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3 Jun 2020

Meet the Makers: Allistair Burt from Hole in my Pocket

A man sits at his desk, holding a pen and working on an illustrated book. A fully packed bookshelf is in the background.
Allistair Burt from Hole in my Pocket, at work in his Glasgow studio
The Trust is proud to support talented makers and craftspeople from across Scotland, by selling their products in our physical and online shops. Meet Allistair Burt, founder of Glasgow-based Hole in my Pocket.

My name is Allistair Burt and I’m an artist, designer and illustrator based in the Southside of Glasgow, beside Queens Park which is a really bustling and creative hub in the city.

My studio is called Hole in my Pocket and we design and produce greetings cards, mugs and other products for the high-end contemporary gift market. I’m delighted to sell my work online and in independent stores, galleries and museums around the world and throughout Scotland. We also produce bespoke work for clients and are lucky to work with some brilliant customers, like the National Trust for Scotland, the V&A and Fenwick.

I first started working under the banner of Hole in my Pocket (HIMP) on art and film projects in 2002, but I didn’t make my first product for retail until late 2012. HIMP originally started as a vehicle to keep my creative eye in, after graduating from architecture school and first entering practice. As a lowly junior I wasn’t always involved in the design work, so I started entering design competitions in my free time and won the first few that I entered. I then used the prize money to put on exhibitions and other fun projects around Scotland, including hiding money in library books and posting jigsaw pieces to random strangers around the world.

I was commissioned to produce an exhibition for the Glasgow International Art Festival in 2010 and during the run of the show added some prints of the work. These sold well and when I went to get a second batch, the printer suggested I added some greetings cards too. A couple of shops spotted these and I was signed to a few stores. About a year or so later, I designed my first actual birthday cards and launched them at a trade show. At the same time, I also created the Scottish-themed range Eat Haggis, which celebrates everything great about Scotland through humour and design. This collection has proved hugely popular both at home and abroad.

These ranges continued to do well and in late 2016 I hung up my architect’s hat and started working in HIMP full time.

We try to source products from companies close to us and only work with companies with strong ethical policies. For example, all our cards are produced using FSC-approved card stock and our envelopes are 100% recycled. Recently we introduced card stickers that hold the envelope in place and remove the need for cellophane wrapping, to try and reduce our footprint even more.

A view across the rooftops and trees of south Glasgow on a sunny day. Hills can be seen in the distance.
A view from Hole in my Pocket’s studio window

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?

My favourite thing is that I have the freedom to choose work I enjoy and of which I can be proud. I think when you get that combo, then your joy will shine through what you make and people will buy into that enthusiasm.

What’s the proudest moment of your business career?

Some of the proudest moments are when I see my work out in the real world. I always get a kick out of seeing my designs on the shelves of a brilliant wee design store or in a museum or gallery that I love, but the best times have been when I’ve stumbled across someone in the street.

Recently a collection I created for the Trust for the Hill House was shortlisted for a major award, and that was very exciting. We were up against the Mr Men and Help for Heroes, and even though we eventually lost to the Heroes I was very proud to have made such a prestigious shortlist.

What is your favourite Trust place and where would you like to visit when we can open our places again?

I have a huge soft spot for Pollok House. It’s the closest property to me and sitting out on the grass by the river on a sunny day with some tasty food from the café is hard to beat.

I’ve been fortunate to get a good look around many of the properties recently while developing some new products and I really enjoyed my day in Culross. I can’t wait to get back to Culzean for a proper tour – it was shut for winter the day I walked the grounds, though I did get into the second-hand book shop which was brill.

How did you start working with the Trust?

I had been chatting with the Trust off and on at various events for a few years, but we didn’t start our first project together until 2018 when they started planning for the Hill House collection. The project fitted my skill set perfectly and, using both my architect hat and my illustrator hat, we produced a full collection of illustrations of the building elevation as originally built and what it was going to look like once the Box was in place.

After the success of that first project, we have also worked on a collection for Brodick Castle and for the Burns properties. We’re now developing new ranges for the East, so be on the lookout for those launching once the world returns to some sense of normality.

Explore the Trust’s Hole in my Pocket ranges

A close-up of an illustrated print of an elevation of the Hill House. Text underneath reads The Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
An illustration from the Hill House range

What do you love about Scotland? #fortheloveofscotland

I love what a strong tradition we have of creativity. It hasn’t always been properly celebrated or recognised, too often being belittled or ‘tartanised’, but I think that meekness is being shaken off by new and talented makers and artists.

I would love to see the phrase ‘Scottish Design’ have more of the connotations that the terms Scandanavian or Nordic design have – good, high-quality design, well-made with heart and story behind it, which is certainly what we try to do in the studio.

What’s your favourite product that you supply to the Trust and what was the inspiration behind creating it?

I’m really proud of all the products we’ve worked on together and as a full collection, I think the Hill House range really stands out, but I do have a soft spot for the Dodo range for Brodick Castle.

The tales from the castle and of the old owner and his odd collections were a lot of fun to play with. In the end, we decided to focus on one of his prize possessions: a crystal and silver dodo decanter. We created a fun little character which really took on a personality of its own, and I ended up creating an additional 10 illustrations that now guide you on a tour of the house, giving you things to look for on your route to the dodo.

A cartoon-style illustration of a dodo in a stylised woodland setting. Text underneath reads Brodick Castle.
A fun illustration of the dodo at Brodick Castle

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