Monday, 28 September 2009

Autumn Fair 2009, Review Part 2: I Want One Of Those

Autumn and Spring Fairs are always packed to the roof with amazing new products from the world's most creative people.  Whether you're looking at paintings or greetings cards, toys or household gadgets, there's nowhere better to find the cutting edge of modern design.

As I walk round, I mark off in my show guide the names of companies that particularly catch my eye, then when I get home I see if they have a website so that I can learn more about their business.  Not all of them do, and some won't let you get past the home page without a trade log-in.  I find this a bit short sighted, as I don't see the harm in allowing your best work to be seen by anyone who's interested, as long as you have sufficient copyright protection in place.  Great design should be celebrated, not hidden away!

So in that spirit of celebration, I wanted to show you some of my highlights from Autumn Fair 2009.  Manufacturers' websites are linked to as much as possible, otherwise please consult the "Find Suppliers" tab at 

All copyrights are acknowledged and respected.


No obvious new trends in the greetings card market this year.  Recently there have been a lot of cards with the hand-made look, but these days that seems to have died down a little.  Now there is literally something for everybody, whether you want traditional styles, humorous, cute, rude, artistic, celebrity branded, eco-friendly or covered in glitter.

Holy Mackerel caught my eye for their unique blend of comedy and food:

Egg-White Wedding greetings card by Claire Grove, £1.99

What's Yellow and Dangerous? greetings card by Claire Grove, £1.99

Nicebergs greetings card by Minimiam, £1.99

Homes and Gardens

I've worn out a few bird tables over the years and I can tell you that very few of them are that well designed.  They can look very smart when they're new but normally they're a pain to keep clean.  So when I saw this by ATP Gifts retailing through Sugarbowl Gifts, I didn't think it was very practical (or even that the birds would be too attracted to it) but I did think it was a very stylish garden ornament.

Filigree Wire Bird Feeder, £13.99, Sugarbowl Gifts - sold out until March!

Sugarbowl also retail a range of garden-themed gifts by one of my favourite comic artists, the pun king Simon Drew:

Fruit And Nuts of History tea towel by Simon Drew for Sugarbowl Gifts, £4.99

When most people buy a mirror, they just get one in a bog standard rectangular plastic or wooden frame.  There's much more to them than that, though.  A good designer mirror can be a dramatic focal point and instantly brighten up a room which doesn't get much natural light.  Here are just a couple of the magnificent examples from this year's displays:

Swirl Mirror by West Decor

Metal Framed Star Mirror 110x92cm by McGowan Rutherford

Windhorse Trading Ltd displayed some of the biggest windchimes and mobiles I've ever seen, including this 65 cm tall beauty:

Butterflies & Hearts pink paper mobile by Windhorse Trading Ltd


Marvell's Ltd have this lively range of metal and wire wall art:

Fleet Of Boats


I'm a big fan of Banksy, he's anarchic, hilariously funny and also a technically excellent artist.  Various companies have now licensed his work for books, postcards, T shirts and mugs.  Panorama London have reproduced some of them as canvases, so you can have your own Banksy on your walls.

Pollard Street by Banksy, 13 x 17" canvas, £50.00 RRP

Jewellery and Fashion Accessories

This is normally a section of the show I just walk through to get to somewhere else, as I'm not particularly interested in jewellery.  A couple of things did catch my eye though.

Sequins are definitely "in" this season and Suzie Blue have a large selection of various bags and purses absolutely smothered in the things.

Sequin Barrel Bags by Suzie Blue

I also noticed a few stalls specialising in cufflinks.  They puzzle me a bit, not having a man in my life.  Do men really wear them any more?  If they do, would they wear novelty ones like these by Onyx-Art?

Burger & Fries cufflinks by Onyx-Art

I do like them, I think they're cute and funny, but I just don't understand what sort of man would wear them and on what occasion.  If you have any insights into the subject, please feel free to let me know!

Toys and Gifts

With Christmas less than three months away (aaargh!) here are some unusual and stylish gift ideas, starting with some of the gorgeous smelly girly stuff on offer (Autumn Fair is as much a treat for the nose as it is for the eyes).

6 assorted egg shaped bath fizzers by Bath Bubble and Beyond packaged in real egg boxes:

Egg Bath Fizzers by Bath Bubble and Beyond

The same company also produce a range of soap cakes, which your retailer will sell by the slice.  Please resist the temptation to eat them!

Lemon & Lime Soap Cake, 12" diameter, by Bath Bubble and Beyond

Adorable little cupcake lipglosses from Natural Products (UK) Ltd:

Naughty But Nice lip glosses, Natural Products (UK) Ltd

Next, something for the boys (whether or not they've chosen to grow up!)  The cleverly-named DIYnosaur Lamps by Moedik which, as the name suggests, come in kit form to create a fully working table lamp.  Various beasties available.

DIYnosaur lamp kits by Moedik

Syot exhibited a stunning range of retro pedal cars for the little kids.  I can't imagine they're cheap but, if you're looking for something special, these would really get the neighbours' heads turning.

Pink Princess pedal car for 3-6 year olds by Syot

Siam Selection had this range of cute, and sometimes cheeky, novelty oven gloves:

Oven gloves from Siam Selection

The Write Gift have a very inventive alternative to greetings cards, a range of soft toys which are designed to be written on.  They're perfect for the last day at work, get well soon, best wishes and any other occasion when you would normally club together with friends, family or colleagues to buy a keepsake for someone.  They would certainly treasure this for much longer than a card.

Munin Monkey from The Write Gift.

I can't let this section go without name-checking one of my favourite mugs!  I'm sure all dog owners will recognise the sentiment on this one by Repeat Repeat, available picturing a few different breeds.  Cat lovers can choose from similar designs celebrating the annoyingly endearing habits of their own pet-of-choice.

Daschund mug, £7.95, by Repeat Repeat

Last but by no means least, if you're a fan of The Apprentice you'll have seen this product in the 2009 series. Sir Alan might not have been impressed but here are some satisfied customers in action.  Yes, it's the Cardboard Cat Playhouse from Suck UK!

In the third and final part of my Autumn Fair review, I'll be looking at some of the top trends I noticed at the show.  Check back soon for that!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Autumn Fair 2009, Review Part 1: Whither Twitter?

Autumn Fair International, held every September, is the little sister to February's Spring Fair, the UK's biggest trade event for the home and giftware industries. As both events are held just a short train ride from me at Birmingham's NEC, they form two of the highlights of my year.

Although they're aimed at retailers buying stock, I can get in as a Graphic Designer and spend the day exploring the halls (5 in Autumn, all 20 in Spring) and discovering the latest trends in giftware, greetings, homeware, toys and jewellery.

It's tough on the feet but I always come out of it buzzing, inspired and wishing I had the money to set up my own gift shop. It would have to be a ruddy big shop, though, because I'd want to stock up on EVERYTHING!

During my time there, I managed to stumble across the last 20 minutes of a Talking Point Seminar by E-commerce consultants Intelligent Retail. I picked up some very useful tips about how Google ranks websites based on how key words are used on them and why outgoing links from a site are as important as incoming ones.

This was also the first time I'd heard a professional opinion on the year's internet phenomenon, Twitter. I'd never really seen the point of it, from a personal angle. I'm not really interested in what Stephen Fry's had for breakfast, as much as I love his shows. In fact I've never even used Facebook, either. I've dabbled with MySpace but let's just say this camel had her back broke over there a couple of months ago. Yet speaker David Fairhurst managed to get across Twitter's business benefits quite enthusiastically. It can be a very quick and efficient way to target a specific group of people, who you can search for and monitor using Twitter management tools. You can then instantly alert them to new products, website updates or any other news you want to bring to lots of people's attention. So now I'm seriously thinking of joining, to network with graphic design businesses and anyone else who might be able to get me off the ground.

Of course, if I do join and you're reading this because you found it on my Twitter feed, thank you for popping over. But as that feed doesn't exist at the time of writing this, we're getting into serious wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff here.

Best move on...

In the 2nd part of this review I'll link you to some of my favourite products at this year's show, followed by what I saw as the current top trends.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

For Those Days When You Really Need An Octopus Thong

Hopefully you'll have noticed a number of my designs along the left hand side of the page, along with that very distracting kaleidoscope.

If not, go and have a look at them now.  I can wait.

*Taps toes and hums tunelessly.*

Welcome back.

Mmmm... don't you think that heart would look gorgeous on your T shirt?  Wouldn't your tea taste better coming out of a giraffe mug?  Isn't that snowman just screaming to carry your Christmas card greetings?  Have you really never yearned for - joy of joys - an octopus thong?

Well my friends, pine no more.  Simply click a button and give in to temptation.

Each image links you to its own shop on  There you can treat yourself or a loved one to all sorts of amazing gifts, clothes and homewear, each printed with your chosen design.

Here are just a few samples of what's on offer:

You'll find the full range of products on each page and new offers are being added all the time.  At the moment, each design has to be ordered separately through its own shop.  Prices are set in American Dollars but can be displayed in UK Pounds, Euros, Australian and Canadian Dollars.  Prices other than in US$ are calculated using the current exchange rates and therefore may vary on a day-to-day basis.

I get 25% commission on all sales so, if you're enjoying this blog, I hope you'll have a look round my shops and support my work on there, too.

And if I've STILL not convinced you... 

Woohoo... you KNOW you'll look good in this...