It’s no secret that we’re cat lovers. But Kiki notwithstanding, we couldn’t pass up a trip to the home of the hand-drawn monocle cat – Rory Dobner’s studio in leafy Hampstead. But before we go into Rory’s style and what he’s been up to, we wanted to know a bit more about his journey and what has inspired him into creating his designs and building his business.
Rory started by doing sketches while on the move. This could be on buses, trains or on farther travels – but he always saw something extraordinary in the everyday. From studying people’s facial expressions and demeanour – to just seeing interesting shapes in the most unlikely of places. Rory’s initial designs were cards and sketches that he gave to friends and family as presents – and from here, he’s created something wonderful.
Rory’s first foray into business was actually a stall at Primrose Hill market, where he began to sell his sketches. Creating a simple stall by draping some dramatic velvet fabric was a sure shot way to stand out.
The designs really took off and with peoples interests peeked Rory became desk bound and took time to expand the repertoire of his designs. While there was no particular subjects for his designs – no family cat running around to take inspiration from – Rory actually was inspired to create his famous cat drawing watching a James Bond film, while recovering from an injury. He wanted to convey a sense of mischief in the face of the cat, like he’s just heard his Master’s latest crackpot plan to take over the world…
Rory’s recognisable smoking fish design was inspired by seeing the same old man puffing away outside of an office every day. The man appeared to be trapped in his routine which Rory conveyed by illustrating him as a fish. Take note of his drooping fins – this was to create a sense of ‘giving up’ while having a bit of a rebellious streak with the cigarette. After all, fact fans, you can’t smoke underwater.
Rory now takes on personal commissions for portraits. He likes to get the essence of the person ensuring their personality shines through. From Russian oligarchs to powerful Sheiks, Dobner never shirks away from a challenge. What takes even more courage is to accept commissions of pets.
And he’s been lucky to travel all over the world – including Japan where a four-story vinyl of the iconic cat was placed on the side of the building. Rory also, as a joke, put cushion covers over the manikins and then this was rolled out in stores all over Asia – a real testament to his creative flair!
A little closer to home, Rory was commissioned by Fortnum & Mason to capture the essence of the iconic building and what it stands for. The Beautiful Buildings collection comprises of a vast set of China, ranging from a Tea for One set, to ornately designed trays. The collection is in a striking black & white colourway, with some pieces featuring gold leaf for an extra special little touch.
So what’s next?
Well, kids of both the big and small variety are in for a treat as Rory debut’s his first illustrated book, The Ink House. Set in a somewhat-fictional-but-kinda-real place in Hampstead Heath, the book takes you on a journey through a magical house built over an ink well – and the eccentric mix of guests it attracts. Stay tuned for more updates on the book (we promise it’s really good) as it’ll be coming out in October – just in time to be the perfect stocking filler!
We for one can’t wait to read it! It’ll be the purr-fect way to spend a lazy afternoon.
David & Mark x