Getting to know Ellie Hodesdon
We catch up with GSA Collection maker Ellie Hodesdon of East End Press...
Illustrator Ellie Hodesdon found her passion for printing whilst studying at The Glasgow School of Art and went on to launch her own business East End Press. We find out more about her story and the inspirations behind her vibrant printed products.
The GSA Shop stocks products designed by students, staff and alumni of The Glasgow School of Art…Can you tell us a bit about your time studying at GSA?
I specialised in Illustration while studying at GSA and I don’t think I fully appreciated at the time what a luxury it was to draw and create all day every day! As part of the Visual Communication course we had access to a screen printing bench in the basement below the old canteen (there were no windows and not much air!) I spent a lot of time there and completely fell in love with screen printing so that was a big influence on how I create my work now.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas for your designs?
I really love folk art and like looking at a lot of traditional crafts and decorative, useful objects - things like patchwork quilts or decorative ceramic tiles can be really inspiring for interesting patterns. For colour combinations it's a bit of a cliché but I love looking at nature, especially birds and flowers. I love LOVE pattern and print so anywhere you find those can be inspiring.
Can you tell us a bit about the kind of processes and materials you use?
I do a lot of screen printing, mainly onto wood and paper. Each design starts as a drawing and I then map out which sections will be printed which colours. I like to experiment with overlapping the inks to create different tones and colours, so plan out which areas of the design will have more than one layer of ink. I then create the stencils to expose onto the screen either by hand, tracing the separate colour layers onto draught paper, or in Photoshop, printing each layer onto acetate.
How long have you been trading for and what led you to start your business?
After I graduated I lived abroad for a few years but when I returned to the UK I couldn’t find a job, at all, anywhere, so started my own business! I started trading in 2015, initially I started screen printing Christmas cards and prints and sold them at various pop up shops and events and slowly, from then, started making and selling more things!
What are the hurdles you face as a maker in starting and running your own business?
I think for me, the main hurdles are not having enough time! And when I began it was not having enough money. Making products yourself can be hugely time consuming but outsourcing the production of work means you need to have money to invest in the products before you can (hopefully!) sell them. It can all feel like a massive gamble and, in my experience, I never really feel like I know what I am doing, I sort of feel like I’m continually learning and just making it up as I go along!
And tell us about the high points that make it all worthwhile?
I feel incredibly lucky to earn a living doing something I enjoy so that is a high point, knowing that I am in control of what I do and how I spend my time. I know just how fortunate I am to be doing something I love. I have just returned from a month long trip to India gathering inspiration and developing products and that felt pretty great. Knowing I could fund the trip and take month off from work, all with the purpose of progressing the future of the business, was not something I would ever have dreamed of achieving, even a year or so ago. When you are plodding on everyday, churning out orders and answering emails, it can be hard to reflect on progress you have made with your business and the trip away really felt like an opportunity to do that.
What advice would you give to makers starting to design products for retail?
Don’t try and imitate something that’s already out there, make your own work. Don’t force designs, do what comes naturally and easily to you. In my experience the easiest designs to create are the ones that are most successful and sell the best! Also it can feel like all your time is spent packing orders or replying to emails or ordering materials - anything but designing and making- and it can be a long, hard slog, but don’t give up!
How are you finding the independent retail scene currently?
Nearly all my stockists are single, independently owned shops and so from my own experience the independent retail scene seems to be going well! As a small business myself I am totally dependent on these other independent businesses so it’s really encouraging to see so many of them doing well. This year I am taking part in my first ever trade show so it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, changes this makes to the types of stockists I attract and orders I receive.
How long have you been supplying us?
I have only been stocking the GSA Shop about a year but already it’s been a huge benefit - the shop has a really organised, professional approach and I feel like they take you, your work and your business really seriously which is great. Also last Christmas my Tropical Bird Mobile was featured in the Guardian Gift Guide after being seen in the GSA Shop, so that was definitely a big high point!
Give us a sneaky taste of things to come, what are your big or small plans for the future?
I have just returned from a research and inspiration gathering trip to Jaipur where I was working with a team of really talented block and screen printers. While there I started work on a new collection of handprinted paper and fabric products that I am currently developing and will be launched this May. Think lots and lots of colour, texture and hand printed loveliness!
What’s your favourite new material to work with or colour combination just now?
I have always loved bright colours and so every colour combination I use is pretty vibrant! I currently have a bit of a soft spot for bright pink with lush, tropical greens but that may just be from all the beautiful, painted houses surrounded by greenery I saw in India!
Which other designers or makers products impress you?
I love the work of French illustrator Nathalie Lete, her work has so much character and joy and commercial appeal and yet it’s totally different from anything else and she applies her designs to a huge range of products - I find it very inspiring!