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What to do with spare fabric

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

I’ve been designing fabric patterns and have ordered lots of my handprinted leaf design in blue from my Spoonflower shop to craft with. So, after making cushions, lampshades and using it to revamp some little steps I have (more about that later), I’ve got an excess of little bits and pieces.

So what to do? Well I’ve got a lovely set of wooden boxes from BoxyLady.co.uk and I’ve used my blue and white material to cover these little numbers with. They are really easy to do – simply measure your fabric to fit the box, brush the boxes with PVA and place the fabric so it bonds with the glue, mitring the folds and snipping away any spare bits of fabric as you go.

Here’s the result. These containers are great for those little fiddly household items. I use this box to keep my tea-lights in when I’m not using them and it sits pride of place on my sideboard in the dining room.

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk




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Meet Ella’s menagerie

Meet Ella's Menagerie When we moved into our new house it was our mission to create a little menagerie of cool animals and characters – admittedly they are almost all ceramic, fabric or wood, but Dr B and I love them nonetheless and have invented back stories for all of them.

We have a collection of characters ‘protecting’ every room; here is a selection of our favourites…

Ceramic Bulls (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Ferdinand and Isabella
We met this couple of bulls at Judy’s Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green. We got them for a song (I think a fiver for the pair). The mother and son duo are from Pamplona in Spain, Isabella is a bohemian pacifist and really didn’t want her boy getting into bull fighting so she came to East London after hearing that was where the art was at. However when Isabella heard about Wivenhoe’s amazing artistic heritage and community she was convinced this pretty estuary town was the perfect place to bring up her son – especially when she read about Wiv’s connection with Richard Chopping, Dennis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon in this article here.

Ceramic Bulls (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Ceramic Cats (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Henry and Matilda
This Anglo-French couple were first introduced to us at Divine Intervintage. Theirs is a beautiful story of love beyond the boundaries of class. Henry is a good East End boy, poor but honest with a musical hall past. Matilda, on the other hand, went to the finest Parisian finishing schools and dined with the créme de la créme of French society. According to Matilda the duo met when some cad had left her stranded outside the Royal Opera House in the rain. Henry was passing by and charmed her with his ready wit and impeccable manners – he has certainly charmed us!

Wooden Sparrow (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk
Cedric the Sparrow
Standing proud and resplendent in maple, Cedric may be a beautiful wooden turned Sparrow by designer Lars Beller Fjetland but what isn’t so well known is that Cedric’s also a leading academic. He has given lectures all around the world and is an expert in Egyptology – in fact he was working in the Cairo Museum of Antiquities when it all started kicking off in Tahrir Square. He prefers doing his research in the modernist masterpiece that is the Essex University Albert Sloman Library.

Wooden Sparrow (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Wooden Figure (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Thoreau
Cedric is very close to our resident poet Thoreau, an Alexander Girard handmade doll. He’s had a fairly colourful life, spending time in Havana, San Francisco, Ibiza and a period with Andy Warhol at the Factory. However he is notoriously discreet so he’s rubbish for getting gossip out of. But BRILLIANT for screenprinting and film-making tips!

Wooden Figure (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Cloth Cat (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Ian
This cloth cat has been friends with us for a long time. We met him at Family Tree in Exmouth Market. Ian’s life has been, well, eventful, and while he is mostly sober, sometimes we have been known to find him in a smoke-filled haze listening to Black Sabbath or hard-core nineties rave very loudly on his headphones with a thousand-yard stare on the go – we don’t judge him. We love him.

Cloth Cat (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Wooden Owl (C) Ella Johnston ellasplace.co.uk

Mark
Luckily Ian has Mark. Mark is a Christian and, while DrB and I are not ‘believers’ we respect this wooden owl’s views. He has a qualification in counselling and is very understanding of Ian’s erratic behaviour having worked in various hostels around the country.




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How to organise your craft materials – Part 1

Organise your craft materials part one ellasplace.co.ukI’m not a woman who spends loads of money on handbags and shoes. I’m not even that much of a voracious clothes buyer. No, I spend pretty much all my disposable income on art and craft materials. Here’s how I organise mine.

As I have so much equipment, I need to organise it in two ways. One, as general put it away and keep things neat and tidy when I’m not using it (more of that later). Two, the things for ‘live work’ – stuff I need as I’m working.

Organise your art and craft equipment ellasplace.co.uk

As I mentioned beforeI have an abundance of black Faber Castell India ink PITT artist pens in various nib sizes, plus a load of drawing pencils and probably more scalpels than a woman needs. All of which as an illustrator I need to hand – and all of which I have a habit of mislaying if I don’t have a home for them!

As I’m currently working on my stamped designs as well as my ongoing drawing practice, I have a lot of little fiddly items that I really can’t misplace. There are messy ink pads (in specific colours), scalpel blades and my collection of hand-carved stamps (true one-offs that I really, really don’t want to lose).

These tricky-to-store bits and pieces need a home, and in true crafty fashion I’ve done a bit of upcycling and personalising when it comes to go-to craft room storage.

Organise your craft materials ellasplace.co.uk

All the pens and brushes I’ve got on the go, plus my bookbinding tools, are all stored easily to hand in little tins covered with my red heart fabric. Tins make for great storage – they hold so much, I can see what’s in them and access them easily, plus you can line them up in row to look uniform.

Organise your craft equipment ellasplace.co.uk

My little inky items live in an old chocolate treats tin that is also covered in my red and white fabric. I love using these round containers: you can stack them up for easy organising and you can pop a lid on them to keep everything concealed. I have lots of these in my craft room, either painted or covered in paper and fabric (I’ve been known to colour code these for stamps, floristry stuff, threads and fabric scraps etc).

Organise your craft materials ellasplace.co.ukIt’s easy to cover both types of tin too. I love a bit of decoupage. You simply use a tape measure to work out the circumference and the height, then cut your fabric to these dimensions (I’ve used pinking sheers for this). Then simply cover the tin with strong PVA glue and wrap around to cover the side. For the lidded tin I’ve cut out sections of fabric and layered these over the lid. I’ve then covered all the containers with PVA to seal the fabric and act as a varnish.

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5 coffee table books that make me happy

Neubau Forst Catalogue Urban Tree Collection for the Modern Architect and Designer via http://www.ellasplace.meBooks. Beautiful books. Books you learn from. Books that transport you and books that transform you. Books that speed you through a train journey. Books by the side of a pool. Coffee table books. There’s room for them all.

Our coffee table here at Ella’s Place has been starting to groan under the weight of new books that have arrived at recent birthdays. But I love them being there, ready at hand, supplying instant inspiration at unexpected moments. I’m sharing a few of them here.

Above and below is the cloth-bound Neubau Forst Catalogue: Urban Tree Collection for the Modern Architect and Designer. It’s basically a book of trees in Berlin, starkly photographed, stripped of context on a white background (rather like my own drawings), and then pictured in silhouette. It reminds me of how wonderful the conjunction of nature and the city can be – and how I began my own journey of drawing birds and flowers while living in London’s Square Mile and watching a pair of blue tits flit from tree to tree, and balcony to balcony, along our city-centre street. It also reminds me of how I love Berlin.

Neubau Forst Catalogue Urban Tree Collection for the Modern Architect and Designer via http://www.ellasplace.me

Mary Schoeser’s stunning and sumptuous volume, Textiles, is a real feast for the eyes and huge inspiration and resource for pattern, colour and illustration. It juxtaposes historical pieces with contemporary design and I can lose myself for hours in it.

Mary Schoeser Textiles book via http://www.ellasplace.me

Mary Schoeser Textiles book via http://www.ellasplace.me

Weeds & Aliens – An Unnatural History of Plants, by B.A. Huseby is a treat for any student of book design. It’s embossed, foil-blocked and cloth-bound. It uses different paper stocks and the typography is both elegant and quite radically laid-out. It’s a collection of minimalistic photography of ‘wrong-placed plants’ (as Dr B likes to call them) and their culinary uses. It’s not exactly a book about foraging for food – there aren’t any recipes as such – but from reading it you can learn about what plants are growing under your feet, or at the side of the road, and how you might use them.

Weeds & Aliens - An Unnatural History of Plants by B.A. Huseby book via http://www.ellasplace.me

Weeds & Aliens - An Unnatural History of Plants by B.A. Huseby book via http://www.ellasplace.me

There are two large yellow books in our living room. One is a collection of drawings by Aubrey Beardsley and the other is this big book of textiles by Knoll. Tracing the period 1945-2010 it’s a history of fabric, furniture, interior design and advertising with plenty of evocative photography that captures the high points of mid-century modern.

Knoll Textiles book via http://www.ellasplace.me

Knoll Textiles book via http://www.ellasplace.me

In 2012, an original edition of John James Audubon’s giant, outsized The Birds of America sold at Christie’s in New York for nearly $8 million. My version might be considerably cheaper and smaller, but still manages to capture the timeless quality of his paintings. As an illustrator who loves drawing birds, it’s a real treat.

John James Audubon Birds of America book via http://www.ellasplace.me

John James Audubon Birds of America book via http://www.ellasplace.meSo, what are your favourite coffee table books?




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Learning the art of Shibori

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It’s always great to learn new craft techniques – especially when they can be put to good use on home and fashion makes. I recently got to grips with the art of Shibori, an ancient Japanese dying technique, during a workshop at White House Arts in Cambridge.

Japanese printing

I went to the one-day workshop with my mum and my sister and we had a go at two Shibori dying methods; Arashi and Itajime.

Arashi shibori is also known as pole-wrapping shibori. You wrap your cloth around a pole (which looks like a large section of plastic industrial piping), then tightly bind it by wrapping a thin cord up and down the pole. Once the cord is secured, you scrunch the cloth up the pole and sink it into the dye. Arashi is the Japanese word for storm – and that’s a pretty accurate description of the kind of effect you get from this particular type of printing. As you can see above in the first picture in this post and in the photograph here:

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Itajime shibori is what is known as a shaped-resist technique. This means that an object is placed over the folded fabric (for example, a piece of wood) which be used to form a ‘resist’ that stops the dye making contact with the material. Because the fabric is folded (this can be done in many ways) the end result is a gorgeous geometric design that would look great on bedding and other homewares.

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