designer spotlight – thornback & peel at SMUG

:: by Lizzie


Thornback & Peel is a design studio, based in Bloomsbury London, founded by Juliet Thornback and Delia Peel. I’ve been a fan of their beautiful screen-printed wares for some time and am pretty sure that SMUG has stocked their tea towels ever since we opened our doors back in 2009.


The best thing that’s come out of working with Delia and Juliet, is undoubtably the Guinea Pig and Pineapple exclusives collection we’ve developed together for SMUG. Thornback & Peel are a joy to work with and I’ve loved getting to know them and their team over the years. Our Guinea Pig logo which Thornback & Peel redrew for the collaboration, appears on tea towels, aprons, oven gloves, napkins and hankies. The addition of the Pineapple design which ultimately inspired the Guinea and Pineapple combo pattern has been a huge success and is a firm favourite with SMUG customers. You can see the full collection here.


Our big news for Spring is that the Guinea Pig and Pineapple combo Tea Towel and Apron are now both available in the new Mint and Pale Blue colour-way, pictured below. To learn more about what makes Juliet and Delia tick, as well as a bit about their backgrounds and inspirations, then read on for a mini interview as part of my designer spotlight series.









Tell us a bit about each of your backgrounds and how you came to be doing what you’re doing now.

Thornback & Peel was created after we were introduced by a very clever friend who sensed that we shared a fascination for the eccentric and surreal. I (Delia Peel) was working as a set designer at the Royal Court and Juliet (Thornback) as a florist, but at the time we met we were both looking to create a business by making something ourselves. I lived around the corner from Covent garden flower market where we would meet at the crack of dawn for a sausage sandwich and a cup of very strong tea to plan our collections. The business began in that café and on our kitchen tables. Eventually we graduated to a tiny studio space in Deptford with a desk as our print table and a few years later into the studio we’re in now in Bloomsbury.


What are you most inspired by and which key elements of the Thornback and Peel studio most resonate with your personally?

Our studio is a happily buzzing workspace. The office, designing, printing and packing all happen in the same place. The print table dominates with a bank of computers for all the behind the scenes work. We print our handkerchiefs on site, so you’ll typically see tins of sardines being carefully screen-printed and laid out side by side, while the new design ideas cover the walls – hand-drawn ideas, inspiration and colour tests all go up side by side. Organised chaos.

We like to draw on British humour in our designs – looking back to literary references often from the stories we loved as children and still tell our own children today. We like to update classic ideas and by playing with colour, form and scale produce prints with a little charm from the past. With sources of inspiration including Mrs Beeton’s household management, 17th Century microscope imagery of the natural world to Alice in Wonderland.


If you each had to choose one SMUG product to have what would it be?

Peel: I adore the Thornback & Peel X SMUG collection, working with Lizzie is really fun. The guinea pig and pineapple combo is one of my all time favourite designs, but I already have it at home! So it would be the Bonne Maison Fruits socks.

Thornback: Alex Munroe’s Lobster necklace (we love these curious sea creatures – they have been in our collection in one way or another since we began 10 years ago. We have woven them into an all over print in this Spring’s collection.)



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