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Everything Begins

Meet the Artist | Eleanor Stuart - Decorative Ceramics and Art for the Home.

Posted on December 1, 2014 by Amy There have been 0 comments

Everything Begins somewhere. Tell us a bit about your background – what path led you to what you are doing now?

It all started whilst I was working for an events company in London. Being a ‘creative type’ I was often called upon to create everything from concept visuals, to props to one day, illustrated plates. One event the company was working on was an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed event for a British newspaper. Part of the event required an installation of illustrated decorative ‘Alice in Wonderland’ plates, and so naturally I was called upon to create these.

Alice in Wonderland Decorative Art Plates by Eleanor Stuart The Alice in Wonderland Decorative Plates by Eleanor Stuart look fantastic hung as wall art.

Having created the collection and received a fantastic response to the designs and my re-interpretation of the originals, I realised I could have the potential for a business on my hands starting with an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspired collection. After the event was over I spent several months researching potteries in Britain that I could work with to produce the collection of Alice plates (as the originals were all hand drawn, which didn’t exactly make them dishwasher friendly).

Finally by June 2013 I had my first collection of illustrated plates produced and took off to share them with the world, and l haven’t looked back since…

Mad Hatter Decorative Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart The Mad Hatter Plate Set by Eleanor Stuart from Everything Begins - the perfect unique gift for that crazy yet amazing friend or family member.

After the success of the ‘Alice’ collection, I began to flex my illustrator fingers a little more and worked on new collections that now include the typographic ‘Alphabet’ collection, and for Spring 2014 the new ‘Tiny’ collection of mugs and stacking cups and the ‘Animal’ collection of colourful exotic animals.

Alphabet Wall Art Print by Eleanor Stuart Alphabet Wall Art Print by British Artist Eleanor Stuart

Alphabet Art Blocks by Eleanor Stuart Alphabet Art Blocks by Eleanor Stuart - sold framed

Alphabet Art Blocks by Eleanor Stuart Alphabet Art Name Blocks By Eleanor Stuart

Your fine bone china pieces are 100% handcrafted in Stoke-on-Trent, Britain’s historic ceramics centre by master craftsmen. Why did you choose to manufacture in England instead of overseas and what can you tell us about the processes used?

If you live in Britain and you’re looking to create ceramic pieces, there’s just nowhere else to look than Stoke-on-Trent – it’s almost an expectation that if you’re a designer working with ceramics in Britain, they’re going to be made in Stoke-on-Trent.

Britain has such a rich history of working with ceramics that I knew I would get the quality I was looking for, everything is made by master craftsmen using time-honoured methods.

How do plates become an art object?

Plates have a history of being used for decorative and commemorative purposes – I see them as just another canvas for art that’s a little different, and a little more functional, than a traditional art print. I also think that ‘decorative plates’ have lost their tag of just being for commemorative purposes or covered in pretty flowers. Now you have artists such as Damien Hirst creating art plates, they’re a high end way to create an illustrated piece that can be so much more than just a print behind a frame - people can pick them up, touch them, display them and use them (for very special occasions).

Girl With a Balloon Decorative Wall Art Plates by Eleanor Stuart The Banksy inspired "Girl with a Balloon" Decorative Wall Art Plates by Eleanor Stuart

Peacock Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart The Peacock Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart as featured in Elle Australia Christmas Gift Guide.

Lobster Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart The Lobster Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart

Octopus Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart Octopus Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart

You have some beautiful, unique ranges. What inspired your collections, Alice in Wonderland for example?

The Alice in Wonderland collection was initially inspired by being commissioned to create a collection of Alice in Wonderland themed illustrated plates. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the story and the original illustrations to create the collection, and through re-illustrating the originals I was able to add my own twist to the work such as adding colour and quotes and abstracting characters such as the infamous Cheshire Cat to just a very large grin, ‘Everything is funny…if you can laugh at it.’

Everything is Funny Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart Everything Is Funny Plate Art by Eleanor Stuart - part of the Alice in Wonderland Collection

The ‘Tiny’ collection of tiny people getting up to tiny things came about as an exercise in starting with the end product first – mugs and stacking cups – and working from that point to create illustrations that played with the form of the mugs and cups rather than just wrapping a pattern around them. I loved imagining what tiny people could be getting up to on mugs, which resulted in illustrations where tiny people are painting the stripes of a mug in, tiny people climbing out of a mug and tiny people living in tiny apartments across several cups.

Climbing Man Stacking Cups by Eleanor Stuart The Climbing Man Stacking Cups by Eleanor Stuart, such a brilliant unique gift.

Stacking Ceramic Cups by Eleanor Stuart Stacking Ceramic Cups by Eleanor Stuart

Finally the ‘Animal’ collection was inspired by wanting to create something a little bold and different from my usual work, and to create a collection of animals that were a little more exotic and unusual. After several visits to several zoos I finally settled upon a collection of unusual animals who were all characterized by their brilliant shapes, patterns and striking colours which makes for a bold and unique collection of colourful original animal illustrations.

All of your pieces are beautifully illustrated and all in black and white. What made you decide to design in a monochromatic scheme as opposed to colour?

I love the simplicity of black and white, and find it allows work that is quite clean and bold to really stand out. With the ‘Alice’ collection for example I really wanted the illustrations to compliment the originals, and to look as different from the Disney versions as possible! I also felt that when an illustration is as intricate and detailed as the Alice work you really want to be able to see every line and marking made.

Similarly with the ‘Tiny’ collection, I wanted to make sure the designs were both fun and stylish, and so to achieve the latter it was important for the designs to be in black and white to make for a clean, stylish and fun piece.

What challenges have you faced since starting out as a designer and on the flip side your biggest triumph?

Starting from scratch from very much a point of being a designer, getting my head around turning my illustrations from a drawing on a piece of paper to a product to sell where you’re suddenly surrounded by spreadsheets and talking margins and trade prices with suppliers took a bit of getting used to.  However it was incredibly exciting to see my illustrations be turned into fine bone china plates, mugs and art prints and go off, suitcase full of products in hand, out into the world to start selling it all!

My biggest triumph I feel so far is seeing the business grow and being able to continue to create new collections that have been received so well. It’s very rewarding to be able to create something that other people enjoy that they then go on to keep and share with others.

How would you describe your work & what would you say is the most special thing about your work?

I think what makes my products special is the sense of fun and familiarity each collection embodies. From the ‘Alice’ collection that people are immediately familiar with where everyone has their favourite character, to the ‘Tiny’ collection featuring tiny people getting up to tiny things where people love to discover what the tiny people are getting up to in their tiny world. Finally I find the ‘Animal’ collection draws a slightly more ‘arty’ audience who enjoy the abstract quality to the drawings and I think people enjoy animals that are slightly more exotic than the norm.

In some of my work I like to create little surprises hidden in the illustrations for people to discover. For example with the ‘Alice’ collection, when I re-illustrated the original drawings I wanted to add my own twist to the work such as adding ‘T’s’ to the Tweedle Twins tummies and colour to the ‘Queen of Hearts’ and the ‘Card Painters’ who are caught painting the Queen’s roses red.

What was particularly fun about creating the ‘Tiny’ collection was creating little scenes with people doing everything from walking tightropes to flying in tiny spaceships and adding lots of little details for people to uncover. I even managed to include the Queen in my stacking ‘Apartment’ coffee cups design which is a great surprise to come across her waving at you.

What are you most proud of in your work?

I’m proud of the quality and attention to detail across the collections. From drawings such as the ‘Dodo’ from the ‘Alice’ collection which was redrawn several times until I felt happy with his feathers, to the ‘Peacock’ from the ‘Animal’ collection whose tail feathers were a labour of love, to the little details such as the spilt can of paint on the ‘Painting’ mug from the ‘Tiny’ collection and even choosing Pantone colours for the ‘Animal’ collection that referenced colours that can be found within the animals they represent.

What kind of materials do you think have great possibilities? 

I think ceramics and textiles have great possibilities, artists such as Fornasetti really proved just how much you can produce across a wide variety of pieces – designers don’t just have to be limited to one or two products; Fornasetti designed everything and anything from umbrella holders to ash trays…

What does a typical day at work look like?

When you run your own business no day is ever quite typical as you do every job – designer, accountant, pr, email answerer, packaging – so each day is an assortment of doing various jobs – each one fun in its own way! I always like to make time to look at new work from other designers, from illustrators to architects, and think about possible new work and opportunities for the future.

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

I would love to collaborate with Fornasetti – purely because of how much their history and body of work has inspired my own.

What do you turn to for creative inspiration?

London – when I can catch a few spare hours I love to walk around London and let my brain drift off into thinking about possible new work. I often wind up in book shops nestled amongst the art and design books looking for inspiration and starting points for new collections, but largely I would say day dreaming is a great tool for creativity.

Which artists, designers or creative people do you admire?

Fornasetti for producing an inspirational and wide ranging body of work, Banksy for the simple fun ideas and Paul Ge for the tiny people.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to developing my existing ranges and expanding into new product lines, plus the little doodlings of new ideas and potential new collections are always exciting.

What book and/or magazines are on your bedside table?

I usually have an ever increasing pile of magazines from the weekend papers mounting up by my bedside as I never get around to reading them.

What art would we find in your home?

I have pretty eclectic tastes and tend to be more of a ‘collector of assorted objects’ (not a hoarder!) that range from anything and everything including a number of brightly coloured ornamental rabbits, bird cages, bright pink lamps, clocks, neon lights…the list goes on.

Favourite album?

Currently quite fond of Michael Jackson’s ‘new’ album Xscape

What do you get up to when not designing. What’s your perfect day off?

I love days where I can go off and discover new things and although I’m not actively designing, I’ll probably be thinking about it – you never really get a day off when you run your own business but then if you love what you do you don’t really want a day off from it.

You live & work in London, one of our favourite cities. Tell us:

What/were was the last amazing meal you ate?

I was lucky enough to go to the very posh ‘Wolesley’ restaurant recently next to the Ritz, and although it was only for breakfast, and although it was only a prune and ginger compote, they were the best prunes I’d ever had…

What’s London’s best kept secret?

London’s alleys and little winding back streets hold some amazing secrets. People get used to sticking to the main streets such as Oxford street, Regent street etc, but if you slip behind them or shoot off down a random little pathway you can emerge in some really lovely little courtyards with beautiful old shops, or stumble upon some amazing old houses. I’ve lived in London my whole life and I still stumble upon areas I’ve never seen before.

About Eleanor Stuart

Eleanor Stuart is a London based designer and illustrator creating work that is bold, fun and wherever possible, witty and charming.  Eleanor creates original pieces using a variety of media, from pens, ink, pencil and digital processes. What she loves is creating work that makes people stop and smile by being bold, creative and fun. These qualities are the essence of each collection she has designed and illustrated.

Every piece of work is thought about, illustrated and produced in Britain. Eleanor strongly believes in supporting British industry, the world's finest historic ceramics centre, and for that reason she has spent time carefully selecting UK suppliers to help craft her products from across the land. From prints made by master printers in Norfolk, ceramics crafted in the heart of the traditional pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent.
Eleanor Stuart - British Artist Eleanor Stuart, photographed in a recent pop up shop in Camden, London.

Shop the complete collection from Eleanor Stuart here.

This post was posted in Children's Wall Art, Designer Interviews, Hard to Find Gifts, Unique Christmas Gift Ideas, Unique Gift Ideas, Wall Art and was tagged with Alice in Wonderland, Art Prints, Ceramics, Decorative Items for the Home, Decorative Wall Plate Art, Designer Homewares, Eleanor Stuart, Plate Art