Friday, 26 November 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons...

MAKE GIN AND TONIC!! Amazing words of wisdom from the wonderful Dear Colleen.

Cheaper than a bottle of Gordon's, this lemony-yellow 'Lemons' tea towel is priced at £10 and is available here...

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Introducing... Gemma Correll

Well, you probably already know that both Dave and I have a big ol’ design crush on Gemma Correll. Her work tickles us pink every time we see it; we love her illustrations of pompous cats and super-cute pooches, and are hooked on her addictive daily diaries (we still feel ridiculously proud to have been featured in one of them).

Gemma recently won a competition to become an ADC Young Gun, a prestigious title that recognises her talent and is certainly an indication of greater things to come! If you fancy finding out a bit more about Gemma and her pug, Mr Norman Pickles, have a gander at our interview below...

Tell us a bit about yourself... Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm Gemma and I am a freelance Illustrator. I draw pictures and I also design and make things like tote bags and greetings cards (and tea towels!) I have a Pug called Mr (Norman) Pickles and I live in Norwich for the time being, although I'll be moving away fairly soon... hopefully.

When did you first realise that you wanted to work as an illustrator for a living?
I knew when I was very young (about five) that I wanted to draw pictures for a living, although I hadn't heard the word "Illustrator" at the time. I used to draw all the time at home and at school. I would always make the posters and flyers etc. for School plays and fĂȘtes and I also, geekily, had my own page in my parent's Church's Newsletter. It was called "Kidz Korner" ....CRINGE. I also made a comic called The Chatterbox while at Primary School. I was most interested in combining illustration and stories - narrative illustration, if you will.
What’s your favourite thing to draw and why?
I'm torn between cats and pugs. I like drawing cats because I've had a lot of practice (I've been drawing them for years and years) so they come quite naturally to me now. But Pugs are fun- they have silly faces and wrinkles and curly tails, which are perfect for drawing. Plus, I have the best muse ever in Mr Norman Pickles.

Which other people working in the same industry do you admire the most?
Oh, there are so many! I never cease to be amazed (and slightly intimidated) at the number of super-talented people out there... But, let's go with: Meg Hunt, Mel Stringer, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Gauld, Harriet Russell and Camilla Engman, to name but a few.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I'd probably be a Teacher. I was a special needs TA for two years but in the end, I had to make a choice between that and illustration. It's something that I will probably go back to in the future.

What’s the hardest thing to illustrate, and why?
Anything that I don't draw or look at very much. For example, I had to draw a gun yesterday and my first attempt looked like some kind of malformed banana. I also find cars quite difficult to draw.

What’s been your favourite project to date?
I'm working on a really fun project at the moment, but it's top secret!
I enjoy designing motifs for T-shirts, etc. So my favourite past projects have been designing products for All-Mighty, Monoblock and of course, To Dry For (I'm such a suck-up! But really, I did have a lot of fun designing the Kitty-in-a-teapot.)

If you could be any animal, what would it be?
I'd be a Pug, naturellement.

Can you tell us a joke?
What's brown and sticky?
A stick.

And finally, who does the washing up in your household (and do they use your ‘Tea Time’ tea towel)?
Me and Anthony both do it - but Mr Pickles helps (by snuffling around our feet).
We don't use the Tea Time tea towel (I don't often keep my own products) but I know that my grandmothers both use theirs (they got one each for Christmas last year).

You can find out more about Gemma Correll on her shiny new (and incredibly cool) website:

Friday, 5 November 2010

It's a big thumbs up to...

Ooo it was a difficult choice, as there were so many good answers to what was quite a random question! (see our previous post)

The winner of the greatest oven glove in the world (and other fun bits and bobs) is.... drum roll....

Kate!! Combining a lamb dinner, cheese sauce, and Blackpool Illuminations, she had us at hello!

Do get in touch with us Kate, and let us know where to send your goodies!!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Yee Haw! It's a priiiiiizzzzeee giveaway...

To celebrate the opening of ToDryFor's shiny new headquarters*, we've decided to do a prize giveaway this month!

To win a fine selection of goodies from Comma, including the best oven glove in the world (see above), simply comment on this blog post, answering the following question:

What's cookin', good lookin'?

The competition closes on 31st October (at the witching hour - midnight, GMT). We'll pick our favourite comment and announce the winner on the blog on Friday 5th November.

Good Luck!

* and because we've been a bit swamped with DIY this last month, so haven't had chance to organise a blog interview (oops)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Comma Comma Comma Chameleon...

Goodness! The last couple of months have been a little bit manic to say the least! Dave and I made the decision earlier this year to move our ToDryFor headquarters to a new home, and have therefore recently opened a combined office and shop space, called Comma.

We thought people might think it was a bit weird if we only sold tea towels in the shop, so we also stock gifts, homewares, cards, stationery, books, artwork, and vintage items.

We feel very honoured that the supremely-talented illustrator, Ben Javens, painted our shop sign for us (see above), and Gemma Correll (whose work always makes us as giddy as kippers), drew a super-cute mural on our wall (see below)...

There are lots of fun products featuring artwork by Rob Ryan, Sukie, Stuart Kolakovic, Julia Pott, Lizzy Stewart, Lisa Jones Studio, Sanna Annukka, and Yoshitomo Nara, to name but a few!

If you're ever out and about in Oxford, do please pop in and say hello!

PS - if you ever want to collect any tea towels that we stock on directly from the shop, just give us a call on 0845 652 9274 and we'll make sure we put them to one side for you!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Introducing... Keep Calm Gallery

We're big fans of Lucas and Hayley (aka Keep Calm Gallery). Their bold typography and life-affirming idioms are both eye-catching and humorous, telling you to buck up your ideas (in the nicest possible way)! We caught up with them recently and asked them some probing questions about fonts, cats, and of course... tea towels!

Tell us a bit about Keep Calm Gallery; who are you both and what do you do?
Hello! We are Hayley Thwaites and Lucas Lepola, a soon-to-be husband and wife team living and working in a little house in South London. We started Keep Calm Gallery over three and a half years ago from our university halls, selling just three prints. We now produce and sell a large collection of prints, tea towels and cards from a fantastic group of artists and printmakers. It's just the two of us here, and together we do everything from packing orders to working on new product designs and everything in between!

You obviously share a love of typography. Can you remember what sparked your fondness for fonts (and do you both have a favourite font)?
We've always had a thing for prints, paintings and photographs and for as long as we can remember we've been collecting far too many of these things, more than we can possibly put on our walls! At some point we started collecting more prints with a heavy typographical influence and since then anything that has an interesting use of typography has really caught our eye. We couldn't possibly choose a favourite font between us! Many of the fonts we're most keen on we probably couldn't even identify, they are often spotted on anything from old packaging to disused shop signs.

We love the use of idioms in your work, especially ones from bygone eras; do you research old sayings or do you come across them by chance (we have visions of you pouring over wartime archives)?!
We do love a good idiom at Keep Calm Gallery! We come across these in all sorts of ways, whether it's from a line from a song, an old movie or just in conversation with friends, family and complete strangers. We're always listening out for something interesting!

We see from your website that you have two very cute looking cats! Who are they and do you have any other pets?
Our two beautiful cats are Maisy (a Maine Coon) and Alfie (a Russian Blue). They demand all of our attention and make enough mess on their own so at the moment they are our only pets. We would happily have an entire house full of cats if we could though! Maisy can usually be found sleeping across important papers on Hayley's desk attacking the printer every time it makes a noise and Alfie usually sits high up on a mountain of boxes surveying the messy office below! We love them to bits!

Does tea revive you (or are you secret coffee drinkers)?
I'm ashamed to say Hayley isn't much of a tea (or Coffee) drinker but I (Lucas) drink enough tea for the both of us!

As well as producing your own prints and products you work closely with other artists. How do you choose who to work with and do you have any favourite artists that always float your boat?
Over the past few years we have approached and been approached by some fantastic artists and printmakers. We don't have selection criteria as such, but I guess the first question we always ask ourselves is whether we would hang the artist's work on our own wall. It's important that the artist's work compliments the rest of the work on the site, whilst not being too similar to anything we've done before. Even though we are always thinking about whether we like the work personally, we've got to consider our customers at the same time, as they are quite a diverse bunch!

We are always finding new artists who we love and have to stop ourselves from buying work from all of them sometimes as we just don't have the room! We've got a few pieces from artists who are particular favourites, such as our large painting from Jen Garrido and some classic Banksy prints.

If you weren't doing what you do now, what would you both be and why?
(Hayley) - I studied Art History at university and have always had a passion for art of all forms. If I wasn't doing this I would hopefully be working somewhere like the National Gallery, curating exhibitions and happily studying paintings all day long.
(Lucas) - After a recent helicopter trip into the Grand Canyon I quite fancy myself as a helicopter pilot. Should we decide to try our hands at something new I will be heading straight to helicopter school to earn my wings!

Your motivational cards are great. What's the best piece of advice you've been given (and have you put it into practise)?
It's not the most profound piece of advice but we appreciate the importance of the phrase 'keep your chin up'. It's something we say to each other every now and then and it's a good reminder not to let things get you down.

If you could be transported back in time to a different period in history, when would it be and why?
(Hayley) - I would love to be transported back to the 1960s because I just love the popular culture of that time, everything from the fashion and amazing cars, to the fantastic music and classic films.
(Lucas) - I would like to go back to Jurassic times as I think that would make for a pretty interesting safari. I probably wouldn't stay for long though, I certainly wouldn't be around for lunch!

And finally, who does the washing up in your household (and do they dry the dishes with your tea towels)?
Luckily our trusty dishwasher does most of the washing up in our household but our tea towels do see action from time to time. We always have one of each of our own towels in rotation around the kitchen (far too many in fact!). We also have other favourites which we have acquired over time, such as our vintage 'be a deer and wash up' towel and a more recent Flight of the Conchords towel which we were excited to find on their recent tour.

If you want to find out more about Lucas and Hayley, or buy some of their amazing prints, why not check out their website:

Friday, 10 September 2010

Drop Scones Not Bombs!

We heart drop scones! We hate bombs! It's another winning tea towel from designer-extraordinaire, Stuart Gardiner.

Drop Scones is now available from here...

PS - It even comes with a mini recipe card, so you can have a go at making your own drop scones at home!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Introducing... Lush Designs!

Meet Marie and Maria, the two lovely ladies behind Lush Designs. We simply can't get enough of their highly unique and alluring illustrations; from carrots to beetroot and foxes to wild pigs, there's even a bush baby thrown in to boot! Lush Designs kindly answered a few of our interview questions (and it's honestly true about the nuns)...

Tell us a bit about yourself... Who are you both, what do you do, and when/how did you start working together?
We met at art college and have worked together ever since, even staggering the production of our four children for convenience. We worked in community arts, the theatre, agit prop performance art, went to pottery classes, had terrible hairstyles. We’re the Morcambe and Wise of applied art.

You have a diverse range of products, from lampshades and tea towels to pillowcases and mugs. Do you have a favourite type of product that you like to design for, and why?
Tea towels are great to design for as they are a vehicle for our whimsical notions.

We have to explain them to tourists! "They are useful for drying dishes and cutlery or your hands – but they are a traditional souvenir and are meant to be displayed.” They stare blankly and explain that in Korea/Japan/Arkansas everyone has dishwashers.

“It’s a tray cloth!” I suggest brightly. This is invariably followed by a successful sale transaction.

We also love to design lampshades. The subtle interplay of opacity and translucency, the glowing of colour makes them a wondrous delight and the fact that it’s a panorama which meets itself coming round makes it an ideal vehicle for a narrative idea. Am I taking this too seriously?

What’s a typical day like for Lush Designs? Do you both work on the same designs, or tackle different subjects individually?
We tackle different areas of the business...

Marie: Maria designs and manages our shop and I tackle the wholesale and online with a bit of designing thrown in. Maria does most of the designing and I am hugely annoying as I have so many opinions on the progress of a design, but I will always defer to Maria on colour as she is usually spot on.

Maria: Marie is very organised and can corral my rogue ideas into work lists which ultimately become products. She tolerates my fanciful enthusiasms and isn’t even slightly annoying. We have a running joke whereby I say, "Marie’s my best friend” and Marie says “But Maria isn’t MY best friend”. I AM her best friend by the way.

Your typographical designs are ace – if you had to choose to only use one font for the rest of your lives, what would it be?
Helvetica of course. But no need because Marie has beautiful handwriting which she learned from nuns.

Pigs, horses, foxes, monkeys and birds; your designs seem to feature a lot of animals! If you were both animals, what would you be?
Marie: Craig (my husband) says I’d be a big white cat and I think Maria would be a chimp as they can see the same colours as humans and they are noisy and curious intelligent and social.

Maria: Yes, Marie would definitely be a white cat. Me, a noisy chimp.

We love your little Loris illustration that you created for a collection of stories to be published by Beautiful Books. Can you tell us a little more about the project?

Entitled Just When, the anthology is inspired by Kipling’s Just So Stories. Tamara Gray has collected contributions from writers including Michael Morpurgo and Hanif Kureishi; profits from book sales go to WildAid and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.

Each story focuses on a different endangered species and the project is designed to draw attention to species that are driven to extinction by the actions of humans, in the hope that it will increase support for the agencies that campaign against the destruction of precious biodiversity.

Your shop in Greenwich Market looks like a wonderful treasure trove; how do you manage to tear yourself away and find time to work in the studio?
Maria: I use the shop as my studio. Its where I do a lot of my drawing. Meeting customers is a great way of stimulating ideas and has been the spawning ground for many a product. I put my drawings up on the wall behind the counter and visitors to the shop can see ideas in progress.

Marie: The studio is great as we are based at Cockpit Arts in Deptford and are surrounded by great designers. It’s a creative hotbed and the friendship and mutual support of fellow artists is amazing.

Do you listen to music whilst you design? If so, what kind of bands/artists do you like the most?
Marie: Sometimes I listen to Absolute 80s and will be enjoying the B-52s or Adam and the Ants but have to switch it off when Bryan Adams comes on. I listen to Radio 4 and today watched Celebrity Masterchef on BBC iPlayer.

Maria: I listen to all kinds of music from Rachel Unthank & The Winterset to N-Dubz. I’m going through a power ballad phase at the moment so I find myself with 'More Than a Feeling' turned up loud and on repeat when there’s no-one around to complain.

What books are you currently on your bedside tables and what are your favourite reads of all time?
Marie: Favourite book – Restoration by Rose Tremain and I've just read The Glass House. About to read The Good Soldier by David Finkel.

Maria: Just read Restless by William Boyd, and am reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. My favourite book is probably Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov or The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I also loved Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

And finally, who does the washing up in your households (and do they dry the dishes with your Lush Designs tea towels)?
Marie: My husband does the washing up as I do the cooking – we always use our tea towels apart from the ones of London Underground map.

Maria: My teenage son Billy and I do the washing up and we always use Lush Designs tea towels.

Fancy finding out a bit more about Marie and Maria? Check out their website and blog (which is incredibly funny and full of super interesting bits and bobs)!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Dinosaur Day Out!

It was a bit dinosaurtastic in our household over the weekend; we've been out and about in Oxford, taking photos of some fantastic new dinosaur tea towels that we've just added to!

Produced for an exhibition in LA called 'When Superstars Ruled The World', Jay Jay Burridge's new dinosaur towels are a must for any palaeontologists, tea drinkers, or carnivorous design-lovers out there...

The lovely people over at Oxford's Natural History Museum gave us permission to pose with the Tea Rex tea towel in front of their marvellous T-Rex, although they probably hadn't bargained on their lifelike dino taking a chomp out of my head.

Andy, our super friendly local butcher, was very patient with us whilst we carefully positioned the Dino Meat Chart tea towel in between briskets. Triceratops sirloin, anyone?

Jay Jay's dinosaur tea towels are priced at £9.95 and are available in three different colourways per design. Check them out here...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Introducing... Julia Pott

For this month’s blog interview we've spent some time with the delightful artist/illustrator, Julia Pott. Julia’s work, which graces everything from cards, canvas bags and fake (and real) tattoos to uber-cool music videos and heart-wrenching short films, is intriguing and captivating, never failing to provoke an emotional response. Julia's My First Crush animation had us swooning! We were over the moon when Julia agreed to work with us last year on Bake Me, the first tea towel in our ToDryFor range!

Tell us a bit about yourself... Who are you and what do you do?
Hello! I'm Julia Pott and I'm a freelance animator and illustrator.

Have you always wanted to work primarily in animation?
I think deep down it was definitely always the plan. I used to tell people when I was little that I wanted to be a cartoonist for Disney. Sure I was 5 years old and didn't really know what that meant but I said it none the less so it must mean something!

What was the first animated film/cartoon that you remember making you think ‘I want to do that’?
I think it really clicked when I was working on my second project at Kingston. It was just a small 'animatic' project where you had to design your own character and make it move in the context of a story. I think I was really tired that day and just messed around on the lightbox, thinking there was no way the animation was going to work..and it did! And it was so so satisfying to see it moving, I was hooked.

What fun projects are you currently involved with, and which has been your favourite project to date (if you can choose)?
I can't really talk about what I'm working on at the moment, but it's an exciting project! It's definitely hard to say which project was my favourite to work on so far. My First Crush was definitely a memorable experience as it was my first short film, my first real animation really, and I learnt so much from it. The Decemberists was also a rad project, I had so much freedom to create a 16 minute animation for such an amazing album. And I was flown out to LA at the end of it, which isn't bad at all!

We really love the fact that your work personifies animals. If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
Ha, um...I'd love to be a red panda or a fennec fox..because they're so soft and so cute. But I imagine if I actually WAS an animal, I'd probably be some kind cat. I tend to be a tiny bit closed off, like a cat who won't let you pick them up. I'm also very clumsy and from watching a lot of cats, they tend to be too!

Your work lends itself incredibly well to music videos. What kind of music do you listen to and who would be your favourite band/musician to work with?
Oh thank you! I'm a big music lover, I listen to a lot of Leonard Cohen, Of Montreal, CTFPA, Beach House, Radiohead, Hot Chip, Frightened Rabbit and when I'm feeling a little bit like I need some energy I put on the ridiculous hip hop music. I was actually really lucky and I got to work with one of my favourite bands a few years ago, Of Montreal, but only as an animator not a director, so I think I still hold a desire to make a video for them. Also Beach House would be great, or Metronomy.

New York v London? Coffee v Tea? M&Ms v Smarties? You get the idea... where do you feel more at home?
New York! Tea! M & M's! Ha I guess Tea is a bit of a wild card there. Iced Tea is quite American I suppose! I definitely feel more at home in New York, without a doubt. My mom is from new york and I have a lot of family over here and I really enjoy the way of life over here.

What book are you reading right now (and do you doodle in the margins)?
At the moment I'm reading Kafka's 'Metamorphosis and other stories'. I really love short stories, I draw a lot of inspiration from them about how to structure short films. I'm afraid I'm not a doodler, but I don't take very good care of my books, they always looks very disheveled!

What are your current obsessions? (Ours are car boot sales, wasabi peas and ginger beer...)
Good question! I'm hugely into Jamba Juice at the moment, it's a smoothie chain in the states that does this epically good smoothies that taste slightly like milkshakes. Just today I bought a 40 oz berry shake and dropped it as soon as I got on the was a very embarrassing disaster! I also just started playing tennis again and it's rad, I love it! And one of my new found obsessions is toast with cream cheese and jam on it, can't get enough! It makes it taste like cake!

And finally, who does the washing up in your household (and do they dry the dishes with your Bake Me tea towel)?
My mom always said that I was supposed to be born a boy because I am quite boy like in nature. I can't cook, and I avoid washing up like the plague! So I do do the washing up because I live alone, but more often than not the plates will have developed a pretty gnarly crust before I get to them. The Bake Me tea towel I have is still wrapped in plastic I'm afraid, I'm too precious about it to use it on my scummy dishes, ha!

If you fancy finding out a bit more about Julia, and to see more of her amazing animations, why not check out her website, blog and etsy shop?!!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Living etc - we're in Heaven...

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la...erm...huh hum... Sorry, we're so excited we actually thought it was Christmas for a split second there!

We squealed (yes, Dave as well - he has quite a girly scream) when we saw what our postman had brought to us this morning. We flipped through the pages of the recent issue of Living etc to reveal one of our ToDryFor artist-commissioned tea towels featured in a fantabulous double-page spread (on pages 26-27)!

© Living etc Magazine, as featured in the August 2010 issue

Beautifully framed by John Jones of London*, Rob Ryan's breathtaking Heaven design looks equally glamorous when it's drying the dishes!

Rob Ryan's Heaven tea towel is available from here...

* John Jones worked with Living etc to frame 9 tea towels which have been presented as works of art in their own right. The frame designs were kept simple and fresh. Rob Ryan’s Heaven design was chosen to activate the whole arrangement in a hand coloured, ornamental dark blue frame. John Jones have recreated the Living etc feature in their main exhibition space in London, which will be on view until the end of August.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Tea Tea Tea Teatopia!

If, like us, you like tea, then you really have to head on over to the fabulous Teatopia exhibition at Museums Sheffield (funnily enough, it's in Sheffield)...

The exhibition delights in everything to do with tea, exploring its links with countries and cultures throughout history, tea-drinking customs around the world and, best of all (we think), it encompasses tea-related paraphernalia. That can only mean one thing... you guessed it, tea towels!!

Image © Museums Sheffield

Museums Sheffield share our viewpoint that the humble tea towel is a great canvas for graphic design; they even commissioned an amazing, up-and-coming local artist, Geo Law, to create a new design specifically for the exhibition. With a little bit of help from us Geo's wonderful Bird Bath design has been transformed into a tea towel (see below)! Heck, I couldn't imagine anything better than a bath full of tea (well, maybe a bath full of gin)...

Image © Geo Law

Geo's Bird Bath tea towel is on sale in Museums Sheffield's shop, and is also available here via

Teatopia runs from 1st July - 24th October 2010. Why not make it a date and go for afternoon tea and cakes whilst you're there?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Finger on the PULSE...

Have you ever spent 7 days of your life gluing the equivalent of 1,600 washing up sponges to foam board, essentially creating a yellow brick wall? No? Well that's how Dave and I like to spend our bank holiday weekends.

We booked to attend Pulse (a super-hip design/gift trade show at Earls Court) at the very last minute, and only had a couple of weeks to come up with an idea for our stand. I suggested covering the back wall in rubber gloves, but Dave rightly pointed out that this would look really creepy! We decided on washing up sponges, bought them in bulk from a local supplier (after hours spent researching washing up sponge manufacturers - oh the glamour) and then, glue gun at the ready, proceeded to get hooked on the smell of adhesive. Et VoilĂ !

It was incredibly laborious to build, but we were pretty chuffed with it when it was finished (and it can always be re-used by local amateur dramatics groups for productions of The Wizard of Oz, should they need it)...

Whilst at the show, we came across so many lovely and talented people, including the ladies behind jewellery company Ridley & Dowse (I haven't taken off my new little cloud necklace since the exhibition - see above), Elsie Dodds (who makes the most amazing alphabet cushions in the world - see below), and also the ever wonderful Michelle Mason and Mary Fellows (thanks again, Mary, for letting us borrow your parcel tape)!

PS - thanks also to our lovely friend Davina (aka Miss Silver Whimsy) who gave us loads of help throughout the show and also put up with us waffling on about the flammability of sponges xxx

We've re-booked for next year so now have a little longer to come up with an equally ridiculous stand design! Any suggestions??!