoyable for people and it was with that purpose in mind that I started Hole in my Pocket.  As a small child, I would invent and draw board games and create pop-up books for my little sister.  The joy from making someone else smile as a result of something I’ve made has never left me.”

hole in my pocket notebooks

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Notebooks

The art practice started in 2002 but didn’t become fully-fledged until April 2010, he explains – “Due to repeated requests, I started to turn my artwork into products.  After these proved popular I decided to create new ranges from scratch specifically with the retail market in mind.  I quickly realised that people liked what I was making and the business began.”

hole in my pocket first mate print

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Wall Art Print

As for that interesting name for his business, Allistair admits – “I’m not entirely sure where the name Hole in my Pocket came from.  It had just been in my head for a long time.  It turned out to be pretty apt though as most of the projects I created for the first few years were entirely self-funded.”

hole in my pocket shopping bag

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Shopping Bag

Allistair is based in Glasgow with two part-time assistants and plenty of support from his partner (an award-winning architect).  He tells me – “When I’m in the studio I enjoy being able to get up in the morning and decide what I want to make.  My interests are very varied, from working on exhibitions and film projects to making a funny card that will make someone laugh or designing a new pattern for textiles and notebooks.  I’m an insomniac and I find that I sleep best when my brain has been completely used up each day.  Working for myself and being able to take on the range of work that I do means I sleep well most of the time.”

Hole in my Pocket Collection

Allistair tells me – “I have worked in a variety of different styles but most recently I’ve focused on two strands.  My hand-drawn line cartoons and my simple bold block-colour digital characters.  The constant themes that repeat through my work are narrative and humour.  I always try to make each product I design to feel like part of a larger story.  If possible, I try to make the products feel like that they could exist within the world of the characters that feature on them.”

hole in my pocket wall art print boat

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Wall Art Print

Inspiration largely comes from books – novels, picture books, instruction manuals and encyclopaedias.  Allistair reveals – “I’ve always been a huge reader and have a rather ridiculous amount of books.  They come pouring out of our giant bookcase and mount guard in every corner of the studio.  Soon we will have enough to open our own library!  When trying to develop some new work I will pull down a few books.  Flicking through them to see how the juxtaposition of the different pages I find work together.  From that combination, new ideas can be formed.  Small simple details can suggest whole other worlds.  A page of shipping knots, for example, led me to the path of the Cabin Boy and to an illustrated story I wrote about the life of a lonely Lighthouse Keeper.”

hole in my pocket mug and russian dolls

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Mug

The largest focus is on A Life on the Ocean Waves.  This is a marine-themed range about the life of a ship’s crew and their adventures on the high seas.  Allistair explains further – “A few years ago I created a Ship’s Crew set of Russian dolls for an exhibition.”

hole in my pocket russian dolls

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Ship’s Crew Russian Dolls

It wasn’t long before this collection expanded – “The crew proved so popular that I started creating further stories around the characters which developed into a range of supporting products.  It now includes stationery, badges plus textiles and soon to include wooden figures and picture books.”

hole in my pocket notebook

Hole in My Pocket – A Life on the Ocean Waves Notebook

Lucky Pine Sawmill is all about the adventures of a little lumberjack and a grumpy bear in Lucky Pine Forest.

hole in my pocket lucky pine sawmill

Hole in My Pocket – Lucky Pine Sawmill Contemporary Greetings Cards

Other designs include ‘I Should Never Have Joined the Army’ which Allistair tells me – “This is a tribute to all the brave soldiers who meet sticky ends in disaster and monster movies.  Whether they are fighting aliens or giant apes these guys are always the first to be wiped out while the movie’s hero survives to fight another day.”

hole in my pocket army apron and tshirt

Hole in My Pocket – I Should Never Have Joined the Army Apron and T Shirt

The Wee Bean Man, Allistair explains – “This is a sometimes grumpy little bean fellow who is not afraid to speak his mind and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Sometimes I think he says the things that I’m too polite to say myself.”

hole in my pocket wee bean man mugs

Hole in My Pocket – Wee Bean Man Mugs

Buy Hole in my Pocket Products

To find out more about Allistair and his work go to his website www.holeinmypocket.com.  To give you an idea about prices – Cards are £3, Notebooks £10, Aprons £16-20, Tea Towels £8-£12 and Russian Dolls £120-£300. All products bar the A6 notebooks are made in the UK using fair trade unbleached cotton, renewable FSC certified paper stocks and sustainable inks.  Allistair also takes on commissions, he tells me – “I run a bespoke design service for shops, museums and galleries.  I’ve previously designed a range of products for the Glasgow School of Art and am currently working on products for Oxford University and a Distillery in the Scottish Islands.”

Author: Homegirl London.  Photographs: Hole in my Pocket.  Thanks: Allistair J Burt.