It’s nearly June! Which means it’s nearly officially summer! Which means it’s set to rain all weekend here in the UK!
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.
A dozy dreamboat that would be perfect for that night-time cup of cocoa.
A piece of porcelain that takes no prisoners: the imbibing equivalent of a ‘do not disturb’ sign, if you will.
A flirty flagon that is sure to entice friends (and maybe even strangers!) to chink cups with you.
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!
This week we’ve got adverts on the brain: partly because of working on our own campaign for THABTO’s exciting new collection; partly because there are some brilliantly inventive advertisements floating about at present; and partly because this week spelled the end of the iconic TV series, Mad Men, which portrayed the lives of ad execs working on Madison Avenue (the beating heart of the industry during the 1960s and 1970s).
We’ve found ourselves asking: what is it that makes a great ad? How do they get it right? Whilst we’re not advertising experts, we do know a thing or two about design; so we thought we’d share a few of our favourites with you – all of which are unique gifts in their own right!
1. Penguin Books: Audiobooks, 2014.
We love this clever, eye-catching print advert, developed by McCann Erickson India for Penguin Books.
There are three adverts in this campaign, each featuring a different author – Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and of course William Shakespeare (pictured) – ingeniously depicted as a pair of headphones. The mouths of the authors are open, as if they are speaking directly to their listeners via the audiobook medium. The striking but subtle colour scheme and plentiful use of neutral space enhances the inviting, expressive feel.
If that visual doesn't make viewers want to immerse themselves into an audiobook, we don’t know what would!
2. Volkswagen: Adaptive Cruise Control, 2015.
The only video on our list, but a memorable one.
This advert, produced by DDB Spain, promotes Volkswagen’s latest innovation in technology: an adaptive cruise control system, which includes all the features of a traditional ‘cruise’ with the added bonus of keeping your vehicle a safe distance from the one in front.
The concept of Volkswagen's whizzy new technology expands throughout the advert, with a clever ideological twist: the slogan ‘keep a friendly distance’ is utilised not just in the context of cars, but also in highlighting the negative ‘closeness’ and competitiveness of big brands such as McDonald’s and Burger King, who are shown to be fighting – quite literally – over the same patch.
The cultural significance of this advert and the accessible concept allows the ACC feature to shine whilst positioning Volkswagen as an empathetic, down-to-earth, consumer-friendly brand.
3. Woodstock Ventures: Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969.
What can we say about this? An icon of print design if ever there was one: a perfect embodiment of the peaceful rebellion that the Woodstock festival came to symbolise. The dove perching on the guitar handle, the riot of bright primary colours, the clear-to-read but almost subversive, not quite regular font, combine with stunning effect. Arnold Skolnick’s poster resonates deeply thanks to its unique, striking style – a style that has been much imitated since but never successfully duplicated.
What’s your favourite advert? We’ve covered a few explosive concepts but there are some nostalgic adverts that we haven’t touched on – what about the infamous ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ advert from Coca Cola? What about the Milk Tray Man?! Feel free to share your reminiscences with us on social media – we’d love to hear from you on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
Now, it may have escaped your notice, but we’re big fans of porcelain decorative accessories here at THABTO. As well as our gorgeous Mood Mugs, we’ve got the Mobi vase, the inventive Tom, Dick and Harry storage jars, and even our Taste Explosion shakers – all of which are made from this versatile material.
So what’s the dealio? Why do we love to work with porcelain so much? Why do we think it’s so great?
Join us on a journey through time and space to learn more…
The power of porcelain, reason 1: it has an illustrious history.
Porcelain, or ‘true’ porcelain, dates back to the Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), which is amazing in itself – though the evolution of porcelain into the form that exists today was not complete until the Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.).
Example of Tang dynasty porcelain. Courtesy of Macculloch Hall.
It was not until 1707 that Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and Johann Friedrich Böttger produced a successful form of porcelain: they combined clay with ground feldspar rather than glass. This possessed the clarity and durability of ‘true’ porcelain. This form of porcelain has reigned supreme in Europe ever since: widely used in the production of crockery, household accessories and even the dental industry (such as within the crowning process!).
The power of porcelain, reason 2: it’s hardwearing yet elegant.
Porcelain is often used – incorrectly – as a blanket term to cover a range of ceramic products; but its manufacture is specific and unique, which is why it possesses superior qualities to other materials.
Earthenware items, for example, are made from clay fired at less than 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit; this means that the clay is still porous and must be glazed in order to be used. Stoneware items are made from clay that has been fired at slightly higher temperatures – between 2,100 and 2,300 degrees, typically – and so is no longer porous.
Porcelain, however, is made specifically from kaolin clay (a soft white clay) and is fired at much higher temperatures – as high as 2,600 degrees. This increases the purity of the finished product – it’s extremely white and clean as a result – and allows the material to be moulded into very fine, thin sheets. These sheets should be thin enough to be translucent when held up to the light; and though lightweight and delicate, the resultant porcelain is remarkably sturdy. All of which can be built upon to create a perfectly elegant yet satisfying vessel for that morning cup of tea!
The power of porcelain, reason 3: it’s a great material for modern-day and futuristic applications
Porcelain and china are often seen as interchangeable but in fact they are slightly different; and though china perhaps has slightly more luxurious connotations, to us porcelain is just that bit more versatile – and as such is more suited to modern-day life.
Porcelain is fired at a higher heat than china, which means that the resultant product is much harder: china can be cut with a file, for instance, and is sometimes known as ‘tender’ porcelain. All clays develop glassy qualities at high temperatures (a quality both china and porcelain share); but the manufacturing process of porcelain means that it is able to combine the low porosity of glass (essential for both practical and aesthetic reasons) with the relative flexibility of clay. Porcelain is therefore uniquely malleable and able to retain its form once shaped. Its increased durability means that it’s not only suitable for domestic use but also in commercial applications.
In fact – here comes the geeky part! – international companies have recently filed patents for futuristic porcelain prostheses and electrical insulators. We’ll be seeing porcelain spaceships next! (Okay, maybe not quite, but that would be cool…)
Well, well; the votes have been cast and the results have been counted…
But we’re not here to talk about that. No, we’re here to give you a bit of a breather from #GE2015 – whilst giving ourselves a bit of a breather from designer homewares! - and we hope that our ‘political’ blog will be inspirational, no matter how you voted. Our focus is not the bodies that fill those hallowed political institutions of the globe, but the bricks and mortar themselves (or rather, the design).
Rightly or wrongly, politics has always influenced architecture – and often with stunning results. Here are two heavyweights of the political landscape (and two of our favourites):
Palace of Westminster, London (UK)
The meeting place for our House of Commons and House of Lords has appeared in various guises; in fact, the bulk of the construction for the modern-day Houses of Parliament was not completed until 1860 – and its ‘design journey’ was not a simple one…
After a fire destroyed the previous structure in 1834, King William IV wasn’t quite sure what to do. Keen to get rid of Buckingham Palace (a domicile that was not quite to his liking), he considered siting Parliament there; however, this proposal – which was presented as a ‘gift’ – was rejected, and so eventually he turned the decision over to Parliament itself.
The political gravitas of the site was too much for the houses to ignore, so instead they set about the Palace of Westminster’s reconstruction – but the design was something they took very seriously. Each house formed a committee and debated publicly on the proposed choices for style. Eventually the Gothic style was settled on – due to its conservative connotations – and, after reviewing nearly one hundred proposals from architects, Charles Barry was appointed to produce the design.
Barry’s masterpiece is undoubtedly Gothic, with expected details such as elaborate carvings, turrets and stained glass windows (not to mention its imposing height), but also embodies the neo-classical principles of symmetry: it was intended to be a working building that brought balance and inspiration to the practices of Parliament, enlivening the spirits of the Victorian public. With this in mind, Barry linked the three facets of Parliament – the Commons Chamber, the Lords Chamber and the Sovereign’s throne – in terms of physical design: they were positioned in a straight, interconnected line, accentuating their relationship spatially and creating a sense of equity.
The White House, Washington, D.C. (USA)
Courtesy of GSI
Another iconic political residence that also rose from the ashes, quite literally (it was gutted by a fire that was again caused by the British – oh dear!).
Only the shell of the former White House (originally built in 1792) stood after the War of 1812; but instead of forging a new ‘design’ path, President James Madison wanted to restore the structure to its original glory. The same architect, James Hoban, was brought back to supervise.
James Hoban’s vision was of a mansion that incorporated grand elements with classical flair (to create a sense of history and heritage for the relatively young government) whilst also suggesting the republican principles on which contemporary American society was built – not a palace for a queen but a ‘house’ for an elected leader. It was to be impressive but not imposing: an ethos that was initially demonstrated in the rejection of the very first concept for the White House – which the French engineer, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, envisioned as a vast palace.
The design also gestures to several defining traditions, which in turn symbolise the political significance of America’s inclusive ‘melting pot’ culture: it has been described as neo-classical, Palladian, and Federal. It is also said to have been influenced by Leinster House in Dublin (home to the Irish Parliament). Certainly the bow-shaped front is reminiscent of Irish Georgian design, whilst the porticos (which were added later, during Thomas Jefferson’s tenure) show classical influences.
A three-day weekend approaches, and whilst the weather might not be looking particularly inviting (boo!), there’s no reason that you can’t bring a hint of spring inside with a beautiful bunch of flowers or two.
Whether you are treating yourself or hoping to receive a bouquet from that special someone, you will need a receptacle worthy of those beautiful blooms. Enter our Mobi Whale Vase: a gorgeously unique decoration crafted from high-quality porcelain.
Mobi – as the name might suggest – is shaped like a whale, in two parts: the domed ‘body’ (in which the stems of your flowers would sit) and a cheeky little ‘fin-shaped’ finishing piece. When filled with flowers, it will appear as though Mobi is blowing a graceful plume of colourful water from his blow hole. The result is a playful yet perfectly contemporary vase.
Available in two colours – black and white – and measuring 250mm x 60mm x 115mm (body), with a tail that is 85mm x 50mm x 160mm, this piece would make an ideal present – it even comes in a lovely gift box. And all for just £30; we know we’re biased, but we think that’s rather a bargain…
Speaking of bargains: don’t forget that if you spend over £30 you qualify for free delivery, and orders over £20 also qualify for a free Wonkey! All the more reason to treat yourself- or your loved ones – in celebration of the bank holiday.
We’re heading into a new season (technically we’re already there, but we like to be relaxed about these things – it’s not spring until it’s sunny, right?) and with that comes an almost inevitable urge to refresh your interiors.
But giving your kitchen a spring spruce doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming – it’s actually really easy to revamp your look without breaking the bank. Here are a few of our top tips:
1. Choose a few key pieces. You don’t have to go mad with your cookware fund, but investing in a few staples will improve both the function and form of your kitchen. Indigo and bronze tones are set to be huge this year, so we’d recommend choosing a copper pan or two and some pretty blue crockery (or even glassware) to set it all off. Imagine how great these would look on your kitchen counter!
Courtesy of House to Home
2. Open up your storage. This brings us nicely onto our next handy hint: bringing your insides out – or, in other words, making the most of open storage. Not only does open storage bring that homey, loft-style feel to your space, but it also allows you to show off your finest wares (a perfect excuse to display those blue kitchen accessories and copper pots you’ve just snagged). Put up some chunky shelves or purchase some open-ended cabinetry and style accordingly.
Courtesy of Lonny
3. Peg life. Utility rails and hanging storage are not only brilliant for making the most of unused space, but they can also make attractive features. Our fabulous Jpegs would be an ideal addition to your kitchen; position above your sink or cooker and keep those vital implements within easy reach.
4. Bring out your arty side. The idea of hanging art within the kitchen has been woefully overlooked, in our opinion – what better place for it? The kitchen is no longer simply a place for food prep: it’s the ideal gathering or meeting point; a place in which to relax with friends and family; a place in which you can enjoy a few drinks while you cook or linger over coffee. An eye-catching piece of art would breathe new life into your room; or, if you’re so inclined, put up a blackboard and doodle away yourself.
Courtesy of House to Home
5. Finishing touches. Your kitchen should reflect your personality, so go wild! We love quirky finishing touches as these items can really change the overall aesthetic – and there’s no reason to eschew prettiness for practicality. Unique kitchen accessories like our ’Taste Explosion’ salt and pepper shakers or ’Tom, Dick & Harry’ kitchen storage jars will bring real character (whilst being very handy for giving dishes an extra kick or brewing a dynamite cuppa).
Hello all, it’s been a while – but we’ve got lots of exciting news to share so we thought it was high time that we updated our blog (and we promise to make this more of a regular thing!).
2015 has been an exciting year for THABTO as we continue to develop our range of unique gifts whilst branching out into other areas (more on that in the near future…). As such, we’ve been combing the UK and beyond, seeking inspiration and chatting to others in the industry at various trade fairs and exhibitions.
Below are a few of the year’s highlights, so far:
January 2015: MAISON&OBJET, Paris
MAISON&OBJET is one of the biggest lifestyle shows in Europe; in their words, it is ‘a major event for professionals working in the art of living in all its rich and varied expressions’ – which meant, most importantly, that THABTO got to go to Paris (solely in pursuit of our art, of course…and maybe a baguette or two)!
Crepes and croissants aside, this was a very important show for us. Whilst we were there primarily to exhibit our popular collection of unique gifts, we also unveiled a sneak peek of our new collection to the trade – we knew that feedback at this early stage would be vital in order that we could continue to hone our range effectively. Responses were enthusiastic, which was great: though we’re quietly confident that the adjustments we’ve made since then will only improve on this. The best is yet to come, as they say…
A sneak peek of some of our new products alongside the ever popular Jpegs
February 2015: Ambiente, Frankfurt
A whistle-stop tour to Frankfurt: one of our favourite cities. This was a truly inspiring trip for us – not only did we have a lovely stand at the fair itself, but we soaked up the culture, the trends, and made some great new friends, too.
Happy THABTO team basking in post-show glow
February 2015: Spring Fair, UK
Over to Birmingham for our next show, which was held at the NEC. If you’ve never been before, you should: it’s the largest fair of its kind in Europe and spans an impressive 20 halls in the NEC. Epic, to say the least.
Alongside THABTO favourites such as our Mood Mugs and Subbuteo Bottle Opener, our stand also displayed some items from our soon-to-be-released collection of lifestyle items. We’re never ones to shy away from being noticed so we were very pleased with the prominent location and eye-catching design of our stand; however, we can admit to being a little nervous as this was the first time some of these products had been showcased within the UK, but the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Our stand at the Spring Fair - not bad, eh?
What’s next for THABTO: for the next few weeks we’ll be working hard on the finishing touches to our new collection, ready for launch in May. This range of lifestyle and home accessories has been inspired by the best in British design – with that unique THABTO twist. We’re looking forward to showing you how even the most simple, everyday function can be made stylish and fun with an object that does so much more than it ‘says on the tin’!