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A day in the Life - Monica Gabb Twenty Birds

My day has to start with a large cup of Yorkshire tea, strong with milk. The ratio of milk to tea is important and specific to each individual, I believe more so in the first cup of the day than any that follows. I appreciate this drink the most and put it in direct competition with the first G&T of the weekend. Many people have their favourite mug. My designs are placed on my personal optimum mug – Fine bone china for the pleasing high-pitched 'ting' when stirring, the perfect density for drinking out of - not to chunky - you have to open your mouth so wide to drink it and tea spills out the sides - and not too dainty - you are worried it will break when you place it down on any surface. That first cup of the day I enjoy while looking out at the garden before I am fully awake. This is my constant and important in my daily routine, the rest is interchangeable.


I teach design at a sixth form college 3 days a week. I am able to work my own business around this. It is a complementary balance that does get tipped from time to time. Teaching demands fluctuate as do sales seasons and on occasions they clash. This can feel overwhelming but does make me appreciate the times where everything fits. I can even collaborate the two at times, sharing new business skills and events with students. The formality and structure of the academic timetable enables me to be more productive with the time I have around it and the tasks I need to complete change from week to week.

Monica Gabb Twenty Birds sewing bird with bird mug on the table

Once I have done the school run I head to the studio. It is a room within the Ripon Workhouse museum where I work alone for the day. My studio used to be a dormitory and is hidden away from the public via an original staircase for the residents of the workhouse. There is a wonderful atmosphere in the room and it is filled with natural light and I love the silence. I use the studio for producing, storing and packing my products.

Monica Gabb sewing a bird

Each Twenty Birds product is carefully researched and sourced in the UK, no two formats are printed or produced by one company. I have taken time to find specialist printers for each product to best suit the item. The mugs are made and printed in Stoke on Trent – famously specialising in the production of pottery. I send my designs to them and they do the rest. In contrast, for the production of my hanging birds, I send my work to be digitally printed onto a variety of fabrics in Derbyshire. I cut, machine sew, stuff and hand finish all of the hanging birds between the studio and home. A day at the studio is mixed with sewing birds, screen printing, planning for exhibitions and fairs and packing up orders.

Notice board of Monica Gabb Twenty Birds designs and mock ups

I usually do the designing from home; I have a small office room with my mac and a small selection of stock. I have a notebook on my desk full of lists and messy drawings where I document and ideas that spring up a varying times. I then work up my designs digitally using Adobe Illustrator. I really enjoy the separation of digital work at home allowing the studio work to be predominantly hand generated.

Monica Gabb holding hand made hanging bird


I'd say my style is geographic, bold colours, abstract yet recognisable representations of birds. Prior to this collection I have enjoyed working with a variety of subjects but since my first design for Twenty Birds, I have enjoyed expanding and designing more products so much, that it just keeps growing.

 Monica Gabb