And now for something a little different over here at PJTM.
With Valentines day fast approaching, I was keen to feature the work of a super talented artist, Ella Robinson, who I always associate with hearts..... hearts and colour! I'm very excited that Ella agreed to be featured on PJTM, and took some time out to answer a few questions. Ella is a total colour mistress and her clothes style is very unique. She is a fellow charity shop aficionado and I would love her to do a 'what I wore post' on the blog. Anyhow, i'm running away with myself here lets get back to Ella's beautiful Shop.
First up thank you so much for taking part. I love the fact you work with 'unwanted and discarded items' from the sea, why are they appealing to you?
Thank you! I think that they are appealing on a number of levels. Firstly, by collecting them up it removes harmful plastic from the sea and away from any animals that may try to ingest them. When I lived in Brighton it deeply frustrated me that people would come down to enjoy the seaside and then leave all of their rubbish behind. In summer especially it seemed that a lot of groups left numerous beer bottles, BBQs, plastic bags and packaging/ wrapping. I’m not sure what they thought was going to happen to it after they left it behind but it made me really angry that they were so inconsiderate to the environment and disrespectful to Brighton in general. By collecting up fragments of plastic I feel that I am, in my own small way, helping to clean up Brighton and protect the sea from yet more harmful rubbish.
On a more personal level, I just love to “find things”, it’s like going out hunting for treasure, you never know what you’re going to come across and you’ll need to search very carefully if you want to spot everything. Plus, I love a freebie so it’s great to go out and see what can be found. I prefer to work with found items rather than to go out and buy brand new materials. It feels great to search for a nice piece of driftwood, take it home, wash and dry it, plan a design, drill and then stitch it, making something completely different to its first form, whilst at the same time being sympathetic to its original characteristics.
Why is the heart motif so special to you?
In a similar way to how you feel about your daughter wearing pink, I used to hate “pink” and “hearts”, I thought that they were gross, “girly” and not something I ever wanted in my life.
When I was initially experimenting with drilling and stitching through driftwood (during the second year of my MA at the Royal College of Art) I worked on a few very simple designs, which included two arrows, a straight line, a diamond and a heart. By using these motifs I was just testing out the new techniques and materials. After graduating I exhibited at the Knit and Stitch show in Harrogate and I had some of these samples on display. An elderly couple came over and the gentleman asked to buy my driftwood heart (for his wife). I declined as it was the “original” and I didn't particularly want to part with it. Before they left the show they came past again and asked if I’d changed my mind, unfortunately I hadn't. However this situation made me think that perhaps I was onto something with this simple design.
Since then my opinion regarding hearts (and pink) has changed a lot, in fact I even have a brightly coloured Hama bead heart garland hanging above my bed, who’d have thought?! I see that hearts are a simple, and clear, way to demonstrate love, whilst at the same time being a great graphic motif. I imagine that they mean various things to different people but women in general seem to be drawn to them. In regards to my Driftwood Hearts, I enjoy the contrast of the soft, stitched heart image against the surface of well-worn driftwood.
Frieda has a colourful pair of heart trousers that I actually call 'her Ella Robinson trousers!' because they remind me so much of you.
You found a Lego Dragon from the 1997 container spill, what does the future hold for the dragon?
At present it is in a lovely, found Kilner jar (rescued from someone’s recycling in Tring) hanging out with the other children’s toys that I have found whilst beachcombing and walking the streets. I collect these with the aim of one day making them into a Framed Collection but I think I need to find a few more before this can happen.
You are no longer Brighton based what do you miss about the seaside?
Of course I miss just being beside the sea, to be able to go for walks (in all seasons) and see people enjoying themselves on the coast, and to just soak up the atmosphere (and the sunshine if there is any!). The thing I miss the most though is being able to pop out for a spot of beachcombing if I’m experiencing a creative block whilst working, it was always a good way of being productive whilst having a break from what I was working on. In a similar sense, if there had been stormy weather then I would always try and head out as this is when lots of things get washed up. Living away from the seaside means that I still head back to Brighton to beach comb but it has to be planned a bit further in advance, it’s not so accessible any more.
What does beachcombing mean to you?
As odd as it sounds I can’t explain what it feels like when I’m beachcombing, I just know that I absolutely love it. It’s almost as though I go into some kind of a trance and focus as much attention as possible on finding items and fragments amongst the stones and washed up seaweed. My brain goes off and has strange conversations with itself whilst I comb the shore, ever hopeful to find a colourful Smarties lid, driftwood block or child’s toy.
I guess it could be considered as therapeutic. It can be hard work, in both the winter and summer, and if I’ve collected a lot of stuff then it’s very heavy and I spend a lot of time bending over to pick various finds up. I’m not very good at feeding myself when I beachcomb as I want to spend as much time as possible searching (especially during the winter when we have less daylight hours), which makes me tired (and very hungry!).
Aside from your etsy shop where else can we find your work?
I sell my Driftwood Hearts (both free-standing and framed) at the MOSTYN (gallery) shop in Llandudno, North Wales and I've just taken a new bach of un-framed hearts to flow Gallery in Notting Hill after their recent refurbishment. Excitingly, I also have a new retailer close to me in Hertfordshire; a lovely, colourful gallery called ART at 88, in Berkhamsted. Shortly I will also be making and sending some pieces to the very friendly Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge (West Yorkshire).
I will also be exhibiting, for the first time ever, at The Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, Devon, between 5-7th June this year. I will be displaying a broad selection of my Decorative Objects and Framed Collections, including larger pieces. Other shows will be coming up as the year progresses.
Lastly, do you celebrate Valentines day yourself?
Hah, good question! Over the years I have had a love/ hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. I think it’s important that we show our loved ones how we feel about them, but I don’t believe that it needs to be done on one particular day (that is dictated to us). I don’t think that it should be just about our partners, but more about everyone who is special to us; including our parents, siblings and friends.
I don’t need the retail world to tell me that on a certain day I should buy my boyfriend a card/ gift/ flowers and take him out to dinner to demonstrate that I love him. I should probably be showing him this every day! Personally, I wouldn't choose to go out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.
Funnily enough, last year (the first Valentine’s Day with my boyfriend) I knew that the day meant something to him so I decided to put my negativity aside and make an effort. I made him a LOVE TREE and framed it nicely. He loved his gift but hadn't got me anything as he knew I wasn't so fussed!
I eagerly await to hear if you celebrated Valentines Day this year. Thank you Ella it's been super fun sharing my little space with someone else. You can find Ella at the below links. All the shiny colourful photos are the work of Ella and must not be used without her permission.
Website - http://www.ellarobinson.com/Artist's facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ella-Robinson-Artist/297421010288969?ref=settings