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All At Sea / Stories

All at Sea is a premium lifestyle brand based in England. It is carefully curated, bringing together the best independent designers from around the world.

Designer Stories / Alice Gabb

Charlotte Squire


This month our featured designer is the lovely Alice Gabb. A self-taught modern calligrapher, she creates everything from beautiful handwritten signage to intricate wedding invitations and stationery. I have admired Alice and her work for a while so was keen to learn more about her and her work.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always been a designer? When did you start learning calligraphy?

I did a foundation degree at Wimbledon School of Art where I learnt what Graphic Arts were. I then went to do a degree at Bath School of Art in Visual Communication (Graphic design and illustration to you and me). I did a lot of work experience for any and all companies/designer makers that inspired me, anyone that would have me, from Lazy Oaf to Jessie Chorley, while I was at uni. As soon as I graduated, I applied to Broadway Market to have a stall to sell my hand printed stationery and within a year of graduating I had saved up enough to move to London and take up the stall offer, which I kept for 5 years. My work naturally seemed to lend itself to weddings and I taught myself modern calligraphy in early 2014. So yes, I have always been a designer.

What was the inspiration behind creating your business? How long has the business been running? 

I find it really hard to explain myself here, it may sound strange, but there was never any other option....I remember telling my tutors in a crit one day, 'the thing is, I just want to make nice things' and them nearly stabbing pencils up their nose in frustration. But I'm a simple creature and designing and making stationery, doing what I do now, is all I ever planned to do.

Where are you based? Do you run your business full time?

This story is probably not what you expect: To save up to move to London when I graduated, I accidentally became a Matron in a boarding school in Hampshire!!! I worked an obscene amount of hours and worked my way up the training now I'm really good at first aid haha. When I told them I was leaving for London they let me keep a lot of my hours, but squeezed them into a very busy 2 days a week to persuade me to stay on.  So for 5 years I commuted to Hampshire and slept in the boarding house and looked after the children for 2 nights a week!  But now I'm full time in my studio in Dalston in East London and savouring every second of it. I actually can't believe I used to do that, it was the most bizarre split life I led, you couldn't make up some of the stories I have, one day I shall write my memoirs!

Can you describe a typical day in your studio? I cycle to work through Hackney Downs, pick up Tetsuo the Italian Greyhound from opposite my studio (I look after him every day while his owner is at work) get to my studio for about 10am. I pack orders and reply to emails, and then I start designing whatever it is I should be designing. Sometimes I have meetings...sometimes I'll be on site making things look nice for weddings or signpainting. Every few Saturdays I teach a beginners workshop at Hatch in Homerton which I love doing. It's a pretty lovely working week! I normally work until 7pm but occasionally I may be working all night if I'm busy.

What does the future look like for you and your business? What are you working on at the moment?

Oh, this is a scary question! I'm soon to be launching a range of keepsake boxes with Kitty Farrow on Not on the High Street, but apart from that, I'm just busy designing and writing nicely for clients!

Why do you think it is important to shop independent?

Where do I start.... I truly believe that every pound we spend is a political vote, and that we should 'Be the change you wish to see in the world' (Ghandi). Support the little guys, it makes sense to me. I have a genuine fear that we are getting closer and closer to living hovering chairs in that spaceship in Wall E, so I try to spend my money on supporting the weird and wonderful. I want a world full of skilled craftspeople who serve their local customers, not air conditioned shopping malls full of bored salespeople selling things made by machines that are actually designed to break after the warranty runs out. That may sound ridiculously idealistic, (my father literally sighs when we talk about the future of our society because he thinks my head is in the clouds) but I wont be told otherwise; support independent. Yes, it may be more expensive, but the 'true cost' is lower than that of all the mass produced tat we are pedalled. That's my two cents on the matter!

Have you got any advice for aspiring designers who have an idea for a business but have no idea where to start?

Oh god...I don't feel qualified to give advice! Are you ready to work all the hours of the day and have no money for a while? Because the beginning is not glamorous. It's very easy to look at instagram and think, 'I'm handing in my notice tomorrow!' but the reality can be lonely and relentless. I knew what I was getting into and I have never looked back, but how many of my illustration course are full time creatives making a living out of their art? Out of 30 ish, I think it's less than a handful...

If Alice's work has inspired you to have a go yourself you can find details about her upcoming workshops here. We also stock Alice's calligraphy starter kit and inks in our shopWhy not give it a try?

Designer Stories / Sarah Kelk

Charlotte Squire


Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Kelk - an abstract painter and co-owner of the Australian homeware brand Hello Polly. I first came across Sarah's work through stylist Aimee Tarulli and instantly fell in love with the beauty of her pieces. I was intrigued to learn more about her and her work and how she has turned her passion into a business.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I grew up in Invercargill, a small town in the South Island of New Zealand. While we lived in town, we would spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ farm a short drive away. Along with our cousins, we would spend hours working on the farm, collecting things, building forts and generally being free to roam. As kids, we were often out exploring, fishing, swimming or skiing – we spent a lot of time in nature. I still feel very connected to New Zealand, particularly the landscape, even though I haven’t lived there for well over a decade.

Have you always been an artist?

I’ve always loved painting and have painted since I was young. My parents have a pretty big collection of my work from kinder days through until now (some of it more cringe worthy than others). I knew I wanted to study and work in a creative field, and after school, at the ripe old age of 17, moved away from home to study both Design and Art History at University. 

After studying, it started by someone giving a fresh out of Uni, driven and enthusiastic girl a chance, and I was lucky enough to get work in various gallery and design spaces, as well as some time spent working as an Interior Designer. From there, I’ve put my head down and worked incredibly hard in every role I’ve worked in since.

In 2002, my partner and I decided to travel the world, and after 2 years, ran out of money in Edinburgh, which was, in hindsight, a great place to run out of money in. We ended up living there for the next 7 years and have such fond memories of our time there.

Whilst in Edinburgh, I was fortunate enough to take up the role of running a gallery space, dealing with talented artists and designers. It solidified the fact that I really wanted to work with and alongside creative people, as well as showing me that I enjoyed working for myself. I knew from them on, that I wanted to stay working in the creative industry.

When we decided to move to Melbourne in early 2011, I was still passionate about continuing a creative business, so decided to start the online store Hello Polly. Being online made things a lot easier with a young family and after 7 years running a physical space (in Edinburgh) it was a nice change to be predominantly online. Not long after we started, my sister Helen joined the team, and we often talked about creating our own homewares brand within Hello Polly. It wasn't until I began painting again and Helen dived further into the textile industry that our initial Hello Polly Home collection starting coming together. Since then they have worked together on every element along the way.

As far as the painting side goes, I started selling paintings whilst I was studying at University, although once I started travelling, running a business and having a family, painting naturally took a bit of a back seat. I was itching to spend more time with a brush in hand and used painting as a starting point for our Hello Polly Home range. I loved painting again, and with some amazing support from Melbourne’s creative community, I haven't stopped since.

What inspired you to start your business? Do you run your business full time?

I have a huge passion for independent design and love being able to not only support Independent designers, but being able to share their product with design loving customers too! 

Yes, running both businesses (Hello Polly and my own painting practice) is more than a full time job! The saying “the busier you are the more you get done”, definitely applies to me, and I often work really well if I have a deadline. I’m also a firm believer of the do it now policy, I use it everyday and thank my sister for sharing this great bit of wisdom with me.

Where are you based? Can you describe a typical day in your studio?

I’m based in the Inner North of the wonderful city that is Melbourne, Australia. I’m really lucky to have my studio above our garage, which just a hop, skip and jump across the yard from our house. I love working in an upstairs space, as it has loads of natural light and even though it’s so close to our house, the space feels completely separate. Ill usually get in the mood for a painting session by making a big plunger of coffee, which I'll drink even when its cold (yeah, I know, but I really don’t mind it like that). Ill pop on either the radio or a podcast so that I have some background noise, but nothing that completely distracts me. I try really hard to give myself an internet ban when I painting, but sometimes the power of instagram is just too much, and I’ll take a quick inspiration break. I love when I get in a long stretch of painting, but the reality of living with young kids and running another business means lots of multi tasking! When I do get time to be ’in the zone’, hours can literally fly by and before I know it, its school pick up time! 

What does the future look like for you and your business? What are you working on at the moment?

More of the same to be honest, as I really enjoy what I do! Other than that, I have a few, really fun, collaborations in the pipeline (all secret squirrel at this stage, I’m afraid)

Why do you think it is important to shop independent?

It’s so satisfying connecting directly with designers and makers or anyone for that matter who runs an independent business. It adds so much more meaning to shop this way, whether it be grabbing a morning coffee from your local café, some fruit from your green grocer, or a painting from an upcoming artist. Every purchase helps create a strong sense of community, which I think is really important.

Have you got any advice for aspiring designers/artists who have an idea for a business but have no idea where to start?

Start with putting together a strong business plan. Make sure you chat to lots of people about your ideas as you go and in the end, don’t forget to trust your gut instincts.

You can grab your own Sarah Kelk print here.