An Enchanting Story: The Making of The Nutcracker Card

December 4, 2014

Christmas is an enchanting time here at Smythson, where adults feel like children again at the sight of the Nile Blue boxes that arrive under the Smythson tree at our New Bond Street flagship. Always one for celebrating the whimsical, this year we stepped behind the scenes of our latest paper creation – a theatrical card rendition of one of Christmas’s most enchanting tales, The Nutcracker.

‘On an enchanted Christmas Eve, under the heavy boughs of the candlelit tree, Clara battles with the Mouse King and falls in love with a handsome stranger. As the air grows colder and snowflakes begin to fall, Clara and her valiant Nutcracker take a hot air balloon ride across the frost-dusted London skyline to the glistening Land of Snow where her adventure really begins.’ In a world of Edwardian elegance, The Nutcracker is recreated in Smythson form; each quirky character brought to life in our make-your-own theatrical Christmas card.

We stepped behind the scenes to discover the magic behind the craft with our stationery designer.

The Smythson Nutcracker Card

The Smythson Nutcracker Card

What was the inspiration for the card?

I have always been fascinated by the traditional paper and wooden miniature children’s theatres, and Christmas seemed the perfect occasion to design an extra special greeting card, especially as many of us take the theatre trip over the holidays!

Research

Research

How did it all start?

Research, research, research! Traditional paper, miniature children’s theatres, the stage facade – you name it! The Nutcracker Ballet was a natural choice – a traditional Christmas story that many of us will see over the Christmas period (not to mention I wanted to draw the sugar plum fairy). I then delved into ballet company archives to find inspiration for the scenes, characters and costumes.

The initial sketches

The initial sketches

What happened next?

After the initial sketches, I began the actual artwork for the backdrops and the characters. The technical design for the paper construction required several mock ups to get right. I chose to portray the opening party scene in Clara’s beautiful home, where a giant Christmas tree takes centre stage surrounded by presents. For the change of scenery, I chose the land of sweets – the perfect scene for the sugar plum fairy to make her grand entrance.

Cutting out the characters

Cutting out the characters

Did you come across any challenges when designing the card?

The most challenging part was ensuring the pop up card could fold flat and slip inside an envelope, with all the changes of scenery too. I wanted to ensure people would be able to post it to family and friends.

How did you select the colours of the card?

I decided quite early on that the colour palette would be soft shades as I wanted the overall look to be feminine and quite subtle.

Colour matching

Colour matching

Finally, how did you bring the characters to life?

Firstly I created Clara, the little girl who dreams of the nutcracker coming to life. The nutcracker, a toy given to Clara on Christmas Eve by her Godfather and the King Mouse with whom Clara and the nutcracker have a battle were also an evident choice. Finally, I was most excited about illustrating the sugar plum fairy, who dances to the iconic sugar plum fairy tune that we all know and love. Inspiration for the characters’ costumes came from many different productions of the ballet, while the style of the characters was inspired by folk art to add an authentic touch.

Discover the card here

The English National Ballet Nutcracker performance (as quoted)

The Festive World Of Smythson: The Art Behind The Craft

November 12, 2014

Since our establishment in 1887, Smythson’s Nile Blue packaging has been a connotation of the festive season world over. From the original Christmas cards created for the Maharajas of India to today’s whimsical designs inspired by our rich archive, gifting has been a synonymous message with Smythson from the outset.

To celebrate the holiday season in true Smythson style, we collaborated with young British artist Billie Achilleos for a second time, to bring the festive world of Smythson to life (literally)! Commissioned for the New Bond Street flagship, a gargantuan globe made from our Nile Blue card and iconic Panama books celebrates a craft of creating the truly unique this Christmas. Billie’s unswerving attention to detail and uncompromised expertise has truly taken on a new form, and we couldn’t help but visit her studio to delve into the design process.

The Festive World Of Smythson

The Festive World Of Smythson

Smythson: Where did the inspiration come from for the globe?

Billie Achilleos: I think it may have been sparked by the Smythson globe stamp used on the first page in each Panama notebook. I like to try and create objects which relate to the brand’s heritage, and Smythson’s handcrafted festive gifts are coveted world over.

Getting inspired

Getting inspired

S: How many people have been working on the project?

BA: Because I work completely by hand, a lot of people (and scalpels!) were needed to help create the main globe in the New Bond Street flagship as well as the smaller ones that have been unveiled in the other Smythson boutiques. In total there were 10 of us working on the globes, over a period of 3 weeks!

Crafting the globe

Crafting the globe

S: Are you able to take us through the design process?

BA: The first stage was working out how the longitude and latitude were most commonly represented on globes, and understanding how to make a flat pattern from that. Then we made a small mock up of the globe in paper so we could envision how it would look. At the same time we applied scale replicas of the books to another small globe to distinguish how many books we would need and where to place them.

For the smaller globes with the hand cut leather countries we took a pattern from an existing globe and enlarged it to fit the various sizes we created.

Bare essentials

Tools of the trade

Discovering the world

The initial stages

S: How long does it take to make each individual mini globe?

BA: The tiny 20cm diameter globes took about 3 1/2 days to make from start to finish.

The Nile Blue skeleton

The Nile Blue skeleton

The mini globes take shape

The mini globes take shape

S: What materials have you used?

BA: The ocean and longitude and latitude lines have been created in Smythson’s signature Nile Blue card. The leather on the small globes is the same cross-grain calf leather that Frank Smythson used in 1908 on the iconic Panama diary.

Carefully cutting the leather

Carefully cutting the leather

S: Why did you choose to work with Smythson for a second time?

BA: For someone like myself that loves working with product so much, it’s great to work with their paper and leather in such a fun way. The creative team at Smythson are very enthusiastic and encouraging with each idea, and make it so easy to make these unusual projects happen.  It was fascinating to visit the workshop where Smythson’s diaries and notebooks are made, and there’s not many brands that can say they still manufacture their products right here in England. It’s a truly British brand with a rich and fascinating history!

Crafting the countries from Panama notebooks

Crafting the countries from Panama notebooks

Crafting the giant globe

Crafting the giant globe

The 1887: A Sophisticated Illusion

October 21, 2014

Seeing isn’t always believing.

An entire picture can transform with a simple change of perspective. When optical illusions were invented, people didn’t know if their eyes were playing tricks on them or if they were playing tricks on their eyes.

The 1887 returns for Autumn Winter in an array of bold new colours, although its composition is as enigmatic as ever. Inspired by the illusions of shadow, light and depth adopted by architects, its unique contours retain the same nature, taking inspiration from the world’s most breathtaking and awe-inspiring structures and designs.

The 1887 in Cognac

The 1887 in Cognac

Calatrava's Gara Do Oriente

Calatrava’s Gara Do Oriente

GARA DO ORIENTE

Neofuturistic. Geometric. Architect Santiago Calatrava has a habit of making the ordinary extraordinary. Gara Do Oriente may sound like the name of a grandiose shopping centre or cultural design centre, but this majestic structure is essentially a train shelter, nestled in the heart of Lisbon. Calatrava works with lines and curves to create an continuing focal point, drawing the eyes in to its magnificent presence through the use of recurring apparitons.

The 1887 in Black

The 1887 in Black

Inspired by the juxtaposition of the straight and curved, The 1887’s structure creates a wonderful illusion of both texture and shape. Expression of simplicity is paired with certain longevity, with each of its 97 pieces merging together fluently as if they were one, much like Calatrava’s arresting design.

Gehry's Guggenheim

Gehry’s Guggenheim

BILBAO GUGGENHEIM

Frank Gehry’s sculpted Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is an architectural landmark of ‘audacious configuration and innovative design’. The building itself weaves effortlessly from base to peak, catching the eye with its silver-like surfaces that seize the light brilliantly.

The 1887's Winged Construction

The 1887′s Winged Construction

 

The 1887’s build is pioneering in design and scrupulous in production. Each bag takes over 96 hours to craft by a single artisan, creating a symphony of curves and lines that fit perfectly against the body, adding the finishing touch to its impeccably sculpted contours. From some angles it appears to bend with the light, from others, the wings appear linear – a superbly sophisticated illusion for even the most discerning.

Discover the 1887 on Smythson.com