Hello, it’s been a while

Ella Johnston still life (c) ellasplace.co.ukMy first post of 2018, sorry it’s taken me so long. Although I’ve been quiet on the blog front I’ve been busy everywhere else; undertaking illustration commissions, preparing for up-coming exhibitions, making craft how-to videos, growing my print and stationery business, continuing my work with Uni-ball and Dannells and working on an exciting new publication for Dunlin Press. I’ve been working like a beast.

Ella Johnston Illustrator photo: Martin Bewick

The break has actually been a good thing as it’s given me some space to think about Ella’s Place. From the very start I wanted this to provide a genuine insights into a creative life; my work in progress, they way I work, what inspires me, what I do, my processes, plus my passions and penchants. A step away from the blog has made me think about the best ways I can get back to that original concept.

Ella Johnston Illustration Workspace (c) Ella Johnston
My drawing board!

So many blogs are product focused and I do want to show you stuff that I like and things that make me go ‘ooh’. But I don’t want to simply do product placements – I want to inspire you, make you smile, let you know what I am up to and hopefully give you some practical tips, advice and insights into illustration, craft, up-cycling, veggie food, mindfulness and living an all-round fun, balanced, creative, happy life. I’m working on it. Pimped up POSCA pots (c) Ella Johnston

#FridayFun: Posca Make Today Christmas Pack!

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

I have to share this bit of #Fridayfun with you as I’m really so excited. I’m delighted to show off The Posca Make Today Christmas Pack, a product I developed with the marvellous marketing and design team at the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

This pack is filled with goodies that will be great for Christmas crafting. Open the box and you’ll find eight specially selected  POSCA pens in different sizes and classic festive colours. The craft kit also includes 10 card blanks plus five sheets of easy draw templates featuring 50+ of my seasonal illustrations to trace and transfer. You’ll also find  24-page booklet that I wrote. It talks you through 16 unique greeting designs to make today, plus five bonus festive makes to create with your pens.

Here’s little peek at some of the designs featured…

Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make it Today Christmas Pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography
Posca Make Today Christmas Pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

You can make your own Christmas cards using the pack but you don’t have to stop there. I’ve also developed 13 extra projects that you can create with the pens – you can see eight of these on the Make Today Website along with loads of extra drawing tips and tricks.

We’ve also made some really simple how-to videos to follow, have a look at this one below…

I’m incredibly proud of our achievement – the pack is a complete solution in a box for the Christmas crafter. I’m so pleased to see my illustrations used commercially and in a format that people can access and use.

You can buy the pack at the Easichalk website...

Posca Make Today Christmas pack
Posca Make Today Christmas pack, picture: Cliqq Photography

Great idea! Spinster and Spool

Spinster and Spool.Isn’t it wonderful when people you know do fab things? I love celebrating the creativity of people I know – it’s always fantastic to see great ideas friends and colleagues have. So today I bring you the fabulous Spinster and Spool…

A little while ago my lovely, super talented ex-colleague Stephanie Durrant set up Spinster and Spool, a creative business hand-embroidering funky little messages on hoops. With Christmas coming up you may want to have a gander as they make brilliant gifts for any sassy women in your life

 Here’s some words from the lady herself…

“I decided to start my embroidery hoop art business Spinster and Spool after making a few hoops for my little flat. I live alone and wanted some positive female quotes that would make me smile and give me a little boost. There are a few sassy song lyrics that have picked me up after a bad run of dates – Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea and Beyonce are constantly blearing through my headphones! I liked the idea of juxtaposing their feminist attitude with such a traditional craft as embroidery, using pretty, often kitsch, fabrics.

“I find hand sewing so therapeutic and a great focus, so following some great feedback on my own hoops, friends and family encouraged me to start selling my designs. The name didn’t take me too long to come up with and is a little tongue-in-cheek. I also have a blog, Lipstick and Liberty, documenting all the pretty things I’ve made for my flat.

“I first design the layout on InDesign, then print off the typography and trace it onto the fabric. I stitch the outlines in whatever embroidery stitches I think will stand out best and work with the fonts I’ve chosen. Stitching is the fun bit as I can just put my feet up with the cat on my lap of an evening, or I’ve even been known to stitch on the train if I have an urgent commission. I like it when people come to me with their own ideas, too – perhaps a song that’s inspired them or a quote that’s got them through a tough time. I think it’s special that I can make that into something beautiful for them to have in their home, especially if it makes them feel a little more positive. I believe women should pick each other up and support each other, because, as Lily Allen says, ‘It’s hard out here for a bitch!’”

To see more Spinster and Spool designs visit…

Instagram @spinsterandspool

Spinster and Spool Etsy Shop

Lipstick and Liberty Blog

Quick craft! Lemon tote #fridayfun

Quick Craft: Lemon ToteAs you read this I will be at the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show in Exeter showing people how to use Posca pens, having my very own Friday fun.

I created this lemon tote as a display item for the show and it’s proved so popular I’ve been asked to make them for friends. I love running Posca pen workshops and have great fun sharing my crafty knowledge. So it’s only fair I share this easy make with you.

I made a simple lemon shape in three sizes in black pen on paper. I then slipped it inside the bag and traced the shapes using a yellow Posca. Then I placed a square of stiff card inside the tote and coloured in the shapes with the Posca. I then used a khaki green Posca to draw stems and leaves. Once the paint pens dried I could then add veins to the leaves with a light green Posca and little orange and white dots to the lemon.

I drew the lemon shape, but if you are not confident in your drawing skills you can easily download a shape from the internet to trace and copy. It really is such an effective design that’s easy to recreate from home.

If you’re in Exeter come and join me at the Uniball stand – we’re on until Sunday!

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



DIY: Liberty Print Clocks

Liberty print clocks ellasplace.co.uk As an obsessive of iconic, classic design and illustration I regard a Liberty print with admiration and awe. But as I don’t live in a particularly girlie gaff, I’m sometimes at a loss as to where to put them in my home.  In fact it would be fair to say that Ella’s place is quite gender neutral so, while I like a floral print (I mean, I draw enough flowers and like to display a bloom in practically every room), I restrict more ornate, flowery designs to accents rather than a full on floral fest, which is why I made these handmade clocks.

Liberty print clocks ellasplace.co.uk

Creating a bespoke time piece is super simple. As clock fittings are so easy to come across these days (seriously, google it and you’ll be faced with a wealth of cost-effective options) you can make clocks in any shape or size with the minimum of effort all you need is the fitting and a suitable surface to attach it to.

Liberty print clocks ellasplace.co.uk I took a cheat’s choice and used a needcraft clock kit for ease, as everything  was pre-cut and measured. All I needed to do was add fabric – a total timesaver. But you can always cover an area of mdf or stiff card with material or paper with a hole made for the clock piece. It really is that simple – easy crafting if there ever was.

Liberty print clocks ellasplace.co.uk I got the Liberty fabric from Sewbox who has an extensive collection of designs by the brand – Sue from Sewbox is lovely too, I worked with her a lot on Homemaker and she was super helpful.
Liberty print clocks. ellasplace.co.ukI selected Liberty Betsy Ann in Rossmore Cord for a lighter, classically floral time-piece and Liberty Cranston in Colourway A from its Lifestyle Stile Collection for a deco-style feel (it looks ever so nice with Henry and Matilda my retro cat ceramics). I’ve got the latter hanging in my hallway and the former is looking rather splendid on the white sideboard in the dining room.

Liberty print clocks ellasplace.co.uk

Stash-busting How-to: Make Paper Banners

Banner display ellasplace.co.uk I don’t know about you but I’ve got a big stash of plain and patterned paper from previous projects and from when I’ve taken advantage of bulk offers in art shops. It seems like a waste to have them languishing in drawers and boxes so last week I took action and turned some of them into stash-busting banners to decorate our study with a simple wall display.
Banner display ellasplace.co.uk I had some lovely light blue card that I’d been waiting for something to do with and some left-over summer swallow and butterfly designs that I had created to decorate a friends wedding. I thought the colours all worked really well together and I had some Posca pens in a lovely slate grey that would lift the blue card and unify the whole scheme once I’d added some simple text and design.
Banner display ellasplace.co.uk Making these banners is a synch. It just requires a ruler, a length of doweling, a craft knife, twine, double-sided-tape and the paper(s) of your choice. I measured my doweling at various lengths and cut to size (I could easily snip mine with a craft knife but you may need something more ‘robust’).
Banner display ellasplace.co.uk I then trimmed my papers into rectangles making sure I had about a 2cm allowance to wrap them over the doweling and leaving room at the bottom for cutting the bottom into a ‘v’ or inverted ‘v’ or at an angle while not compromising the main design.
Banner display ellasplace.co.ukOnce the blue card was cut, I could draw a bespoke illustration on it. I thought I’d keep it some with a hand-scripted ‘hello’ and some simple laurel leaf and flower motifs. Let me know if you’d like me to talk through hand scripting and drawing these leaves and flowers – they’re easy to master and you don’t have to be a great draftsman/woman, I promise .
Banner display ellasplace.co.uk With everything cut to size I applied lengths of double-sided-tape to the doweling and, in the case three out of the four banners, I attached the ends of my twine before rolling the edges of the rectangles over the doweling to fix.

I’m pleased that I was able to give my old stash a new lease of life and I’m delighted to be able to add another bit of quirky handmade styles to a little corner of our study.

Hack: make your own storage buckets

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

Okay I’ll come clean, I’m using these as storage buckets but they are actually waste paper bins.

I originally bought two Needcraft bin making kits for our upgraded study (pics coming soon) and our ‘continual work in progress’ bedroom. The kit is really easy to use with simple step by step pictorial instructions, I’m not a particularly neat sewer so I like a no-sew quick fix when I can.

The thing is when I made the bins and I didn’t have the heart to put rubbish in them.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

As I’m aiming for a relaxing cool blue vibe in my bedroom and I covered the first ‘bin’ in my storm-grey Scandi leaves fabric from my Spoonflower shop.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

I was really happy with the end result, so much so that I really couldn’t face filling it with make-up removing cleansing wipes, laddered tights and other bedroom rubbish stuff. It looked too pretty!

So, inspired by a rather nifty idea from Black Parrots Studio’s Sarah Mitchenall on her first round of The Great Interior Design Challenge my bin turned into a book bucket, which has proved to be very handy, as the one thing our house has got is an abundance of books. So this now lives at the bottom of our bed for all our reading needs.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

Now the study REALLY needed a bin so I set about making the next one in my tropical trio design, also available at my Spoonflower shop.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

Because the instructions are so easy to follow you can make these bins in minutes with either fabric or paper. I’ve had this tropical design for a while and, although I loved it, I was at a loss as to what to do with it. However the fabric’s subtle hues and graphic design suits our workspace perfectly.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

And you see that was the problem – too nice. Once I finished that one I could not face using it as a place to throw receipts and scrap paper for recycling. I do however have lots of gift wrap, large format paper, bookbinding cloth and posters I need to keep in one place so my tropical bloom bucket is being used for precisely that.

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

Hack, make a bespoke bin ellasplace.co.uk

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

Hack: Pimp up a flower display

Easy carton boxes with Sizzix dies in Ella Johnston Love Heart Paper (c) ellasplace.co.uk

It’s a week until Mothering Sunday in the UK. If you’re having a little celebration or gathering with your mum (or indeed anyone – an aunt, a friend, a neighbour) it’s worth making an effort to make the get together more special. Having a lovely little flower display is an easy way to make someone smile and feel like you’ve gone the extra mile.

So this is a really easy and more importantly really cheap way to pimp up a floral display. I used few flower heads, some little shot glasses and sturdy paper featuring my love heart design. I made cute carton style boxes, popped the shot glass in (with around 2cm of water) and snuck the flower bud in to peak above the top of the paper. This method means you can display a single bloom without blowing your budget on a big bouquet.

I used a die-cutting machine (Sizzix Big Shot Machine #660200) with a carton box die (Sizzix Thinlits Die – Box, Milk Carton) to make my boxes but you can make a simple paper cover by simply scoring a paper rectangle so it wraps around the shot glass like a sleeve. So, it’s not just for Mother’s Day, I like to do this for parties and get-togethers when I want an easy decorative touch that I can theme with different paper designs and blooms.

Easy carton boxes with Sizzix dies in Ella Johnston Love Heart Paper (c) ellasplace.co.uk