Designer Gary Birks has had an impressive career to date, having worked with top names including Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Waterford Crystal, Gordon Ramsay and Vera Wang. As his own fun and fabulous range of bone china mugs – including these gorgeous Key Me mugs – come to ACHICA, we catch up with the designer over a cuppa or two…
Did you always want to be a designer?
Yes. I love the whole creative process, from thinking up new ideas and then the entire practice of sketching out that first idea to seeing the final product. It’s really satisfying to see the first spark of an idea turned into reality.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In so many places. I love looking around food markets, bric-a- brac shops, and at magazines. just the smallest things can create inspiration for me; colours, shapes, textures can all trigger off a great idea.
What has been the most exciting project to work on?
My first role was with Royal Doulton and so I will always have great memories on working for that particular brand – the projects were so diverse, from a Winnie the Pooh children’s range to ornate dinnerware; every day and every project was different and exciting to me.
Why did you decide to design a range of mugs?
My inspiration was to design an everyday product with a bit of a twist, to add charm and to create a smile.
Mugs are the perfect everyday product but are also quite a challenge – mugs are such a personal item and everyone has their favourite – chunky, thin, big, small etc… so creating a mug range that was accessible to a broad range of people was the perfect project for me. It also offered me a great platform for utilising my design skills in regards to shape and colour.
So, do you prefer tea or coffee?
Coffee – super strong, white, one sugar!
Ugly Mug – I love the play on words and the two connotations.
What do you wish you had designed?
I have a beautiful teapot from Rosenthal that I just love! It’s so aesthetically pleasing, well proportioned and all round a lovely pot. I also appreciate that teapots that look great and work well are really hard to design.
What’s your home like?
I’ve just bought my dream Cotswold cottage and am looking forward to putting my own mark on the interior. I plan on keeping an original feel but mixing with contemporary finds. My style is eclectic, but not fussy.
[Above: Gary Birks' Slogan mugs]
What’s your top interiors tip?
Less is definitely more in my book.
I think one ‘hero’ piece is a good place to start when decorating. Starting from scratch can be daunting but working around one piece of furniture or an interesting wallpaper makes you narrow down your choices and decorating much easier.
Also buying quality where possible is always a great investment.
Which artists do you admire?
Jaime Hayon has an attention to detail that I admire and he thinks outside the box in a really refreshing way.
If you could be invisible for the day what would you do?
What wouldn’t I do!
Describe your perfect weekend?
A long dog walk ending up in pub (ideally sitting next to a log fire) with a pint and a paper always features in my favourite weekend – otherwise food markets, cheese boards and watching Stoke win a match are the best moments!
Got any hobbies other than design?
I love walking, exploring new areas and trawling through interesting shops.
What three products can you not live without?
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I plan on extending the mug ranges, I want to add colour, pattern and new shapes. As always I’ll stick to bone china, which I believe is the best material to use when creating mugs.
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor