Homegirl London pays homage to Stuart Gardiner Design. The brand creating interesting homeware products – tea towels, aprons, mugs and oven mitts – many with an educational twist. His series of ‘Guides’ is printed on tea towels and other objects; these include ‘Guides’ to seasonal fruit and veg/fish and flowers and wine pairings with food. His Bee Friendly Tea towel is a collaboration with Friends of the Earth which helps encourage bees to your garden and a 75p donation is made to the charity with every sale. He certainly makes drying the dishes interesting rather than dull. Stuart’s inspiration stemmed from his studies at Falmouth College of Arts where he graduated with a Graphic Information Design degree. From here he went on to become a designer and art director in the music industry and 10 years later decided to take the plunge and open up his own studio. I caught up with Stuart to ask him a few questions …
Q: What made you decide to set up your own business?
A: I was working for a design agency which served music industry clients only, so I was mainly creating album artwork. On paper, this was my dream job, but it was during the time when the mainstream music industry was beginning to go through major changes due to downloads overtaking physical sales. Design budgets were being slashed and I just wasn’t really enjoying working within that field nor for the company – I’d pigeonholed myself as an album cover designer which was a dying niche – so my only option was to leave and try and do my own thing. I’ve always been a very independent person, so becoming the master of my own destiny was a very liberating experience.
Q: Tell me more about your inspiration behind the ‘Guides’ series and why they have been successful.
A: I wanted to move away from being a client-serving designer and had always wanted to have a go at creating products; I just wasn’t quite sure what physical format they might be. I’d had an idea to do some kind of infographic on seasonal eating, as this was a few years ago when people were becoming much more aware of food and seasonality, so thought a seasonal guide to fruit and vegetables in some form might be a viable design idea. I was going to do it as a print but then thought a tea towel would be the perfect vehicle for the guide. It sold well, so I expanded the range and continue to design food-related pieces. Everybody loves food!
Q: Besides the ‘Guides’ series, what other designs have you created?
A: I’ve done a few non-educational products, the ‘Love Hate & Love Cake’ tattooed oven mitts and typographic tea towel of tongue twisters for example. They are more humorous designs which were created on a bit of a whim but they have proved to be really popular. I’m planning on sticking with the food-related designs for now, but there’ll always be room for the odd quirky product.
Q: Why do tea towels feature heavily in your collection?
A: They make a great canvas for design and illustration and they sell well as they’re a relatively cheap price point – they’re an affordable way for people to buy new design and they make great gifts.
Q: Do you dry the dishes at home?
A: We have a dishwasher, so only for non-dish washable items, which my tea towels do a quite incredible job in drying.
Q: Tell me more about your collaborations.
A: Recently I’ve done projects for the V&A, Selfridges, Friends of the Earth and Lurpak. I’m usually too busy to instigate them myself, so I tend get approached and take it from there. So far they’ve been a pleasure to work on, as the collaborators have been happy for me to do take a brief and do my own thing with it. Coming from a design agency background it’s really refreshing not to have numerous client-led changes and compromises to your work.
Q: What’s coming up?
A: There’s going to be some more infographic food-related designs the next one being a guide to Classic Cocktails and then I’m diversifying the range with some hard goods – chopping boards, trays etc.
Below is a selection of Stuart’s designs which you can buy from Stuart Gardiner. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Stuart Gardiner Designs, special thanks to Stuart Gardiner.
Seasonal Guide Tea Towels, 4 for £35
Wine and Food Pairing Guide Tea Towels, 2 for £19
Seasonal Guide to British Fruit and Veg Apron, £20
Seasonal Guide Mug, £8
Bee Friendly Tea Towel, £8
Drop Scones Not Bombs Tea Towel, £10
Oven Mitts, pair £24
Tongue Twister Print, unframed £45