Creator Series: East End Press
We are so excited to share a bit more about one of our favorite collaborators. We know many of you have fallen in love with the paper garlands at our shop and we love sharing them with you. It's just such a simple way to add a bit of festive spirit to each season of the year. We fell in love with these garlands several years ago, with their bright colors and playful themes.
When the first garlands arrived in our shop, were were just absolutely astounded by the beauty and quality of each piece. The shapes are made of a heavy pressed cotton paper, each side is printed with a luxurious ink colors layered together to make something that can last for years to come. This type of paper craft is rare these days, and we are so excited to introduce to you Ellie, the UK based designer, and the team of craftsman behind East End Press.
Ellie is visual artist and screen printer based in Scotland who has become a craftsman in paper and ink. While we have been working with East End Press for several years, last Christmas we collaborated to make a nativity garland and Santa Lucia inspired garland. This year, we worked together to design this bat garland for Halloween. Earlier this year, we met up with Ellie, the owner and designer of East End Press, and had the chance to become in-person friends, instead of virtual acquaintances. Since we were both attending the same tradeshows, we decided to share an "tourist" experience in the big city. We found ourselves at a table at Serendipity, we shared frozen hot chocolates and bonded over our shared love of Scotland and its environs.
One of the things we love about Ellie is that when she needed to start producing on a larger scale she decided on her own accord to fly to India and with proceeded to knock on doors of various factories, determined to have her ideas realized. She carried around the samples she had made, looking for craftsman with the necessary skills to make the screen-printed. She eventually discovered the perfect printer to help her incredible paper vision come to life.
Where did you learn your craft?
I studied Illustration at Glasgow School of Art, and part of the course included a screen printing module. I loved the process and became a member of Glasgow’s open access print studio. Slowly all work I produced both during and after my degree was screen printed and I learned all about the craft. I started making the paper garlands almost by accident as a way of using up scrap prints and utilising a laser cutter I had invested in.
Where do you find inspiration?
I love to draw plants, flowers, birds, animals.. or anything patterned or highly decorative really. I was always drawn to screen printing because of the flat solid nature of the print, and the way it works well with bold strong lines , which is how I like to draw. So anything that has detail or pattern that I can capture like a bird’s feathers or petals on a flower I like to draw and then print! I am also increasingly inspired by my customers - people will ask for a garland with Dinosaurs and I’ll think oooh, maybe I should create one!
What materials do you use and why is the materiality important to you?
Everything I make is screen printed, because I love the process and I feel it fits my style of drawing. The paper I use is all 100% recycled content and made from scraps of cotton waste collected from the textile industry. The fabric is chopped small and pulped down with water to eventually create thick, textured paper sheets. I love the feel and matte appearance of the paper - I think it takes the ink so well, and shows a really saturated intense colour. Also, of course, the fact that it is created entirely from a waste recycled product is a huge bonus, and we now use entirely recycled paper for all packaging of the products too. When you earn a living creating more non essential products for the world then I think you have a responsibility to do it as sustainably as possible.
What does your process look like?
I generally will be collecting images or prints as inspiration (either digitally on pintrest/folders on my desk top/instagram saved images or physically in big folders in my studio) when I see things that spark my imagination. I’ll then draw the images that are more interesting or relevant to me, or I’ll put different elements of several images together. I then take my favourite 5 - 7 images from each subject and develop these further as black and white drawings, and these willl become the different elements of each garland. I’ll choose five colours per garlands, and then plot out each line drawing into the different colours, so that there is no black and no outline, just an image composed of the five colours.
I also mix up physical colour swatches of the five colours, and these are sent to India so that the printers can mix the printing ink to perfectly match my swatches. It is all done by eye, a real skill! I email over the images, and five separate screens are created per image, one for each of the five colour layers. Each garland is printed with ten layers of ink - five on the front and five on the back! A lot of work goes into every single garland.
What has this art form done for you personally (meditation? spirituality? character building? etc)?
I definitely find drawing and designing the most enjoyable and relaxing element of my work. I guess most of us become designers or crafts people or artist because we want to practise our art continually, but in reality it is quite a small proportion of how you spend your time! However the time spent drawing and designing is the best fun, and time I feel most happy.
Do you train apprentices or have a way of helping your craft to extend its longevity?
I don’t personally, but in India the printing team have grown from one to five over the past few years! Head printer Sadjit has built a brand new specialised printing unit over two floors of his family home, and there he trains and works with apprentice printers to learn the craft and create all our products. In many ways the process has changed very little in decades and decades so it is lovely to know the craft is continuing to be passed down through generations.