In our latest Meet the Maker Q&A we have been catching up with Angel and Tom, the pair behind the enchanting brand Lást Maps. Having joined us recently at our 2022 Country Living Christmas Fair in Harrogate, and winning our Editor’s Choice Award, we decided it was time to discover a little bit more about their company and the fabulous ethos of slow living, adventure and traditional artwork they embody.
Lást Maps is a petit design studio that’s made up of a small team of two (Angel & Tom). The studio specialises in heritage style ink work – a timeless design style that we use across cartography, illustration and design. We run the Lást shop too – which sells artwork and apparel, which we were lucky enough to share at the Country Living Fair.
How did it all start?
Our story began in the snowy mountains of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. We’d just finished hiking the iconic Routeburn Track, and one evening cosied up next to a roaring fire we sketched up the adventure in the form of an illustrated map. Other hikers were soon asking for copies, and our brand took flight from there. This organic moment was the key that unlocked the application of our creative talents in the business world. It was unexpected, but in hindsight was a long time coming. From there, the brand grew steadily to what it is today: a small studio that specialises in heritage style ink work, which takes the form of maps, illustration and branding.
The story behind the name…
Lást is an Old English word that encompasses the notion of a ‘footprint’ or ‘track’ – it essentially means ‘to go journey’. We wanted a name that captured the magic of times gone by, and the meaning behind the word resonated so firmly with us. Our brand is for the wanderers and the explorers in each of us, and the name we fly on the flag had to capture this. As a side note, it also makes sense when read as ‘last’ in the modern world – we celebrate a slower approach to design and life, and last sings to this.
Where are you based?
We’re based in York now, the historic heart of North Yorkshire. We’re originally from down near the South Coast but visited York four or five years ago and immediately fell in love with it. There’s some of the countries most breath-taking national parks just an hour or so away along with a really exciting rising creative scene.
What inspires you?
We could ramble for hours here, so we’ll keep it concise. Most of our biggest inspirations come from the natural world, whether from moments spent hiking or perhaps even just sitting in the garden watching the storm clouds build. There’s so much to fill the inspiration tank up with day to day. Where possible we spend time each year scuba diving too – lots of our current work is ocean inspired, so it’s important to get below the surface where we can. Aside from this, our style inspiration comes from lots of work from last century – particularly scientific illustrations and brand identities from the times before cameras were invented.
What is your creation process?
Our process always begins with introducing ourselves to the topics we’ll be working with. Whether researching an animal, or hanging out with a brand, it all starts with a form of conversation. From there, it’s all about sketching – so we’ll grab ourselves a coffee and lay down some pencil work. These will get refined before the pen scrapes the paper and the ink flows. We like to create the right atmosphere throughout the creative journey, so our studio is tailored to the process with work on the wall that inspires us, along with a fine-tuned working space that keeps the engines running smoothly.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
It’s a combination of different approaches that makes our brand unique. The style of our work is of course our unique fingerprint, but it’s the application if this style across such varied projects that makes us different. You can always tell it’s design work by our hands, but it takes the form of everything from maps to logo marks. We have a slower approach our clients seem to really value in the journey too, good things take time and we like to sit you at the drawing board wherever possible.
What is your next project?
We’re about to embark on our third edition of a map of the River Test. Our first big project as a studio was of this river, and we’ve revisited in a second edition since, and have just been approached to do a third and final version. It’s our most ambitious cartography project yet, and will tell the story of this famous chalk stream from source to sea. They’ll only be 100 copies available, and it’ll mark the end of a real love affair. We’re working on some really exciting label designs for some vineyards near Milan too, which we can’t wait to tell you more about. Aside from this we’re whipping up some classic designs too for some ocean charities too, which we love.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
The next twelve months is all about developing our visual story telling tool box even further. We’ve just started to collaborate with a company called XR Stories – where we’ll be pushing the boundaries of interactive story-telling in the form of immersive maps. It’s a research project that will push our skill set to the max, breaking the boundaries of what we think we can achieve with illustrated maps – it’s all down to utilising the amazing immersive technologies available. Our shop is growing more and more too – so this year will present exciting new challenges and collaborations for this side of our business.
What is your biggest achievement?
We tend to treat every design project with the same fresh perspective, so each feels like our biggest achievement when the client falls in love with what we produce. It feels like we’re dodging the question but we sincerely feel the same achievement each time. We love to celebrate the small victories each week too – perhaps it’s learning something new, improving our technique, or selling a new product. One particular thing we will say though is that winning the Country Living Editor’s Choice award this year was a big deal – we were over the moon.
What is your best-selling product?
Our best-selling product line is our botanical series – this includes three different artworks that act as identification artworks for fungi, plants you can forage and trees you’ll see on your adventures. Our Lake District map has always been popular, but we were surprised how quickly these botanical artworks established themselves as our front runners. We’re about to launch a garden birds artwork that we think could be a new challenger to the ‘best seller’ title.
Your experience of your first Country Living Fair?
Our first year was a roller coaster, from designing the space we were exhibiting in to deciding what artwork to showcase, we learned so much and loved every minute. So many other makers were there to lend their experience, and the whole thing was expertly choreographed by the Country Living Fairs team – we felt looked after every step of the way. We’re really excited to return again later this year – and can’t wait to dive deeper into the stall design.
What do you love about Country Living Fairs?
This year was our first, and we fell in love with the fair for lots of reasons. It was an enriching experience getting to meet so many lovey people who wanted to learn about the brand and bring some of our artwork home, it was such a fulfilling experience. Country Living have created such a unique event, that attracted such a high standard of crafters and makers, so we left feeling super inspired and with new friends in the industry. We truly can’t wait for the next one.
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
When it comes to exhibiting at the fair the most important thing to consider is the story you want to tell in your stall. You have this wonderful opportunity to take a blank canvas and sing your song to victors, here’s three things we found were essential:
- Don’t overcrowd too much, let your products breath and leave space for visitors to interact with them
- Lighting is really crucial, so consider how you can use different formats to set the right vibe. We used lots of lanterns and some fairy lights to create a warm welcome
- Although we didn’t this year, painting the walls is great tool in the toolbox to bring your brand to life
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
Such a great question and one that could explore so many directions. The most important advice we like to share is to just start. To begin. It can be so daunting when you look at the journey ahead, with so many ways of doing things and people offering different advice. The most useful thing you can do is just take that first step though, and to take your time. Build slow and steady and don’t hesitate to ask other brands for help – we learned so much by hanging out with the people that inspire us. People are so happy to offer a helping hand – there’s room for everyone at the creative table and really exciting things happen when you collaborate like this. Before you know it, years have gone by and you’ve refined your process and built your client list. That all starts with that next step, so jump in.