The striking designs of product designer Lydia Leith first caught my attention at Bust Craftacular a few years back so I was delighted when she got in touch to tell me about her fabulous new project: the Stick of Rock range of mugs.
How much did your parents influence your decision to enter the creative world and what was the best advice they gave you?
Both parents have always been creative (Father illustrator and Mother craft teacher). Growing up in London we just happened to live in a very creative community, our neighbors (and friends) included a well known ceramicist, a fashion designer, an RA artist and in the house opposite us a Turner Prize winner. As a child I just thought this was very normal but looking back it was lucky coincidence and I have very fond memories of it all. From an early age I always assumed I’d end up working creatively, it never really crossed my mind to do anything else. The best advice my parents ever gave me was to “do the best I can” and “to occasionally break the rules”.
What was it like to leave London and relocate to a small town in rural Cumbria?
Moving from London to a small town in Cumbria at the age of 12 was a total culture shock. Once I had got used to the countryside it was a great (and probably a safer) place to spend teenage years.
Why were you inspired to create so much design based on the Royal Family? (your sick bag, jelly moulds and more)
The Royal Family theme happened by accident and I had made the Royal Wedding Sick Bags as a bit of a joke to practice my screen printing and to entertain myself. After their success and with the Queen’s Jubilee the following year it seemed fitting to run with the Royal themed designs for a bit longer, people expected me to bring something else royal themed out so I did.
You recently moved again, this time from Newcastle to Hackney – what prompted this latest move and how is it going?
I love the north and often pop back to see family etc. It is good to expernence new places. As a designer I felt I could be missing out on something by not being in London. It is early days for me here in Hackney, I am settling in well, it is fantastic to discover new shops, meet more creative people and find new inspirations. I am looking forward to becoming a Londoner again.
Your ‘Wired Up’ china set first attracted my attention a few years ago – where did you get the idea for this and how did you adapt the designs to suit the whole range of table ware?
Although water and electrify don’t usually mix, I thought a fairy lights design could be visually exciting but also would tie in with the cosy feeling of coming home and having a cup of tea. Using a tea set worked well because the design worked on cylinder and circular shapes and having multiple pieces meant we could have fun with mixing and matching.
Your latest Stick of Rock mugs are another stroke of genius – where did you get the idea for these from and where are they produced?
The idea popped into my head one day after watching rock being made. I had to find the right shaped mugs and ended up using a factory in Stoke in Trent to make them. I’ve started with Brighton, Blackpool and Margate but aim to make eventually all the seaside towns, Skegness, Bognor Regis etc.
When did you first start collaborating with your father and how does this process work in practice?
I started to collaborate with my father on some projects because I saw his talent wasted. His illustration work was seen everywhere over the 70s/80s/90s, he never adapted with computers and sort of disappeared off the radar once the industry became digitalised. However he was still a prolific worker but a lot of his personal work was finished then put in a drawer and never seen by anyone (the opposite to when he was working commercially). I thought this was a waste so I helped him get a website and we started working on some projects together.
So far we have worked on large scale murals, a range of mugs and coming soon children’s books. We get on really well, between us we have more ideas than we can keep up with making into reality. I am currently planning for a retrospective for his commercial illustration work, which is very exciting!
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