The Whittard Blog

A warm welcome to the Whittard blog. Since 1886, we've been passionate about fine tea and coffee and we'd love to share our passion with you

25th September 2014 by Whittard

A Modern Willow Love Story – Interview with Dinah Body

Dinah Body

We're thrilled to be adding a modern take on the famed Willow Love Story and met with Dinah Body, who designed the range at her airy studio in Bristol.

Did you always want to be a designer? Can you remember if there was a specific object that first got you interested in design and why?

As a child I always had a love of creating things, I remember loving colour and drawing patterns from an early age. From the first time I used clay I loved it; I loved its tactile qualities when making things – so different to other design disciplines. In my early years I liked designer makers such as Joanna Veevers with her delicate intaglio ceramic pieces, and the intricate marquetry pieces of Dorothy Fielblemann, Vicky Shaw and Judy Trim were also favorites. I have always been inspired by pattern making and with ceramics I love the fact you can pick it up, feel it and hold it.

Which particular items do you get the most satisfaction from designing?

I'm drawn to the way pattern wraps around objects; the way that as you turn a bowl or a mug you see different aspects of the design. I enjoy designing stationary using techniques such as model die and laser cutting. However, I'm always drawn back to designing patterns for 3D objects; objects that you can hold and treasure. I think particularly with ceramic pieces as they are items that you want to pick up and not let go!

Are you fan of tea or coffee? Which teas/coffee do you love the most and how do you like to take them?

I am a big fan of coffee, no day can start with out a cup. At home I always use a cafetière and I enjoy experimenting with different coffees, but my favorite so far is Sumatra coffee. I love taking the time to make a proper cup of coffee and sitting down to drink it – such a simple act seems such lovely, luxurious, self-indulgent "me time" in an otherwise hectic day.

Tell us how your Willow Love Story designs for Loveramics came about. It's such a well known and well-loved design, how did you go about giving it a modern twist?

Dinah at her design deskI was approached by the Hong Kong based company Loveramics to design a range of tableware. I love Chinese blue and white tableware and have a fascination with the Willow pattern in particular; the fable is so romantic. I wanted to produce an updated version that told the story across the full dinnerware range. By letting the story unfold across the pieces in a more playful way, the pattern and the story comes to life. By combining hand painted artwork with a sophisticated cobalt blue, the range has an authentic feel following in the style of traditional Chinese blue and white ceramics. We were conscious that the shapes we selected were relevant for today, and that the items were designed to sit together cohesively.

Tell us a little about your design process

The initial stages of any project are fun - I spend time pulling together ideas and filling my desk with scraps of paper and ideas from books, magazines, fabric samples, exhibition clippings, etc. I will put ideas together and build story boards. Once a direction has been agreed, the hard work begins. I work in a mixture of ways either by hand painting or working directly on the computer depending on the project. Once painted, I will scan my artwork and then manipulate it on the computer so that I can develop it across the range. It's very exciting to see the first proofs arrive, at this point we can assess the samples working closely with the factory to make any final adjustments before it goes into full production. Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the final product in store.

Dinah's design inspiration wall

What do you think is the key to creating an enduring design?

It's a very good question. Having discussed this with friends it is really interesting to explore what we all think an example of enduring design actually is. It is in fact very subjective. Is it a Thonet chair designed by Michael Thonet in the mid-19th Century and still used today in numerous restaurants? Is it the classic Martini glass, or the Burberry trench coat? Is it an Eames chair, or is it the humble paper cup? I would suggest the Moka Pot originally designed by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. I believe the key to creating an enduring design is to develop a product that transcends time and fashions; that is as relevant today as it was when it was first designed. For me it is a design that is rooted in craftsmanship, quality and style; a product that is made to last. It is something that looks great, solves any design issues and works well. I would say It also has to have that "X factor" that people fall in love with whether that be simple clean lines or an intricate detailed pattern – but it has to function well.

Which designers/artists are you most inspired by? Where else do you find inspiration?

Close up of colour palette and designsInspiration is everywhere! I love the work of Mariano Fortuny. Last summer I was lucky enough to take a family holiday to Venice where we visited Palazzo Fortuny, I wanted to move in!! The building maintains rooms created by Fortuny, filled with examples of his eclectic work, including his large precious wall hangings. You can even peer into his library and see work in progress, it was truly an inspiration – wonderful! Other inspirations are Eric Ravilious and Edward Baldwin. Inspiration is everywhere; from home magazines to flea market finds and antiques shops.

Is there an iconic piece of design you wish you had created?

Rene Gruau illustrated post war fashion. His drawings are amazing. He seems to capture the essence of a pose in a few lines. There is a natural ease, simplicity and confidence to his drawings. Whether illustration, ceramics, glass or furniture, I admire design that appears simple, effortless and yet captures style with ease – it is often the hardest to create.

What's next for you?

What's next for me??.... I have several new ranges launching in the next year. One of those is a new bone china range called "Petal" launching in full with the company Loveramics. It will be showing at Maison Objet in September. I also hope to move studios in the next year, so we are looking forward to having more space to spread out!

Thank you to Dinah for sharing her inspiration with us! You can now view the full Willow Love Story range on the Whittard site.

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22nd September 2014 by Whittard

Bring Out Your Inner Barista with Our Coffee Knowledge Quiz

How good is your coffee knowledge? Think you have what it takes to become a true connoisseur? Bring out your inner Barista and be in with a chance of winning fantastic coffees, equipment and ceramics from Whittard in our weekly prize draws.

Test your coffee knowledge

Do you know your macchiato from your mocha, your light from your dark roasts, and your beans from your blends? Or are you convinced there's an X in espresso, or that the best coffee comes from Italy? Pit your wits against our coffee quiz and find out how much you really know about one of the world's most popular drinks.

Take part on Facebook and you'll be automatically entered into a weekly prize draw to win everything you need to bring out your inner Barista at home. You'll need to Like the Whittard of Chelsea Facebook page to enter.

The prize draw is open to anyone over the age of 18 and resident in the UK. Entries to the draw must be received by 4pm BST on Friday 10 October 2014. Winners will be announced every Friday between 27 September and 10 October 2014.

So, do you have what it takes? Find out now and good luck!

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5th August 2014 by Whittard

Cosying Up to Chi-Chi Moi

We went to meet Jan Ollis, owner and founder of Chi-Chi Moi and producer of our hand-made tea cosies. Based in Wells, her studio is a craft heaven – with endless balls of wool, ribbons, a vintage sewing machine, pretty crocheted flowers and tailor’s dummy. We put the following questions to her, whilst sipping tea, munching on cake and exploring her charming studio:

 1) Did you always want to be a designer and when you were younger what were the inspirations for going into this line of work? Can you remember if there was a specific object that first got you interested in design and why?

My family have always been able knit, sew, crochet, tackle DIY projects and generally 'make do and mend' so I grew up expecting to be able to make that item we needed or wanted, my father was a trained silversmith and worked in an antique shop, this definitely shaped my formative years as I loved looking at those beautifully made items. When I was young I was very keen on drawing, but never thought that it could lead to a career, so after a brief daydream of becoming a mounted policewoman actually spent many years working in offices and put all my creative energies into creating a home . Slowly however, I began to dream that these skills could turn into my career. I then completed a degree in printed textile design.

2) How did the name Chi-Chi Moi come about?

Ten years ago I got back into knitting and crocheting and made a corsage for my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day – I look back and it’s a bit amateur now! But she loved it and asked me to make some for her to give to her friends, They quickly became popular and I wanted to start a business with a name relevant to the style of my corsages, I wondered what 'Chi-Chi' meant and looked it up in my ancient thesaurus, it said ' Fashionably Frilly' which I liked, so I added 'Moi' and 'Chi-Chi Moi' came about.

3) Knitting and crocheting have really become popular again, why do think this is? 

Yes, knitting and crochet are so popular at the moment, I feel it may be a counterbalance to our very busy modern lifestyles. My life relies on email, my mobile phone and the internet, I find sitting and knitting relaxing (well most of the time). Also, to create something useable from very basic materials (two knitting needles and a ball of wool) is very satisfying.

4) Which particular items do you get the most satisfaction from designing?

I love designing tea cosies, they are quick to make and offer so much scope for creativity.

5) Tell us about the tea cosies – how did you get into them? How do you come up with designs and how long does it take to make one?

One of my first tea cosies was the one I still use at home, it is a pink Fair Isle and it led to many more ideas. Most of which are heavily influenced by the 1950's and 1970's.I have a rather long-winded design process, after my initial idea, I will knit one changing things as I go along. I then look at the number of stitches and rows and where I used different colours. I then re-create the fist cosy this time writing the pattern, Finally I pass the pattern onto one of my knitters for final amendments.

All of our Whittard tea cosies use different stitches and vary in levels of difficulty, Walter, on the right in blue and grey is the most tricky

6) What’s the most unusual item you’ve been asked to design?

We were recently commissioned to design and make judge's wig tea cosies, probably our most unusual design to date and the client is very happy with them!

7) Are you fan of tea or coffee - which teas/coffee do you love the most and how do you like to take them?

I like both tea and coffee and have a set routine, always having tea first thing in the morning, coffee mid morning and tea again in the afternoon. I am very particular about my tea and usually have a loose leaf Assam tea in a teapot with a tea cosy (of course)

8) Tell us about your team of knitters and crocheters

I have a lovely team of outworkers, some knit, some crochet & some do both. There are five ladies I rely on all year, plus a group of ladies I call on in busy times. I also have a full time assistant Jess, who is indispensable. Jess assembles the tea cosies and adds labels.

We all knit and crochet by hand – knitting machines produce a very flat result, hand knitting adds texture and air plus someone has spent time and love making it.

chi chi moi

9)  What do you think is the key to creating an enduring design?

An enduring design needs to be practical and appealling to the owner. William Morris was correct when he said 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful'

10) How would you describe your style?

Definitely retro & nostalgic. I like to create products “like something you find in your granny’s attic that you are really pleased with”  - a little treasure, handmade with a nostalgic feel.

Although my great aunt taught a lot of the family to crochet, I don’t have any handmade heirlooms – I want to leave a legacy for my own family, I’m currently making a granny square blanket for my grandson (using a more tasteful colour palette than is traditionally the case!)

11) Which designers/artists are you most inspired by? Where else do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in many places, I love going to museums, art Galleries and even car boot sales, anything can inspire me a colour or print, a teapot or a even a jumper. One designer who has inspired me for many years is Paul Smith, I love his twist on the traditional. I also love the fabric designs of Lucienne Day, her 1950's colours often come through in my work.

I love designers that make you smile when you see their work – who use wool in really quirky ways.  I’m always drawn to the same colours from the 1950s – mustard, olive green – a little muted.

14) What’s next for you? Staying largely with knitting and crocheting or doing more textile work too?

We have lots of ideas in the pipeline, some using knit and crochet, but I would really like to use my print design background and create some products using my own fabric designs. I’m also looking at developing a range of cosies for сafetières. We are still a small team and there is not enough time in the day at the present to make everything we have ideas for.

Jan, thank you so much for answering our questions! We’re sure your charming cosies, made with love, will grace many a teapot in years to come.

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29th July 2014 by Whittard

Does Time Behave Differently? Millennial v Baby Boomer

Millenial infographic

Find out more about our time survey here 

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29th July 2014 by Whittard

What Do You Do While Waiting For The Kettle To Boil?

Time is as much a British obsession as tea - and we never seem to have enough of it. We talk about making time, sharing time and spending more time with our loved ones and friends. Could we change the way we think about time and improve our daily lives?

We were intrigued about attitudes to time and tea so ran a survey to find out what the Great British public think and how you spend your time. We saw that time seems to behave differently the older you get - take a look at our  Millennial v Baby Boomer infographic. And, your attitude to time changes significantly when you have children.

But no matter what your age, tea is universally popular. We discovered that, regardless of whether you were are 20 or 60 years old, you still love your daily brew, showing us that tea is truly timeless.

We were however surprised, to find out that hardly anyone brews their beloved cup of tea for long enough.

In fact, the most popular length of time to allow your tea to brew was under a minute - yet our tea experts recommend a brewtime of 3-5 minutes*.

We wanted to know what people do when waiting for the kettle to boil and the answers included some rather random surprises – take a look;

So, instead of rushing it, squeezing the bag and hurrying it along, what if we waited for it to brew and savoured the anticipation?

It might only mean a couple of extra minutes per brew but we would all drink better tea…And  if those few minutes precious minutes were used in a different way, could we improve our busy and sometimes hectic lives? Here are four videos that demonstrate just how much can be squeezed into a very short time:

We love this video by dog behaviour expert, Nick Jones. It shows us how even small amounts of time training your dog can have a big impact on behaviour and Nick gives some great tips for you to try at home. If you have a dog, it’s perfect for your brewtime!

Keeping fit is very important, it's common knowledge, but it can be hard to fit exercise into your day-to-day life. Our friends at David Lloyd have produced this video on exercises you can do in your brewtime; short sharp sessions can have a big impact.

Time management is one of the trickiest tasks we carry out in this day and age. Sometimes it seems impossible to squeeze even one short phone call into our days. Nadine, a time management expert, shares with us the best way to maximise the three minutes it takes for your tea to brew. Watch this video to find out more.

Leanne is a yoga instructor and has shared some calming stretches and exercises in this video that you can practice in the three minutes you wait for your tea to brew. 

It might even be simpler than that; could we Skype our relatives abroad or write them a letter?

If this makes you think about your Brewtime, we would love to hear about it – simply add a comment below. We might even reward our favourites with goodies, so do share!  

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