Plant of the Fortnight: Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone Illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

On Monday I shared some sketchy five minute drawings of some wood anemones, here’s my colour version using watercolour and ink. I’ve also worked up a pretty pattern repeat using the flower and foliage as a motif.

These are really lovely delicate flowers, I love their light, paper-like petals and delicate minty coloured leaves. I’m lucky enough to live near woods and every spring it is full with a delightful carpet of green and white. It’s a wonderful gift every year and gives us a tremendous amount of pleasure.

Wood anemone pattern (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Make a Mindfulness Gift Box

Little box of mindfulness (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Is there someone in your life that would benefit from practicing a little mindfulness? This box of tricks could be the perfect gift for them.

The concept of ‘mindfulness’ is everywhere now and has been for a while. For anyone who’s feeling a bit cynical about the term, I can understand, but I think it’s worth exploring.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Being mindful works for me. After years and years of throwing myself into my work and very little else, stepping back and becoming more aware of being in the present moment and enjoying the here and now has transformed who I am and how I am. It’s also freed me up to be more creative and be better to myself and the people around me.

Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
As someone who loves to work and thrives on being busy I really had to learn to be mindful. I mean really learn. At the start I needed it to be ‘project mindfulness’ (I know). So I made myself a mindfulness kit: candles to light in the evening or while I was having a bath to change the mood and unwind; a (personalised) notebook to write thoughts and observations in (and for doodles and sketches); soothing, properly nice hot beverages that I would enjoy sitting down to drink but wouldn’t be full of caffeine (I love tea pigs chamomile tea); colour therapy pages so I could absorb myself into making something pretty that wasn’t my work.
Poska Pens pimped-up notebooks (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
In those early days I really appreciated this ‘mindfulness kit’ but, regardless of whether you subscribe to the concept or not, it also makes a great gift in itself. I put together a personalised gift box for new mums, friends who are working hard with an all-consuming project or a busy period at work and mates who simply need someone to tell them “I’m rooting for you.” I’ll sometimes swap the tea for hot chocolate for sweet-toothed friends and change the message on the notebook for something a little more rude for certain mates of mine who share my love of curse words (have I not told you that yet?). I’ve also been known to slip in a favourite book to read, which may not totally embody the mindfulness thing but is nice to have nonetheless. The box itself is just a shoe box covered in my scandi leaf paper. I’ve designed the colour therapy/colouring in sheets myself which you can download next week so watch this space. You can find out how to pimp up your candle votives here

Plant of the Fortnight: Wood Anemone

Flower of the fortnight. Quick sketch Anemone. (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

You may have noticed by now that I love drawing birds and flowers, so to accompany my bird of the fortnight posts, I’m also doing a plant of the fortnight series. Just like its avian sister it will feature three very quick black and white felt-tip sketches of various favourite flora and fauna, then a final watercolour and ink illustration.

I’m kicking off with wood anemone. These are a most welcome sight when I go walking in Wivenhoe wood, so much so we tried to grow them in our garden (they didn’t like our clay soil). Watch out on Friday for my worked-up version.

Flower of the fortnight. Quick sketch Anemone. (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Flower of the fortnight. Quick sketch Anemone. (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Bird of the Fortnight: Chaffinch

Chaffinch Illustration (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Earlier this week I posted some super quick sketches of a chaffinch. Here is my finished worked up colour version using watercolour paint and a selection of black ink artist pens.

Wonderfully, chaffinches are one of the UK’s most common birds and, brilliantly, they’re not believed to be in decline. Chaffinches are gorgeous birds and add a real splash of colour to our woodlands, hedgerows, fields, parks and gardens. Unlike a lot of birds in the UK you can actually spot these in most parts of the country; from the parks of central London to the birchwoods of northern Scotland. And I read that they have been found to have regional accents, with slight differences in the typical song depending on where in the country the bird lives. I’m a massive fan of different accents (believe me there is no voice I don’t like) so this pleases me greatly.

Find out more about this fabulous creature at the RSPB website.

How I added a ‘Memphis lite’ element to my home

Memphis style tealights (c) ellasplace.co.uk

Last summer I went to the Pick Me Up show at Somerset House. Every year the show features a fresh line-up of artists and designers who are considered to reflect the best of new illustration, graphic design and related disciplines. It’s a great event for picking up on trends.

Almost every item in the 2015 show was influenced by the Memphis Group, an Italian design and architecture collective founded in Milan by Ettore Sottsass in 1981 that designed Postmodern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass and metal objects from 1981 to 1987. Since the show I can’t seem to pick up a magazine or visit an interiors site without reading a reference to this group. This style is big in 2016, so if you’re new to Memphis style take a look at my Pinterest board to familiarise yourself with it.

I must confess that it’s taken me a little while to embrace this particular look – I was a child in the 1980s so anything from that era has to work extra hard to win my favour. However the Memphis look is fresh, playful, fun and actually very easy to incorporate into interiors and crafts projects. It also, even 30 plus years on, looks surprisingly contemporary. You can go all out with it or incorporate little elements of this style to give your home or craft creations a quirky, on-trend edge.

So starting softly, I took Ettore Sottsas’ iconic Letraset design, as seen below, as an inspiration for a quick interiors update.

‘Letraset’ textile design by Ettore Sottsas

It’s a wonderfully simple, effective design that works well as a standalone pattern but can look fab  layered over different shades. It’s also great at different sizes.

Memphis style tealights (c) ellasplace.co.uk

I used this Letraset pattern as a ‘Memphis lite’ starting point to update some funky tea-light holders as a gift for my lounge. I got these little shot glasses from a charity shop and they are perfect lanterns for my tea-lights. However, left plain, I felt they were rather stark.

Memphis style tealights (c) ellasplace.co.uk
I used black permanent marker (the Memphis Group use a lot of black) to very loosely apply a similar pattern over the glasses. I wanted to play with the scale of the motifs to make the lanterns more varied and create interest when they were arranged together. I literally did this while I was watching telly one evening, and I’m pleased that this easy make made me think more about the Memphis Group’s work and has spurred me on to check it out further.

Memphis style tealights (c) ellasplace.co.uk