Naomi Hands-Smith

Newly launched greeting card illustrator River Swan of Avon has produced a new and exclusive design that celebrates the refurbishment and reopening of the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

Available to buy exclusively in the RSC’s gift shop in Stratford-upon-Avon and online at, the illustration is one of River Swan founder and illustrator Naomi Hands-Smith’s trademark swans in full flight over the Swan Theatre.

Set up just over a year ago, working with the RSC is an important milestone for Naomi’s ambitions to grow awareness of her River Swan brand and the number of stockists.

Naomi has a distinctive style and draws with what she describes as ‘a scratchy pen nib’ and Indian ink.

The inspiration behind River Swan of Avon are the magnificent swans that for centuries have graced the River Avon in Naomi’s hometown of  Stratford-upon-Avon. The town’s most famous son William Shakespeare was described by his friend Ben Jonson as ‘the sweet Swan of Avon’ in a poem featured in the First Folio of the Bard’s works – 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of what was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

The Royal Collection, created as part of River Swan’s launch range last year to mark the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, has been a huge success with direct-to-customer sales in the UK, mainland Europe, America and Australia. For many people the Queen was synonymous with swans due to the historic law giving the monarch ownership of unmarked mute swans in England. Ahead of the King’s Coronation in May, The Royal Collection now includes illustrations of Charles III in his military uniform and poignantly hand-in-hand with his ‘darling mama’, and a depiction of the late Queen as one of Naomi’s glorious trademark swans wearing a crown.

Naomi said: “It’s a dream come true to illustrate a greeting card to mark such a special time for the RSC – the rebirth and reopening of its beautiful Swan Theatre. I hope visitors from far and wide who visit Stratford-upon-Avon and the RSC this year purchase one of my cards as a memento of their trip to the theatre, a memory to keep or even frame.’’ 

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