Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Collar Piece: Ella Robinson

Ella Robinson: 'Roy' Stranded cotton & driftwood

Ella Robinson
Ella Robinson's work celebrates vibrant colour, pattern and the use of unexpected 'textile' materials.
When you learn that she was brought up in Brighton you may be unsurprised to learn that she is inspired by the British coast but her colour palette is flavoured by graffiti and bold, street art. The sort of spirit lifting hues you might find on ice cream vans or amusement arcades.

Like fellow project artist Alice Fox, Ella's practice is inspired by beach & street combing finds. Ella seeks out potential materials from driftwood, plastics, fragments of metal, worn ceramics and sea smoothed glass to make one-off collage and sculptural pieces in which she uses a combination of drilling, stitching and wrapping techniques. 
Ella Robinson. Left: 'Greens & Blues', Right: 'One Little Lie'  

Ella's usual choice of material is therefore a far cry from a tiny (smallest in the batch), white vintage collar. How much of a challenge was this for her?

"A collar, being made from fabric, is not an object that I would normally gravitate towards as I usually work with stiff, dense materials, such as drift or found wood. However, once I began working with the collar it became apparent that it was not as easy to stitch through as a “classic” piece of fabric, and was possibly more akin to wood than textiles. I knew from the beginning of the project that I was going to keep the collar as it was, rather than to cut it up or change its original form/ colour, and I knew that I was going to embroider it."

"When working with wood I create my design using a paper template, sellotape it to the top of the base material and then drill though to create the holes. I then remove the template and begin to stitch the design, referencing back to the template in order to stitch correctly. The process was exactly the same for the collar but I used a ball-ended pin to punch the holes rather than a small drill bit. Once the paper template was removed the tiny holes were still visible, due to the density of the collar." 
"In regards to the imagery I used, I have been thinking about cacti designs for some time, initially for making a Decorative Object (a wood piece). I had the collar in my possession for a good number of months and would sporadically mull over what type of imagery to incorporate. I had initially thought to stitch a generic flower design, such as that of Millions. But when it came to sitting down to actually “make” the collar I thought that small embroidered cacti would be complimentary, in a sort of colourful Country and Western style."
 "As I worked on my small collar, and the number of cacti grew, the design changed and evolved from what I had originally planned and I began to really love and cherish the piece. It became quite precious to me, possibly because it felt more fragile and delicate than my bulky wooden pieces. I named the collar Howdy Partner, giving a nod to my Country and Western influence."
 "I treated myself (indulged) and stitched my name into the inside of my collar. It felt a bit like when Mum put my name into my school uniform with those red-text-on-white-background labels, but a lot more enjoyable."

 "The final piece is clearly inspired by the techniques and materials that I use within my practice, and sits well against my other work, but it has a different, softer, edge."


  1. lovely collar!m I am a wood person, driftwood- it speaks to me, perhaps I was a tree in a former life

    1. Hi Susan, there are some lovely examples of Ella's stitched driftwood / wood finds in the current exhibition.

      The planet needs trees!