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New! Bird of the Fortnight: Chaffinch

Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Chaffinch (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Welcome to my new little series, bird of the fortnight. Every two weeks I’ll do three quick black and white sketches then one really detailed, worked up illustration of a bird that takes my fancy. At the start of the week I’ll show off my sketches then give you the finished, polished drawing at the end of the week with some info on the creature itself.

My first one is a favourite of mine, the colourful chaffinch. I love these little guys. Look out on Friday for my final portrait of this most charming of garden and woodland bird.

Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Chaffinch (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Bird of the fortnight. Quick sketch Chaffinch (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

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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

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Hack: An Easy Way to Embrace Pastels

Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

As part of my on-going efforts to revamp my bedroom I’ve been looking to add a sense of calm and tranquility to the space. If you saw my previous post on the pastel trend you’ll see these tones are being touted as perfect for providing as sense of calm and relaxation and are currently dominating the high street.

I wanted an easy way to embrace pastels while giving my boudoir an handmade artisan touch. I also don’t want to commit myself to one colour or style yet as I’m still undecided as to how I want the room just yet. I needed a flexible update that I could change, so I got out my paints…

Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

First I painted a small canvas with a very simple layers of light, rose and dusky pinks to create a pop of gentle colour to brighten up my side tables.

Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

I liked my quick canvas but I wanted something to tie things together. I then remembered a project I did last year for Homemaker magazine. It was really simple but incredibly effective and all it involved was a set of acrylic paints and some filled glass candle votives.

Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

My house always has scented candle glass votives – I pick them up when I’m doing my grocery shopping and, if you don’t pick a pungent fragrance (give them a sniff) and don’t mind a shorter life span, you can buy them for about £1.50. I’ve used a rough, coarse brush to apply lilac and serenity blue paint on the base of the glass as I want a tactile, painterly feel to these pieces.

Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

They look fab on my bedside cabinets and I love the way they look when they are lit after I take a bath (I love a little spa feel) and when I’m reading in the evening or when unlit as a colourful ornament during the day. They also make great gifts for people too – I’ve done a couple of these for friends as part of a ‘relaxation box’ (more on that later) and they have loved them. Pastel Painted Candle Votives (c) ellasplace.co.uk

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13 quick pastel updates

Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Ferns Duck Egg Bed Linen £55, Secret Linen Store

I was out shopping with Dr B last week and he remarked how many pastel shades there were on the high street. It’s funny, as someone who looks at trends all the time and who is always looking at colourways, I’m used to pastels – I forget that by the time they hit the shops, I’m looking at the next new thing.

At the start of the year Pantone launched its colours for 2016; Rose Quartz and Serenity, stating that the colours “demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace”.  As well as championing the colours themselves, the company also outlined some exquisite colour pairings that can imbue a sense of calm and relaxation.

Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Christy Supreme Towel Range Pink £30, Very

It’s simple to add a sense of tranquility to your spaces with the addition of soft pastels. These cool shades can really brighten interiors as well as set a soothing mood. And you don’t have to go full-on with pastel, simple touches will do. A bed spread, a pop of pink with some fluffy towels (as seen above), a subtle bud vase or some simple lighting could be all you need to embrace this trend. Here’s a little sampler of more pastel themed buys…

Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Geo Stripe Throw £65, Oliver Bonas
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Set Of Eight Colour Pop Porcelain T-light Holders £19.95, dotcomgiftshop
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Set of two Roef Chairs in Serenity Blue £180, Cuckooland
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
M&S Loft Mixing Bowl in Pastel Mix (set of 3) £15, Marks & Spencer
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Blue Swirl Glass Table Lamp £60, Next
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Rose Geometric Bud Vase £12.95, MiaFleur
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Eva Five-Drawer Jewellery Box £69. Oliver Bonas
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Colours Oxygen Emulsion Paint, B&Q
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Rarkids Pink Natural, £35, Cult Furniture
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Recycled Pastel Paisley Green Trinket Box, £7.50, Karenza & Co
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Set Of 3 Pastel Retro Suitcases, £13.94. Luck and Luck
Pastel Trends (c) ellasplace.co.uk
Pastel Lustre Vases (set Of 3), £42. MiaFleur

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DIY: Scandi folk pattern boxes

Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

I don’t know about you but I have been addicted to BBC Two’s Great Interior Design Challenge, I love the whole thing; the architectural history, updating spaces, adding special touches and answering client briefs, the reveal, everything. I’ve watched the show since it started and am always inspired by the ideas that the amateur designers come up with and the advice and insights the experts outline.

This series has seen loads of creative ideas and I was particularly struck by Lucy Tiffney’s Scandinavian Folk bedroom. I love the way that illustration, painting, craft and interior design have crossed over in this project and the sweet, rustic lines and simple motifs, executed in a muted colourway. I couldn’t wait to reconnect with some folky drawing myself.

Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

Freshly inspired, I set about studying Scandinavian patterns. Some of my favourites are pinned on my Pinterest board. What’s lovely about these designs is they are so easy to recreate and then add your own twist to. From simple stem and leaf motifs, lovely lace edges and symmetrical composition, this folky style is great for when you want to achieve an effective looking, intricate decoration without feeling you have to be hugely technical or an amazing drawer.

I had some plain cardboard heart-shaped boxes that were in need of updating. I gave them a lick of light blue paint that really suited traditional Scandinavian design. I then set about drawing my design onto tracing paper. I drew half the design then folded the paper to create a mirror image. Then I simply transferred the designs onto the painted boxes.

Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

I finished the traced design with felt-tip pen. I chose to use black and blue pen for a strong contrasting look with the light blue but I reckon this would also look lovely in traditional red and cream.

Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

Had my motifs been larger I would have painted them on – and I am considering doing something with a piece of furniture for a funky little upcycling project. This kind of thing would look really effective on a bedside cabinet or storage box.

Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

I’m storing ribbons and buttons in these boxes (I have so many of both) but I’m sure you could fill these with pretty tissue paper and treats (chocolates or toiletries) for a thoughtful gift. Scandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.ukScandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.ukScandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.ukScandinavian folky patterned boxes (c) ellasplace.co.uk

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10 Pineapple Picks!

10 Pineapple picks ellasplace.co.uk

At the end of last year I went to lots of Spring/Summer 2016 press shows. From high-end interior brands to high street favourites, all the retailers featured one key motif – the pineapple.

Inspired by this, I did a drawing/illustration of one of my own little fruit, which is now available as a print from my Etsy store .

Ella Johnston Pineapple print, £12. Etsy. ellasplace.co.uk
Ella Johnston Pineapple print, £12. Etsy.

Ella Johnston Pineapple print, £12. Etsy. ellasplace.co.uk
Ella Johnston Pineapple print, £12. Etsy.

I’ve also rounded up 10 of my favourite pineapple products in the shops right now. It’s amazing how one motif can be adapted to suit such an eclectic range of styles… As a little postscript, this is as near as a pineapple as I can get to as I’m allergic to them; one bite and I swell up like a sea sponge!

Glass vase, £20 BHS, Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Glass vase, £20 BHS
Pineapple apron, £24.95. Thornback and Peel. Pineapple trend ellasplace.co.uk
Pineapple apron, £24.95. Thornback and Peel
Prints Eisenherz Pineapple print, £7. DaWanda. Pineapple trend ellasplace.co.uk
Prints Eisenherz Pineapple print, £7. DaWanda
Pols Potten Pineapple Jar, £45 Amara, Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Pols Potten Pineapple Jar, £45 Amara
Decorative Pineapple, £89.95, Mia Fleur. Pineapple trend ellasplace.co.uk
Decorative Pineapple, £89.95, Mia Fleur
Steel Grey Pineapple Bedlinen, £50, Secret Linen Store, Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Steel Grey Pineapple Bedlinen, £50, Secret Linen Store
Zeus Lamp £80 House of Fraser Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Zeus Lamp £80 House of Fraser
Temerity Jones Pineapple trinket dish SS15, £5, Lisa Angel. Pineapple trend ellasplace.co.uk
Temerity Jones Pineapple trinket dish SS15, £5, Lisa Angel.
Copper Pineapple Ice Bucket, £40 Oliver Bonas. Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Copper Pineapple Ice Bucket, £40 Oliver Bonas
Pineapple Fruit Platter, £12.75. The Contemporary Home. Pineapple Trend ellasplace.co.uk
Pineapple Fruit Platter, £12.75. The Contemporary Home

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DIY: Embossed clay jewellery holders

Clay jewellery holders (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

These embossed clay jewellery holders are really easy to make and take minutes to create. This simple DIY is great if you’re looking to make a handmade gift as they can be adapted to suit all design tastes.

It’s my new year’s resolution to revamp our bedroom – I’ve gathered a collection of inspiring looks to set the mood for the boudoir and I also want to have homemade elements to make it more personal. Although I do have a jewellery box I’m always dumping my earrings and necklaces at the side of my bed before I go to sleep so I wanted to make something that would at least keep them in one place when I did so.

Clay jewellery holders (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Making these holders couldn’t be simpler, I rolled out some air-dry clay and then embossed it with my hand-carved rubber stamps. I cut the clay into squares and gently shaped them over some bowls to create wells. After the clay had dried, I coloured the leaves with a light washes of acrylic paint to give them a bit of colour. I’d imagine if you sealed them with a waterproof varnish the would make attractive soap dishes too.

Clay jewellery holders (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Clay jewellery holders (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Clay jewellery holders (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

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Hack: Simple ways to update your plates with ceramic pens

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

As my one of my previous post suggests I am really playing with pattern at the moment, trying to free myself up as an illustrator and exploring ways of drawing to see what ideas ‘land’.

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I thought I’d try doing things beyond pencil and paper to really put my mind away from the subconscious self-imposed constraints that I may place on my illustration.

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I had these spare plain plates that I’d bought originally for photography props when I was editing Homemaker Mag, I actually never used them because they were too plain and the rim wasn’t delicate enough for any of the shots (it’s amazing what you obsess about on a shoot and what works and what doesn’t).

Any-hoo these thick plate rims really allowed themselves for drawing on and I thought at the very least I’d be updating some dull crockery. So out came my cobalt blue ceramic pen and had a little play, here are the results.

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I gave myself a 20-minute time frame to do them so it was five mins per plate. I did this because I didn’t want to overthink it. I wanted the designs to be spontaneous and completely from the top of my head. So there’s fishes, some Charles Rennie Mackintoshesque roses, wheat germs and blue retro-style flowers.

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I like the plates and am pleased with the designs. I think I’m going to looking to the wheat germ and fish shapes further. I’ll keep you updated!

Update your plates (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

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Getting smart with Sharpies: Mexican inspired coasters

Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’ve recently got obsessed with all things Mexican. There was a reason for this, myself and the good Dr B always cook something nice on New Year’s Eve and this year we fancied a feast of Mexican style veggie food.

As I was researching various tasty vegetarian recipes* to prepare for us, I kept coming across some beautiful Mexican tile designs. They were absolutely stunning. Not only did I want these tiles in my kitchen and bathroom (when we get round to doing them up) but I was so inspired that I needed these designs in my life straight away.

Although many of the tiles came in a gorgeous array of different colour combinations, I was really drawn to the blue and white ones (you know me, I love to keep designs simple when I can help it). So I got out my Sharpie pens, grabbed my spare mdf coasters from my old Shibori coaster project and set to work on whipping up these beauties.

Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

First I gave the mdf squares a lick of white acrylic paint. Once they were dry I drew out my designs freehand on the coasters in pencil. I didn’t want to trace the designs directly as I wanted to add my touches to them to make them my own. I also opted for freehand because, and I know some of my design friends won’t like this, I don’t like it when everything is straight on and symmetrical. I like to keep things wonky every now and again – for me it’s more fun that way.

Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’m going to give them a little varnish so I can actually use them (I was in such haste to draw the designs on and then get them shot that I clean forgot) but I thought I’d share them with you now as I’m chuffed with them. Can’t wait to get them out now.

The whole exercise has got me thinking of my own pattern designs, can I be more ornate? If I keep my colour scheme simple, can I go to town on the motifs? This project has inspired me to have a bit more of a play and to come up with some new work – watch this space for what I do with this.

Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk


Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Mexican Coasters (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

*Spiced roast cauliflower and chickpea tacos with a yoghurt lime dressing and salsa plus nachos with black bean chilli and guacamole with a side order of red cabbage slaw and smoked paprika roast potatoes, if you’re asking. No, we couldn’t eat it all and it lasted through to the next day and beyond. I did take pictures but the light was rubbish and to be honest we were too intent on scoffing rather than blog stuff – sorry!