The publishing company run by myself and poet MW Bewick, Dunlin Press, has just released a small pamphletA Study of a Long-Lived Magma Ocean on A Young Moon. We thought this new book presented a great opportunity to use my new gallery space as a way of making the book ‘bigger’ with an accompanying art installation.
This 36-page pamphlet is a collaboration with poet MW Bewick and me. The latest project from our creative partnership showcases asemic poetry pieces by me and a long form poem by Bewick.
The first edition of fifty is individually numbered and comes with a signed artist postcard.
We were so taken with the concept of the pamphlet – of life and movement in all kinds of landscapes and locations. We were inspired for the project to have a life and presence beyond the book.
I took the asemic poetry pieces I created for the book and made them large scale. I was inspired by mark-making and wordless written language, but the large pieces were also influenced by modernist stained glass window designs and religious scrolls.
We wanted the new book and art installation to be a full experience. So MW Bewick created a soundtrack, available on Band Camp to accompany the piece. I also created some ceramic relics for the project.
You can buy the book at the Dunlin Press shop, you can download MW Bewick’s Young Moon soundtrack at the Dunlin Press Band Camp page. And if you’d like to see the show then please get in touch. Viewings are currently available by appointment.
Well this is embarrassing. In September 2020 I vowed to write more blogs, but life certainly got in the way.
A lot has happened; anyone who knows me well will know that life has been somewhat full-on recently. But one of the wonderful things that has happened is that I have a new studio and gallery space.
I couldn’t be happier with the new studio and gallery. It’s in Wivenhoe and a mere 11 minute walk (yes I have timed it) from home. It has windows (a first for me studio-wise) and it gives me plenty of space to not only make a mess but to actually show my work. It really is Ella’s Place!
I took the keys back in July 2021 and I feel like this is the space I’ve been searching for my whole life.
It’s an immense privilege to have it and, as is pretty much always the case when I get a new working space, I’ve become incredibly prolific in my output over the past 12 months. And, as you can see from the image above, I’ve returned to working on canvas as well as paper. I will never end my love affair with paper.
The gallery space in the front of the studio is a really exciting development. It means I can look at my work and assess it in a gallery style setting. And it’s great for events like the Wivenhoe art trail.
Having an art studio and gallery also provides a fantastic opportunity for me to put on some stand alone shows. It means I can also explore more creative installation style opportunities for myself and my work with Dunlin Press. I’ll post about one such project that I’m really proud of later in the month.
The space also allows me to reach out to other creatives. The art studio and gallery is a brilliant professional setting to meet and talk about creative practice. It enables me to support other practitioners by providing showcase opportunities. I’m currently showing off the work of Tilt Ceramics (full disclosure Tilt Ceramics is my very talented sister Lucy Johnston).
I’ll post some more images of me in the studio next week. I had some professional images taken of me working in the space. So I’ll leave my personal vanity aside and post these up later for you to see more of the working space in action.
As I’ve been more prolific in my output, I’m going (and I promise I really am) to write a bit more about my work and my practice. So more from me soon, honest!
I’ve been recently working on a series of abstract ink works for a new book from Dunlin Press.
The book, PORT, is an anthology looking at the subject of ports. The publication essentially explores places where ‘here’ contacts ‘there’; where known and unknown meet; where perceptions of possible experience are expanded. It features essays, interviews, stories and poetry – I’m very excited to be working on it.
I thought long and hard about this project. I wanted something that reflected the character of such places. Because these locations by their nature are scenes of transition, movement and trade, I needed to convey their shape-shifting essence.
I pondered the medium and colours I was going to use for the pieces. I needed movement, flow and immediacy so I stuck with inks, my current tool of choice.
So I approached these compositions as palimpsests; each quick application of ink acting as layers of stories, activities and histories coming together. I played with colour initially but settled on black and white arrangements as I felt they were starker and more visceral.
I also experimented with the surfaces I applied my abstract ink works on. My paper selection is an integral part of every original piece. So I mixed it up a bit, using sumi rice paper, Arches smooth hot-pressed and textured cold pressed Arches watercolour paper. Every surface produced very different results as each paper type absorbs the ink washes, marks and strokes completely differently.
The abstract ink works will be featured as book illustrations, with a selection being printed as limited edition fine art prints and postcards as a companion to the publication. The book is being launched in the autumn and I’ll be sure you keep you updated on its progress here.
As I was prepping for one of my drawing workshops I wondered why I am so fascinated by feathers.
I suppose, for me, feathers represent duality. To me that are symbols of fragility and strength; the frailty of existence and yet the wonder of creation.
Hold a feather in your hand and it feels so light, almost weightless and soft. It’s so delicate that my instinct is to treat a feather with reverence and gentleness. However just look at even the tiniest of feathers’ structure and you see so much good structural design there. And strength, so much strength.
The process of observation and examination is fundamental to my art and illustration practice. The purpose of a feather – warmth, flight, waterproofing, camouflage, display etc – is so evident once you examine one close up. For me this one object symbolises so many of the things we need in life to survive both physically and emotionally; resilience, protection, comfort.
As a species I feel we treat animal life so cheaply. We treat birds terribly. I also want the feathers to be a symbol of this. While they represent so much life, in reality they also are symbols of death.
I like to represent them in my work as celebrations of life, proud and at times even totemic. But as objects they are solitary, plucked, indeed, plucked or removed from a body. A stark reminder of the elemental, fragile line we walk between life and death.
I must admit I’m conflicted when I have to source my feathers to draw. I’ve gathered a lot of them from the muddy floor of near-by woodland. I have been known to buy them from vintage markets (like when I use to buy leather jackets, I had to know the cow would have been long dead before I could benefit from it – a strange logic I know). But mostly I get given them by friends who find them on their travels.
Most of my feather pieces are created with watercolour and pigment ink pen. I teach this technique at my workshop and I went through it in a step by step for uni-ball. You can read it here…
I’m also playing around with pen and loose Indian ink as you can see.
Take a closer look at my feather prints on my Folksy shop.
Last week I told you about my new illustrated book (with MW Bewick), The Orphaned Spaces published by our indie publishing company Dunlin Press, well here is the box set.
The Orphaned Spaces box set is such an undertaking of work that I had to give it a separate post.
When working on Dunlin Press projects, we’ve often described each book as ‘time capsules’. We aim for every publication to embody the mood and spirit of a place or region at a particular period of human history – like pressing a pause button or taking a picture. The Orphaned Spaces box set is a physical manifestation of this concept.
This highly limited edition, made-to-order box set, deconstructs the book The Orphaned Spaces, breaking it down into hand-stitched booklets, postcards, archival prints and a reliquary.
The box set contains the following elements:
1: Hand-stitched ‘Journal’
Coverstock: G.F SMith, Colorplan, fuchsia pink, 270gsm. Inset pages: G.F SMith, Colorplan, dark grey, 135gsm. Inner pages: ZANDERS ZETA, Unwatermarked Textured Paper, linen 100gsm,
2: Hand-stitched black and white studies booklet
Paper stock: Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, matte smooth, 188gsm
3: Hand-stitched wild flower still lives booklet
Paper stock: Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, matte smooth, 188gsm
4: 10 pressed plants fine art giclée prints
Printed on archival Hahnemühle, Photo Rag, bamboo, 290gsm
5: Six landscape postcards
6: A glass bottle ‘reliquary’
7: Wildflower seeds include a mixture of annual and perennial wildflower species and grasses.
8: Bookmark using G.F SMith, Colorplan, dark grey, 135gsm
I’ve really made use of the 2010 Central St Martin book-binding summer course I attended during the past eight years. The box set features three hand-stitched booklets all bound by me. I really enjoy book-making so, what would feel like hard work for some feels like a kind of zen meditative process for me.
I’ve been itching to share this pick of my pins this week. Lucy Tiffney’s murals are a constant inspiration but this particular illustration created for Care UK, Oxford really impressed.
I think this example exemplifies Lucy’s illustrative style; simple, structural and striking. It communicates the essence flowing energy and lightness of the plant’s leaves contrasted with the weight of the pot. Her colour choice is always spot-on and her simple composition is one to be admired and taken note of. She has inspired me to explore some large scale work of my own.
See more of Lucy Tiffney’s work on the following channels…
It’s mid-September, our house has been battered by East Anglian, River Colne winds and we’re preparing for autumn. Still our dahlia’s thrive – how’s that for a bit of Monday motivation?Dr B has planted loads of different varieties of this fabulous flower in various shades of pink, red and orange so even as we move out of summer, the garden is a real riot of colour.
As well as their impressive, vibrant hues and voluptuous shape, these blooms are so wonderful as you can keep cutting them to display and it just makes the plant even more abundant. Every week we get a fresh homegrown floral display that brightens up our rooms – I hope it’s brightened your Monday.
Yes, Ella’s Place is back after a break that was, I admit, slightly longer than I intended.
I needed to take a break because I wanted to refocus Ella’s Place and really think about what I wanted to do with the blog, so I’ve been doing lots of research, investigation and general musing. I also had loads of illustration gigs on and there were some months where all I did was produce drawing after drawing – I’m not moaning, but it was intense.
I’m going back to basics with Ella’s Place, talking about how a creative couple live, work, eat and have fun in our wonderful Wivenhoe home. I’ll be sharing with you my inspirations and obsessions, my drawings and my edited picks of on-trend themes plus insights into what I’m working on. I’ll talk you through the way I make my drawings and from time to time I’ll also be profiling some of my favourite designers and artists. Some bits of the blog will be quite studied and serious, others will light and breezy.
It’s good to be back, I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
It’s mid November so I feel it’s a respectable time to start getting set for Christmas. I thought I’d just do a really image-led post featuring some key festive looks that I like for home, gifting and decoration.
This look brings out the little girl in me. I would imagine the six year old me would have loved a shimmery, glittery tree in pinks, golds, turquoises, silvers and purples. When I was that age, the shinier the better and, while I try to be a grown up, this look still shouts “Christmas” to me.
Now it if was up to Dr B, this is what Christmas would look like at our place.
When it comes to wrapping, I go classy with kraft paper and twine or black/white iridescent wrap with contrasting ribbon and tags, Dr B goes all out with robins, trees, snowmen, santas and Christmas puds. His go-to colours are red, green and white because it is “proper”. He likes the fun of this look, the playfulness and, like my retro shimmer look, it reminds him of childhood. I like it too but I’m not sure if it would suit my gaff.
Love this. The sumptuous textures teamed with the plaid, plus the traditional motifs and colour ways combined with twinkly lights and little finishes such as berry and fir wreaths and centre pieces create a warm, cosy feel that immediately references this time of year.
The totes trad look feels both festive and grown up. You kinda feel Christmassy as soon as you see it and just looking at these pictures makes me want to reach for the hot chocolate and my slippers.
This metallic style is a kind of grown up version of the retro shimmer look.
I like the way you can be playful with this look – you can do glitter, you can adorn gifts and decorations with baubles and frosting – but the overall effect is quite chic. I love the art deco references of this and think it really comes together through the coordinating colour way of pinks, navies, silvers and gold/bronze metallics.
You can do two versions of the frosted Christmas – the one above (trad touches, cosy finishes etc) or the one below (minimal styling, subtle references). Whatever your style the look shares the same cool colour suite teamed with pretty metallic accents and snowflake and wreath motifs.
I know everyone has been talking about ‘hygge’ of late and I suppose this look reflects this.
This graphic style is perfect for me but I know that some find this look a little too austere and maybe too stark. However you can soften it up by being more playful with your decorative elements and use of pattern like the examples below…
This is my wildcard but I can’t resist showcasing this range from Paperchase. The colours are warm and vibrant while the motifs are so playful and fun. It’s a great alternative for those who aren’t keen on snowflakes.
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. 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. 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. I’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. As 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.
This is the shop for Ella Johnston. Here you can buy original artwork, prints, stationery and homewares from my archive. Dismiss