Monday Moodboard: Folk patterns

Monday Moodboard Folk pattern

Joyous, colourful and breathtakingly beautiful, my folk art moodboard is perfect for brightening up this grey Monday afternoon. .

Marks, patterns and painting made by ordinary people is a constant inspiration for me. The simple shapes, harmonious composition, strong colour combinations and celebration of birds, flowers and animal life in folk art are timelessly popular in interior design and illustration.  I’ve used them as a spring board for some of the work I created for my Christmas Posca pen workshops and Christmas wrap designs – look out for those next week.

Beginner’s Guide: Pressing Flowers

Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk At the moment I’m continually snipping flower heads in my garden to promote new growth so I’m exploring pressing flowers to make full use of them. Here’s my very rough guide for beginner’s.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk I like to think my home has always embraced the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ the idea of enjoying life’s simple pleasures – that’s what I try to show on this blog. I believe something like flower pressing reflects this concept as all I’m really trying to do is preserve some of the enjoyment Dr B and I get from spending time tending to our garden.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk I haven’t bought any fancy equipment for my pressing (maybe I’ll live to regret this), instead I’m being strictly old school on this and applying a method me and my mum used to use when I was a kid.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukI’m using one of my handmade coptic bound books to contain these blooms. I like these books as you can open the pages fully without having to worry about the gutter or  breaking the spine.
Flower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukAs I say I haven’t got a fancy contraption for pressing the flowers. I’ve simply got my big heavy art books and a very heavy marble block pressing on top of them. I’ll show you how it turns out in a month or two.
Pressing flowers Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.ukFlower pressing Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

How-to: Easy Glass Lanterns

Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk Earlier this month I had great fun showing people how to use Posca pens to decorate glass lanterns the easy way at The Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show at EventCity in Manchester.
Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk As you know I’ve been working with Posca pens all year, as I’ve done a lot of work with the company, but it’s always better when you can see what other people come with up when you show them how to use the pens.

I ran around five workshops in small groups of five or six everyday and it was such as pleasure to share some knowledge and see others’ creativity flourish.
Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.ukI made the illustrated lanterns shown here in preparation for the show, to illustrate how you can use the pens to decorate onto glass, using the different sized nibs and various colours to create different illustrative effects.

Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.ukThe glass drawing preparation work I’d done was a great way of kick-starting new ideas from my workshop buddies who used the designs as a inspiration for their own work.

I did a combination of easy dots and strokes, simple girly designs and seasonal Christmas-themed, autumn and halloween illustrations.
Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk I’d kept the shapes very simple and easy to copy and explored ways you can layer colour with the pen. And while some of my workshoppers stuck to simple dots and strokes or my easy shapes, others were more ambitious, creating stunning intricate designs of their own. It gave me a real buzz.
Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk You can work directly onto these glasses with the pens. To seal in the design you simply bake the glass in the oven for 160-degrees (Gas mark 2 I think) for 45 mins so we’re using robust glass here. We used glasses from Ikea so that people could easily get more if they developed an addiction for easy glass painting. 
Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk
I’m doing a mini-tour of with the company and will be doing my do with Posca and other Uni-ball pens at the following venues.

NEC, Birmingham:  3-6 November
ExCeL, London: 17-19 November

Join me if you can, if not just check out what you do with some pens and some glass. Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk Posca pen lanterns ellasplace.co.uk

Monday Moodboard: Metallics

Monday moodboard: Metallics Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Every single interiors retail show I visited over the summer this year featured metallics, particularly copper, that’s why it’s this week’s Monday Moodboard.

Fans of simplicity take note. You don’t have to be full-on bling to embrace a bit of metallic joy in your life (although don’t mind a bit of bling sometimes). Metallics can achieve a dramatic, opulent look but you can also use metallics to add warmth and texture to things as I hope I’ve shown here.

Metallic touches can be subtle, chic and classy I promise; underlaid under shabby chic furniture, incorporated into abstract-impressionist inspired painting, a subtle accent onto painted pebbles, gorgeous vintage bakewares even to brighten up a simply-shaped cake – it’s not all about blinding people with glamour and sparkle.

DIY: My fabric designs

Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukI had a very exciting delivery last week from Spoonflower, who sent me some of my new pattern designs on fabric.

Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukI’d worked up four designs taken from my illustrations. I wanted to see how they would work as a patten repeat and if it translated onto fabric.
Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukElla Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukThe theme of this year for me has been to get out of my comfort zone. So I’ve created patterns with my tropical leaf drawings,  laurel leaf and feather design, watercolour spots and fox terrier illustration. I have done other, very simple, designs in the past with my hand-carved heart and leaf designs but these have been one colour one white and very basic repeat. Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukThis was new territory for me and I’ve not normally been this playful with my pattern designs before. Still, I’m loving pushing myself and these new design were a lot of fun to put together.
Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukCreating repeat fabric designs is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. I make a ’tile’ so that it’s one square that can be joined together and repeated to create an overall pattern that can cover as big an area as you desire. It’s a really efficient way of creating a  large design.
Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.uk Seeing as I’m talking about getting out of my comfort zone I have to face one major stumbling block for me; sewing! I have undertaken some sewing projects before and have attended some great classes with Sew Over It but I admit I’m not the most confident with a machine.

I think I need some stitchy advice. What should I make with these fab fabrics? Where does an unconfident sewer like me start? Send help!
Ella Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.ukElla Johnston Fabric designs ellasplace.co.uk

 

 

At Home with Sarah Campbell

SarahCambellMemmIt’s rare to meet a true design icon, rarer still to be welcomed into one’s home. So it was a great pleasure to be invited to Sarah Campbell’s colourful and exciting abode.

You may think you don’t know Campbell but believe me you probably do. Working with her sister Susan Collier since the sixties, their vibrant creations have charmed design and illustration junkies like myself over decades, with collaborations with Liberty, Habitat, Jaeger and Conran. In fact when I was researching Sarah I was delighted to discover that I had some of the Liberty designs at home.

After her sister’s death in 2011, Sarah has been working independently and as a lover of her vibrant, painterly style and celebration of shape and colour I couldn’t wait to ask her about her practice and, if I’m being honest, get some tips of making my own work as exciting and effortlessly original as hers.
Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.uk Warm welcome
As you walk into Sarah’s fab mid-century modern home, you are immediately struck by colourful designs and a delicious array of textiles. It was heartening to see this – I was pleased it wasn’t a sterile space or simply too cool for school. In fact the exuberance and vibrancy of her illustrative work truly extends to her main room, with vivid soft furnishings and a bright green wall enhancing the foliage outside.

“Colour is the stuff of life,” she says. “When babies are very young we’re told they see colour as the contrast of black and white. But they very soon come to love real colours. It’s very important, colour is a magnet – people are drawn to it. Even in a home that’s all white or cream, I’d be hoping to see a bunch of red flowers or a merry postcard.”

There is an emotional connection too, she adds. “I went to a magnificent newly refurbished house recently where they had painted their kitchen wall a lovely turquoisey green. I couldn’t help but remark upon it. They told me that they’d had the colour in their previous home and just couldn’t live without it. I thought that was wonderful – a great anchor for a new ship if you like. It’s like they know they’re home.”

Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.ukAs well as the attractive combination of textures, shapes and hues in the house, I was also pleased to be greeted by a Matisse poster in the sitting room. Sarah’s work has always reminded me of this artist (one of my favourites) and I couldn’t help but ask her about this…

Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.uk“Well you can’t do better than Matisse as an inspiration. I think of him as a friend. There are lots of aspects of his work I love. He was brought up in a weavers’ town in northern France so he really understands textiles. They way he uses patterns in his paintings reflects his childhood surroundings. When I look at something like his painting The Pink Studio, I imagine him under the weaving machine observing all the different angles of the pattern.”

I think Sarah shares Matisse’s understanding of shape and composition, and while this looks free and playful, it is of course much more complex than that.

“You look at people like Matisse, Picasso, Dufy – they can all draw. You can’t reduce something to its simplest form unless you understand it. Drawing is the key. An artist’s essential line is a wonderful thing – it’s just lovely.”
Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.ukSarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.uk Mark making
I see a lightness of touch in Sarah’s work, the approach feels joyful and I get a strong sense of maker’s hand in her products. She credits this to being open to influences and enjoying the process of creating.

“My pieces start with painting on paper so it is a very tactile process. People at my workshops say happily that the work is hard but like playing and I say ‘well you can see why I’m so cheerful.’ Everything has influence. I have a very large storage cabinet in my brain. New work can be inspired by a new type of paper, or a simple set of pens or brushes that make me  think in a different way, so I can approach it with an inquisitive attitude.”

“When I do workshops I say, ‘we’re not all going to be old masters but we can all enjoy making marks’. Everyone can get something from this experience. People so often have their creative urges curtailed at one point or another. The words, ‘can’t’ and ‘I’m rubbish’ are often used when it comes to creative endeavours – these words are banned at my workshops. I encourage people to have fun and surprise themselves by their own capacities. ”

Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.uk Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.ukThe pleasure of creating
It is this sense of enjoyment and a child-like curiosity that Sarah believes keeps her work fresh and enables her to innovate.

“I have to earn a living, I need to send things out to clients for their approval but the sense of exploration has to be at the heart of work. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had a lifetime of painting patterns. I still enjoy that exploration.”

Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.ukAs a commercial artist, I imagine she must have been under pressure to ‘churn out what has worked’, so I ask her if she’s ever tempted to repeat past glories or stick to a particular formula that she knows to be popular.

“I have thought about revisiting some of our classics, and indeed have reprinted some of our most famous designs, like Cote d’Azure, as scarves and cushions and possible yardage – they stand the test of time and I still want them to be seen by a wider audience. The old designs certainly retain validity, no doubt. And, of course I do have my own style and way of working. I know what colour combinations and compositions work and naturally I want to make the best use of my experience. When I look back over the archive I can see there are interests that come and go, and motifs and ideas that reoccur, but I’d be a bit embarrassed to go back to the same thing again and again. The market changes, fashions and interests move on all the time, and production possibilities are developing constantly. The main impetus of work is looking and going forward, not back – after all, that’s the designer’s job.”

She continues… “Although it’s clear that building a brand successfully can be done by relying on a very succinct design look, Susan and I built our identity by creating lots and lots of different patterns for our many varied customers. Possibly commercial life might have been simpler if we’d only developed one or two signature motifs… but we enjoyed thinking of new things, couldn’t help it  – and I still do.”

Sarah Campbell House ellasplace.co.ukTrail blazers
In such a crowded and competitive arena, Campbell is still very active; collaborating with West Elm, producing collections with Michael Miller Fabrics plus producing a new range for homewares and ceramics, Viva, with Magpie. So what advice would she give to up and coming designers?

“There is still a huge appetite for colour and pattern. Wherever you come from, I believe drawing and the enjoyment of it is fundamental. Keep listening, keep looking, keep your observation skills honed and keep working at your designs. Don’t dismiss what you think of as the mistakes – they are useful. Keep records and date your work, sketches and all that way you know what you did, what you learnt and achieved during that period.”

As you can tell by that last comment, while Sarah is a warm, friendly, unpretentious person, she’s tough. Of course she is, she has been working in the design industry for more than 50 years and there is a strength and wisdom to her that I found very inspiring.

“I’m most proud of still being here doing it. It’s not easy. My sister and I  did, I suppose, break through a number of barriers but there were two of us and we brought our individual talents and qualities to the partnership. It’s great to still be working. I welcome new commissions and mainstream customers. I also love working with individuals on bespoke designs for curtains, furniture, clothes and walls. It continues to be great fun and very rewarding.”

See more of Campbell’s work at sarahcampbelldesigns.com

How to change a plain notebook into a personalised gift

Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.ukTransform a plain notebook into a personalised gift with my easy how-to.
Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk It’s more Posca pen stuff from me this week as I warm up for some workshops I’m doing for the company in September. I really want to get the workshops right. Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.ukAs  you know I like to make personalised gifts and I currently know three people are doing some quite daunting things… Gearing to go back to work after maternity leave, going back to college (scary) and embarking on an exciting new creative project, I thought a personalised notebook would make a great little gift for these three special individuals. Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk This is a really simple illustration project but makes for a very effective and professional looking present. All I did was take a three-pack of Moleskine mini cahiers, got out some sumptuously coloured Poscas and went for it.
Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk You can see how I created the laurel leaf motif by watching a tutorial I did for Posca pens earlier this year.

As you can see the drawing techniques are really easy and the pens are very nice to use. The initial on the books are quite ornate compared to the formal lettering illustrated on the wooden coasters. Depending on how confident you are, you can decided which style to go for.
Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk Because the pens produce a paint-like effect even light colours can look clear and vivid on the book’s brown craft card covers. Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk Just by using simple illustration techniques you can create an ornate, sophisticated looking gift, personalised for a special person. Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk Monogramed Notebooks with Posca Pens ellasplace.co.uk

DIY: Ornate cases

Ornate cases ellasplace.co.uk I’m not gonna lie, these ornate cases took ages to create but they are quite a cool DIY. I have had a brief from the guys at Uni-Ball to create a selection of products updated with the company’s pens. I wanted to make a number of items at various sizes and using the wide range of pens they had on offer.
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.ukI also wanted an excuse to play with an ornate pattern idea I’ve had for a while. Because Uni-Ball’s Posca pens have a wide range of colours and shades I thought they would perfectly lend themselves to a pattern that utilised various shades of the same hue.
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.ukI have looked through loads of tile designs to come up with the ones I have worked out here.
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.ukThese cases were plain brown mdf boxes. I traced on my design before filling in the light colours then layering with darker shades.
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.uk
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.uk
Ornate cases ellasplace.co.uk

DIY: Easy Fancy Votives

Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.uk

This is a really easy DIY – a pretty pen project to make fancy votives that give cheap filled candles a designer feel.

Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.ukAs you know I love a scented candle and I do occasionally splash the cash on some expensive ones. However, because I go through quite a few of them, I do get some cheaper ones to light on a Friday and Sunday night when I’m relaxing with Dr B or when I have a cheeky Saturday afternoon bath.
Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.uk Plain filled candles can look a little drab and I like to give them a nice look. As I’m currently doing some work for Posca pens I’ve got loads of various colours lying around – I’ve chosen beautiful gold and berry coloured pens and gave them a simple leaf pattern.
Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.uk I wanted to create something really quick and easy as the last thing I wanted to do was spend ages doing an intricate pattern. So these  are just scribbled little lozenges drawn on an angle.
Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.uk In the spirit of all things green I recycle my glasses once the candle has been burned. Once I finish with them I will use them as vases. The lovely thing about this project is I can pop these glasses in the oven at 145C to seal in the design and I have some lovely gold and berry containers. Pimped up votives posca pens ellasplace.co.uk