Tell us a bit about Eastern Biological. Who are you and what do you do?
We are Alfred Addis and Joseph Wood, founders of Eastern Biological. We’re enthused by natural history, so much so, that we decided to create an online store immersed in it. It is the outcome of us visiting stores and creative spaces in different countries, which were inspired by Darwinism.
We had the small realisation one day that there was little that resembled such places in our capital, where we live, which is how our business idea formulated.
Prior to our venture, we lived in Brighton as students, which is where we met, the both of us having attended the arts faculty. From those days, we shared a casual interest in domesticated animals – this eventually leading us to our idea, with our respective arts and humanities backgrounds feeding into it.
Tell us about some of the things you sell. Any particular favourites?
We carefully curate our products, which we source predominantly from suppliers based in the UK, with the rest being obtained from overseas. Our items range from design-led gifts, educational toys, niche books and stationery. Our ‘curiosities’ collection in particular has rocks, minerals and fossils originating from a vast array of countries including Spain, America, Madagascar, Indonesia, Morocco and Brazil. Some of our favourite items are the children’s felt rugs, handmade in Nepal using organic Tibetan lambs wool, which are ethically and sustainably sourced.
How would you define curiosity?
Curiosity has two meanings, it being used either as an adjective or a noun. As a noun, it is an unusual physical object, which the world has naturally created. And it is curiosity as an adjective that links to the noun – it leading us to want to find out more about the object. It is a child-like feeling: a yearning to learn something new, and being led by it on a day-to-day basis. It is about asking questions, and searching for answers. It is a desire to experience new things, and to fill that burning hole.
You say Eastern Biological is a modern interpretation of wunderkammer – can you tell us more about this?
We are fascinated with how Victorian naturalists have shaped our lives today. More recently, we’ve become intrigued with Darwin, not as a proponent of the theory of evolution, but specifically as a botanist – this aspect of his life, which is often overlooked.
Instead of housing lots of taxidermy and entomological items, which is what you would expect to find in a wunderkammer, we’ve fed Darwin’s botany obsession into Eastern Biological. Hence, we want to introduce a more modern, greener version of the concept.
We’re also a ‘modern interpretation’ as we very much see ourselves as a gifts shop, not a traditional cabinet of curiosities. We sell products that are new and design-led (with the occasional one-off vintage item).
What's important to you?
Escaping. Living and working in a big city comes with certain stresses and strains. We don’t get away as much as we’d like to, so switching off the modem and smartphone at times is vital. Reading fiction as well as non-fiction is excellent escapism. It also ties into what curiosity for us is all about – and our mantra, that life is about learning. Through reading, combined with the experiences that real-life brings, broadening horizons and having empathy is the most important thing, which forms our ethical values.
Any exciting plans for 2015?
We’ve only just opened our online doors, but 2015 is scheduled to be an exciting year for us. We are currently developing prints by illustrators we have handpicked and commissioned ourselves, and showcasing these in a new section on our website. We will also be developing our own branded products, mainly stationery. And in addition to this we’ll be planning pop-ups, and touch wood – a retail store. Hurrah!