Material Focus: Cork

Posted on July 17, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

When you think of cork, what comes to mind?

1970s cork place mats?  A nice bottle of Champagne being opened?  The type of 'Australian' hat only ever acceptable at a fancy dress party?  Whatever it is, it probably isn't stylish, well-designed accessories & homeware.  

At THABTO we like to celebrate simple, humble materials, and cork is just that.  Not only does it look great, cork is sustainable and extremely versatile and can be found in all sorts of products from trainers to furniture, so we've put together a list of some of our top cork products.

Cork Furniture and accessories by Isle Crawford

British designer Isle Crawford has teamed up with Ikea to produce the Sinnerlig collection which includes a cork fruit bowl and this beautiful table and bench, due to launch August 2015. 

Sinnerlig Cork Table and Bench by Ikea and Isle Crawford

(Image courtesy of Remodelista) 

Cork Pinboards

The creative's staple item. The cork pinboard is certainly not a new idea, but it's a must-have, amazing for pinning notes and arranging ideas, so you're sure to find one in every design studio. 

Cork Pinboard with wooden frame

 (Images courtesy of The Design Files)

Sprout the Cork Watch

Sprout is a watch with a cork strap by Nordstrom. This is a great on-trend Summer accessory. We love the green stitching!

Cork watch. Cork strap with turquoise face

(Image courtesy of Urban Outfitters) 

Cork Home Accessories
Cork's neutral shades are matched perfectly with natural woods and monochrome materials - The Vessel by Vitamin Living can be used as a vase, but it's design is so beautiful it could just sit in your home as a stand-alone ornament. 

White porcelain and cork vase

(Image courtesy of Vitamin Living) 

Cork Notebooks

This range of cork-backed notebooks is so different from the norm that you will never confuse your notepad with someone else's again.  We especially love the cork pattern on the yellow grid book. Look at the image for a few seconds and let your eyes be confused.

Collection of cork note books in yellow and colour patterns over the cork

(Image courtesy of The Bread and Butter Letter)  

Cork Shoes (okay, trainers)

So the obvious choice here would be to list cork wedges, with the 1970's revival being a huge 2015 trend, but we saw these and really enjoyed the reversal of materials. Vans have mixed it up and used the cork as the main fabric, rather than using it in the sole, resulting in an awesome looking trainer. We love it!

Vans have made an awesome feature of the great texture and pattern found in this wonderful material! 

Vans trainers made from cork.

(Image courtesy of Prodirectselect)  

Cork Clock by Ilias Ernst

This beautiful round mantel clock by Ilias Ernst for Puik Art, Amsterdam, has an extended right angle allowing the clock to stand on any flat surface.

Cork Clock design


Cork Handbag by Stella McCartney

We love the random colour fleck in this cork, making each bag unique.

Cork handbag design with colour fleck by Stella McCartney


Luno storage jars with cork lids

Czech designer Martin Jakobsen has created these beautiful storage jars with spherical cork ball lids

Luna Cork storage Jars design by Martin Jakobsen


Other cork designs we love:


Cork stool with storage and cork watchCork packaging for pens and pencilsCork pinboard moulded frame design



Posted in Cork, Cork Pinboard, Cork Trainers, Cork Vase, Homeware 2015, Isle Crawford, Trends 2015, Vitamin Living

New Designers 2015 - Top Picks

Posted on July 14, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

We took a day out of the studio and headed over to London's Business Design Centre to check out some of Britain's best design graduates at New Designers 2015.

Here are some of our favourite finds:

THABTO at New Designers Business Design Centre London

Newbees by Lisa Hornsey

This clever flat-packed beehive concept makes becoming a beekeeper affordable and easy.

The kit comes with everything you need to start, even the bee-suit. We love the use of yellow zip ties. And the name of course - We love a good name!

Newbees Beehive - Bee Keeper Starter Kit Flatpack Design


Chaos by Juwon Seo

Chaos is a simple wall storage solution for small living spaces. Elastic & ply.

Clever wooden notice boards


Roam by Harry Hughes

This great concept aims put an end to paper receipts by bringing all your receipts and bills together into one online platform.  When you go into store, simply touch your contactless Roam card on a reader and the receipt gets filed into your online account instantly.

Harry also designed some beautiful packaging and leather wallets for the Roam card.

Roam Contactless Receipt and Bill Filing System and leather wallet

Roam Wallet Packaging


Hidden Values by Dave Freeman

This project caught our attention because we often discuss how adding value to objects increases a user's emotional connection with a product, and so increasing it's longevity.

Dave made a range of tweaks to the humble Bic Biro, exploring how each change modified the users perception of the pen. These included modifying the materials - replacing some or all of the plastic with metal, adding the ability to personalise the pen creating ownership, and even adding a mileage calculator so the user can monitor the distance they've written.

Bic Biro Metal Design

Bic Biro Pen with mile markings and personalisation


Bottle Buoy by James Benson

This simple three way screw cap turns three empty drinks bottles into a low-cost lifesaving Buoy.

"Each year 372,000 people drown with 90% of these deaths occurring in low/middle income countries due to children not being taught to swim. In these countries, the monetary cost of water safety infrastructure is too high; this combined with poor swimming ability is a major factor."

Designed to support local manufacture, this €1 product could save many lives.

Bottle Buoy Life Saving Low Cost Buoy design

Clothes House by Thomas Lawrence

This was our favourite design of the day. This clever clothes horse doubles-up as a children's play den, with cleverly designed clips allowing it to be re-configured in a number of different ways keeping both parents and children happy.

Clothes House clothes horse and play den for children

Clothes house play den washing airer

Clothes Horse kids play den

Mould Your Lampshades by Belita Blake

We were initially drawn to these beautiful lampshades because we loved the over-accentuated mould lines. Belita's product however is not the lampshades themselves, instead a kit for making the shade so each item is unique to the creator.

Mould your own lampshade creating unique designs


LEGO Duplo Connect by Hwajung Son

Being designers, we loved Lego as children (and still do, of course) so when we saw this it instantly grabbed our attention.

This clever design adds a whole new dimension to Lego; when certain blocks are connected, it completes a circuit illuminating lights or making sounds.

LEGO Duplo Connect by Hwajung Son with lights and sound

LEGO Duplo Connect by Hwajung Son clever Lego circuit design


Hardpanel by Tom Davies

A discreet cap insert designed for skaters who don't want to wear bulky helmets.

Produced from impact-resistant ABS and Polycarbonate, this great peice of product design reduces the risk of serious head injury.

Hardpanel by Tom Davies discreet skaters helmet design


Other designs we loved...


Beautiful ply wood drawers

Concrete stool design and round glass tables with elastic at New Designers

Amazing print and graphic design at New Designers 2015


Posted in design, furniture, Furniture Design, london, new designers, Product Design

Inside a UK Ceramics Factory

Posted on June 26, 2015 by Steven Smith | 0 Comments

Emma Bridgewater UK Ceramics Factory Visit

Last week I took a visit to Stoke on Trent, the home of British ceramics, to discover more about a once thriving city and the industry that put it on the map.

Although most of the large pottery manufacturers including the likes of Wedgwood and Royal Dalton have moved much of their production to other countries, a few have stayed true to the UK.

Emma Bridgewater is one of the few remaining large manufacturers whose ceramics are produced entirely in England, so I wanted to visit the factory to see where the magic happens and meet a few of the craftsmen and women who have been producing these ceramics for generations.

The Victorian Ceramics Factory in Stoke on Trent

British ceramics factory window

Founded in 1985, the Emma Bridgewater factory is based in an incredible Victorian building next to the Caldon Canal, which was once used to transport materials and products to and from the factory. Today, running at full capacity, it produces almost 30,000 ceramic items every week by some incredibly skilled craftspeople. (Emma Bridgewater is one of the largest employees in Stoke on Trent employing around 180 people).

My factory tour started with the mould making room. The moulds for the ceramics are made from plaster and can be used up to 30 times before having to be replaced. The plaster moulds are formed from red silicone master moulds. 

Making plaster moulds for the UK ceramic mugs and plates

Mixing the plaster for the mug moulds

The mould for the famous Bridgewater mug is made up of three parts; Two sides and a Base, held together with old car inner-tubes. It's quite common for the handle of a mug to be formed separately from the mug body and attached later, but the Bridgewater mugs are cast with the handle on in one go. 

The next room I visited was the slip mixing room. This is where the British earthenware ceramic is mixed with water in a blunger, like a big cake mix, until it reaches the perfect consistency. This "slip" is then sent through pipes to the casting shop where the slip is poured into the plaster moulds.

Mixing the earthenware ceramic in the blunger

As the slip sits in the mould, the plaster absorbs the water causing it to harden. After about 45 minutes the slip is poured out of the mould and you're left with a thick coating inside the mould. The mould is then split and the mug form is revealed. The moulds are then left to dry for around 24 hours before they can be used again.

Filling the plaster mug moulds with slip

Plaster moulds for ceramic mugs

Plaster slip casting moulds held together with car inner tubes

Releasing the ceramic mug from a plaster mould

Ceramic mugs and plaster moulds

The mugs are now sent to be 'fettled', where the seam lines in the clay left from the mould are removed. They are then 'sponged' to make them perfectly smooth.

Ceramic items being Fettled and Sponged before firing in the kiln

The green mug is then put on a rack to dry before being fired in the Biscuit kiln for 7 hours at 950 degrees. (At any stage before firing the mugs can be turned back into slip, so if they're not perfect they get thrown into a big bucket to be re-moulded).

The next area of the factory is where the ceramics get their real personality; The decorating room. A few of the Emma Bridgewater items have a lithographic decal that's applied before firing, but most of the items are hand painted making each one slightly unique. The painting is done with paintbrushes and sponges. To make the sponges, skilled workers use a soldering iron to melt a sponge forming unique patterns. These are then dipped into paint and dabbed onto the ceramic body.

Using a soldering iron to burn a sponge

Sponges for printing onto ceramic mugs and plates

Decorating ceramic mugs and plates

Decorating mugs with a sponge

After each decorator signs her work, the mugs are then sent through to be glazed. They're individually dipped into a pool of glaze and sat on a rack ready to be fired in the kiln. (The glaze is tinted pink to make it obvious which items have been dipped).

Dipping ceramic jugs into a pool of glaze

British ceramics manufacturing

I've worked with ceramics for many years, first learning to slip-cast on my foundation course at Central Saint Martins, and now producing tens of thousands for porcelain pieces at THABTO, and I still find this process and this material fascinating.



Posted in ceramics, Emma Bridgewater, mugs, Stoke on Trent, uk, UK Manufacturing

Four Unique Gifts for Father’s Day (and a Cheeky 10% Off!)

Posted on June 19, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

You may have a busy weekend coming up, but if you do, don’t forget to spare a thought for dear ol’ Dad – it’s Father’s Day on 21st June!

It may surprise you to know that Father’s Day is a fairly new holiday; Mothering Sunday, by contrast, has been around since the sixteenth century, when church-goers would return to their ‘mother church’ (the most established local church or cathedral) on Laetare Sunday. The practice evolved into the secular ritual that we all know and love today: a day of treats and gifts for marvellous mums everywhere.

Father’s Day developed as a response to this tradition – a celebration of fatherhood to complement the established celebration of motherhood - but not until the 20th Century. Indeed, the first recorded celebration of Father’s Day was in 1908 in Fairmont, Virginia.

So, there you go - a bit of history for you to impress your pops with on Sunday (and even more of a reason to give him a grand old time – after all, fathers haven’t had their own day for very long…).

Though if you’re panicking about what to get, never fear: we’ve got some great gift ideas for you!

For a footie-fanatic father:  our award-winning Subbuteo range.

When it comes to brilliant bottle openers or stylish salt and pepper grinders, you’d be hard-pressed to beat our officially-licenced Subbuteo collection.

With a design inspired by the original 1960s Subbuteo figurine, our range will ensure that your dad can constantly celebrate the ‘beautiful game’ in a fun yet functional way  - whether he’s grinding up some seasoning with THABTO’s team of soccer-playing salt and pepper shakers or shooting the cap off a half-time beverage with our acclaimed solid metal bottle opener (multiple winner of the ‘Gift of the Year’ award).

 For a pop who loves a powerful caffeine punch: a Knuckle-Duster Mug.

These gifts really put the ‘POW’ in porcelain – that Sunday morning cup of coffee will seem more exciting than ever! But whilst our Knuckle Duster Mugs look fantastic, they’re also made from high-quality, food-safe porcelain: Dad’s tea has never had it so good…

For a car-mad dad: a Buckle Up Key Holder.

This truly unique gift is ideal for anyone who is a car fan (or perhaps just a bit forgetful with his/her keys!). Made from a real car seat belt buckle, the key holder allows you to ‘plug’ your keys in as soon as you return to your home; there they’ll sit, snug and secure, until it’s time to leave again – at which point you press the whizzy red button and hey, presto!

Finally, to complete our celebration of fabulous fathers the world over, we’re offering 10% off orders of unique gifts (those featured here and any other product in the THABTO online store) – just enter the code BESTDAD at checkout and enjoy!

THABTO ♥… Salt

Posted on June 12, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

Bit of a curveball, that title, eh? Now before you go all ‘health police-y’ on us, never fear: we’re not about to advocate sprinkling shedloads of sodium on your food every day.

But we do have a soft spot for a few flakes of sea salt, used in the right way (in fact, it’s one of the reasons that we just had to design our own unique, grenade-themed twist on a salt shaker).

Aside from the exciting decorative accessories that can hold this crystalline substance, there are plenty of other reasons to make use of it (in a sparing, healthy way, of course).

Salt is super, because…it turns a lovely cocktail into something mind-blowing. It’s Friday and we’re in the mood for a refreshing tipple or two – and what better on a hot day than a frosty Margarita? A salted glass is essential, though; it’s that combination of sweet, salty and sour that makes a Margarita just so darned delicious.

Top tip: to salt your glass perfectly, use a slice of lime or lemon to coat the rim of the glass in juice, then dip carefully onto a salt-covered, flat plate. Tap slightly and then turn right side up. Cheers!

Courtesy of The Culinary Geek

Salt is sublime, because…it turns a creamy dessert into a devilishly moreish indulgence. Another perfect twist for a sunny day: salted caramel ice cream. Salt is becoming more and more popular in desserts, and it’s easy to tell why – there’s something about the combination of rich sweet treats and a salty edge that makes the whole taste sensation that much more decadent and addictive.

Top tip: if you’re tempted to make your own salty dessert, be sure to use good-quality salt - Maldon would be a good bet. Salted butter is also an excellent choice, in order to add an extra salty background note.

 Courtesy of NoirKitsuné

Salt is stunning, because… it can be used to soothe all manner of ailments. A teaspoon of salt dissolved in some warm water is a well-known remedy for a sore throat; it’s also an excellent exfoliator for your skin, can whiten your teeth, and can combat foot odour (eww). A mixture of baking powder and salt has also been known to bring a gleam back to the most hard-working pots and pans.

Top tip: salt is not only restorative when applied to bodily parts or baking trays, it’s useful for blooms, too. If your flowers are wilting, add a pinch of salt to the water and they’ll perk right up.

 Courtesy of darwin Bell

Feeling inspired? Check out our Taste Explosion shakers – guaranteed to help you inject a burst of flavour into every meal (or vase!)

Posted in decorative accessories, design, Salt & Pepper, Salt & Pepper Grinders, THABTO loves

Four Kitchen Accessories to Stow Away in Your Festival Backpack!

Posted on June 05, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

It’s June, which to many people means one thing: it’s time for a festival or two! With Glastonbury - arguably the world’s biggest festival - and many others around the corner, keen campers (and not so keen campers) are planning their trips with gusto: which includes not only the fun stuff, like perusing the line up for each day, but also preparing for the ordeal of packing one’s life into a single rucksack.

Keep reading for some of our favourite ‘home hacks’: items from your home and kitchen accessories that could have a multitude of handy uses throughout your stay!

1. Torch. Ah, the faithful household torch: who’d have thought that this would be top of the list? Turns out that a torch is simply essential for any festival. Not only will it allow you to see inside your tent as the night draws in (remember, you’ll have said goodbye to plug sockets and the like), it will also help you find your way back to said tent after a long day and night of partying. It could also prove rather crucial during an unexpected call of nature at 4am…

Courtesy of Black Friction

2. Bin bags. Now, don’t panic, we aren’t clutching at straws here: a pack of bin bags can actually be a lifesaver at a festival. You can separate dirty/muddy clothes from the clean ones (what clean ones…?!) with them; use them as a little ‘entrance mat’ to your tent to store dirty shoes on; sit on them if the ground is cold or wet; and even use them to create a convenient rain shelter with. And a small roll is light, easy to store, and easy to carry. All hail the lowly binbag!

Courtesy of All the Aces

3. Bottle opener. Bringing it back to the world of cool now, ever so slightly – because a bottle opener can look super-stylish whilst serving as a truly useful bit of kit at a festival. Whether you’re planning to imbibe vast quantities of beer or stick with something a little softer, a bottle opener’s uses don’t end there: it can be used for prying off lids, scraping the mud off one’s boot (cleaning thoroughly before using to open a drink, of course), and even as a makeshift blade if you need to slice something.

It can also be a source of amusement. Take our award-winning Subbuteo bottle opener, for instance - with this baby in your pocket, you’ll be a hit at any social event. We wouldn't go anywhere without one!


4. Reusable water bottle. Festivals, it may not surprise you to know, can end up costing major bucks; and one thing you really don’t want to be shelling out for all the time is a bottle of water. So grab that canister from the back of your cupboard and shove it in your rucksack now: your purse and general levels of hydration will thank you, as will the environment.

Courtesy of Wine Meg Up

Whatever festival you end up at, we hope you have a brilliant time! Feel free to share any pictures of your antics (particularly if these involve unusual uses of household items!) with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.


Posted in award winner, bottle opener, festivals, home hacks, kitchen accessories

Lift Your Spirits With Our Unmissable Mood Mugs – Come Rain or Shine!

Posted on May 29, 2015 by THABTO London | 0 Comments

It’s nearly June! Which means it’s nearly officially summer! Which means it’s set to rain all weekend here in the UK!

…Oh. Darn.

Well, when you live in Blighty, you soon get used to the idea that the weather is unpredictable at best – meaning that you can enjoy a scorching barbeque in late autumn, spring-like showers in winter and even a cosy weekend in by the fire during the height of summer.

We don’t know about you, but May was pretty busy for us (what with bank holiday festivities and all); and with the weather set to turn nasty, a chilled-out weekend might be just the ticket right about now. And what would a chilled weekend be without a nice cuppa? Fortunately, whatever your preference might be – a steaming Earl Grey, a strong builder’s tea, a lovely latte or even a heavenly hot choc – and whatever mood you’re in, we’ve got a mug to suit…

Introducing our ever-popular Mood Mugs: a collection that mingles fun with function (and plenty of style).

Like everything in THABTO’s collection of home accessories, our mugs have been carefully designed for life. THABTO's range of Mood Mugs are all hand made from high-quality, foodsafe porcelain, and include a ‘double wall’; this handy feature increases insulation, meaning that whilst your drink remains piping hot, the outside of the mug is cool to the touch. Scalded hands (and - as a result - spilt drinks) will be a thing of the past!

Thanks to the clever design, handles are not necessary, creating a streamlined, modern appearance. And, best of all, there are five funky options to choose from – we know people who have made it their business to collect them all (we heartily approve):


Happy as Larry. 

A smiley little sucker that is sure to brighten your day.

 Seriously Sleepy.

A dozy dreamboat that would be perfect for that night-time cup of cocoa.

Monstrously Moody.

A piece of porcelain that takes no prisoners: the imbibing equivalent of a ‘do not disturb’ sign, if you will.

Cheeky Chappie. 

A flirty flagon that is sure to entice friends (and maybe even strangers!) to chink cups with you.

Severely Stressed.

A comical cup with a tense twist. Simply superb for chugging caffeine-heavy drinks when pressure is mounting.

Within our emotional collection there is a mug for every occasion; so whether you fancy ordering all five or whether you'd prefer to pick a firm favourite, what are you waiting for? Get the kettle on and get ordering!

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