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Workshop Wisdom - Ellie Orrell

Nov 18, 2020


How would you describe your work? 

Primarily, my work is drawing and making. I make work that responds to everyday life; whether it’s a person I’ve met, something I’m reading or listening to, a meal shared with someone or a place I’ve visited- these everyday occurrences inspire the pieces that I make. In this way, I think of my work as an opportunity to share these moments with others and on that level, I hope that people will find something relatable, something comforting in my pieces.


How would you describe your workshop?

My workshop tends to be my living space. Whether it’s a friend’s kitchen, my living room floor or the corner of a coffee shop I tend to be drawing- so in this way my workshop usually takes the form of a sketchbook as opposed to a defined space. I always work through ideas, develop imagery and draw in my sketchbooks, but the surroundings in which I work often change. 


What is a usual day in the workshop like for you?

There is always coffee, and a candle or two lit. I burn beeswax candles whilst I work, creating my own little hive of activity whether I’m working on paintings, cut-outs or if it’s an admin day and I’m typing away on my laptop. At the beginning of the day, my workspace usually looks like a few organised piles of paper, a jar of ink and another jar of brushes and pens but by the end I’m usually sitting amongst a swell of drawings. I spend hours working through ideas in drawings: the face of a friend which I’m trying to capture or of a dreamscape I’m trying to convey.


What is your favourite tool to use?

At the moment it is Indian ink with a calligraphy brush. It’s a kind of trick I’ve been using to allow my drawing to become a little looser- using a large Chinese calligraphy brush to create work gives you much less control over the final piece and I like working in this way, it keeps things unpredictable. Also: tape! I always tape my work up on the walls of my workspace to get a different perspective on a collection or series of drawings.


Who has been your biggest influence?

My mother, unquestionably. An artist herself, I grew up watching her working from home and now whenever I’m home we sit and draw together. It’s a very special way of working for me and although we have our own distinct languages of drawing, our subject matter often overlaps, and I feel sure that my work is always relating and responding to hers. 


What themes, inspirations or concepts drift into your work?

I studied Art History for four years at university, and over those years I collected a huge store of inspiration from lectures and reading groups. I often take inspiration from artists I’ve read or am reading about. For example, Patti Smith’s photography is often a point of reference for me since reading M Train and Year of the Monkey: in its focus on everyday collections of objects, small areas of the house made shrine-like or a cup of coffee on a tabletop. These are the kinds of things I am drawn to depicting in my work: small moments of beauty to be found in our daily experience.


Do you have a motto?

Not a motto as such, but I try to always notice the small joys to be found in daily life and to appreciate these. The beauty of being able to go for a walk in nature, finding a good croissant in a local bakery, making a loaf of bread or even just making the perfect cup of tea when it’s pouring it down outside. It can be hard to focus on the positive, especially right now, and I don’t always manage it; but I notice the difference in my work on days when I do and those when I don’t. I also try to do this through drawing- using my work to illustrate the small joys of daily life.


Do you have any rules or rituals when working?

There are always candles, mostly beeswax but also some colourful candles to cheer up my space. I feel like burning candles helps me to retain a good level of focus whilst I’m working. I also walk every day before starting on any work. I wake up early and always try to get out of the house as quickly as possible, to walk through the park or around the forest whilst it is still quiet before there are many other people around. On the weekends I always walk into town to get coffee (and usually a pastry) from my favourite bakery which is still open for takeaway. After my walk, I make something warm to drink, light a few candles and sit down to work- working mostly from the floor, because I find it easier to spread out everything and to stand up and look at it from a distance afterwards.


How have you styled your Hiuts?

My Hiuts have quickly been incorporated into my usual studio attire! Which, at this time of year, means long-sleeved thermals, cardigans and woollen socks. 

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