Bert & Buoy – the contemporary nautical brand – is the creation of British designer and illustrator Bert Fowler.
Despite his current life besides the seaside in South Devon, and love for all things nautical, Bert actually grew up in the Midlands, completely landlocked. Surrounded by the wilds of nature, Bert and his two siblings enjoyed a childhood in the countryside – climbing hills, fishing in rivers and running around from dawn until dusk. This created the perfect conditions to develop and nurture Bert’s big imagination and creativity.
As a student, Bert headed north to attend university, where his adoration of design and creation blossomed. He created art for the walls at his student digs and discovered a love for film, well; just the opening titles actually – especially those by his design icon, Saul Bass. Soon after leaving university, Bert set up his own creative agency working as an art director for festivals, music, museums, galleries, theatre and cinema across the UK. His designs soon became recognised for modern twists on classic styles…, which led him to create his own brand – Bert & Buoy.
Bert had pondered creating a fresh, modern take on nautical for a long time, eventually deciding that if he was going to do it then there’d be no procrastination. He set himself a goal of creating the brand and producing the first collection within six weeks! Bert was keen to shift nautical away from cliché anchors, buckets and spades into a fresh, new, contemporary direction. In summer 2015, Bert & Buoy was born and launched with a pop up store at Dartmouth Royal Regatta. The reaction was incredible; the store buzzed with art lovers, interior designers and homeware buyers all eager to take home a cool, creative slice of the British coast! It was obvious that Bert & Buoy was something special so Bert spent the rest of 2015/16 in a flurry of activity… creating a wider collection, building an online store and developing relationships with gallery owners and independent retailers across the UK.
In 2017, Bert and MAKE International found each other at a trade show. It immediately resonated well with Bert that MAKE had the passion for nurturing British design and a focus on creating exclusive, contemporary products that could take his brand to the next level. Bert began working with MAKE’s Head of Design and renowned ceramicist, Keith Brymer Jones, to collaboratively develop an entirely innovative and unique Bert & Buoy mug. Combining Bert’s nautical surface designs and Keith’s expert knowledge in ceramic shape and form, the new mug is meticulously crafted from light grey stained porcelain to mimic a beach pebble. With a capacity of 330ml, it features a quirky, unglazed base with a stylish, exposed glaze line and a detail brand stamp. The Bert & Buoy collection is an authentic slice of the British coast beautifully blended with the incredible skill of one of the UK’s top potters.
Today, Bert lives in South Devon with his wife and two young children and works from his studio overlooking the shoreline. He finds his inspiration for the Bert & Buoy designs from his beautiful surroundings of the British coast – the vivid colours, weathered objects, prevalent nature and wildlife and iconic places.
Outside of work, Bert loves nothing more than foraging for rusty gold at flea markets, chandlery stores and little independents tucked away in the depths of Devon. He collects everything from vintage shop letters and hand-painted signs to mid-century chairs and textiles, old fishing ropes and buoys. He can also be found on long strolls on the stunning South West coast path, barbequing on the beach and spending time with his family and friends in his favourite haunts in Torbay, Totnes and Dartmouth.