A graphic designer by day, Eleanor Smith is the creative mind behind not one, but two successful crafty ventures on Felt – she’s the founder and editor of the fabulous Extra Curricular magazine and is also known as illustrator Miss Ellie May. And somehow she still manages to fit in regular appearances at such awesome events as Kraftbomb!
What do you make?
I design a small line of stationery and screen print t-shirts, baby clothing, tea towels and totes. I also produce Extra Curricular magazine.
How did you get into your craft?
I did a screen printing night class at Wellington High School a few years ago, then I picked it up again when I began printing t-shirts and tea towels as presents for friends and family a few years later. I got into selling them at markets after Craftwerk started up in St Kevin’s Arcade in Auckland; I went along one night and there were so many talented people selling amazing things, and I wondered if people might buy the things I was making. It was nerve-wracking at first, but I was thrilled when I found people liked what I made.
It was all my talented friends who inspired me to start Extra Curricular. I have been wanting to publish a magazine since I can remember but I guess it took a few years for the concept to become fully formed. I realised at some point I had told too many people about it to chicken out, so I set myself a deadline for Christmas 2009.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a Mediarts degree majoring in Graphic Design – not exactly training in my craft but definitely responsible for where I’ve ended up.
Describe your workspace:
I have taken over the lounge! So I have my Mac on the dining room table and I screen print on the coffee table. I am constantly trying to keep my mess under control.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I like using unbleached organic cotton to print on – it suits my muted colour palette and it’s so soft. I enjoy the process of screen printing by hand – it is rewarding when a print comes out perfectly; but often the imperfections are beautiful too. I also love the medium of print, choosing lovely recycled paper stock to print on, and the smell of new magazines!
What inspires you?
I am driven by the desire to make stuff. I need to be doing something creative, and it’s important to me to have projects outside of work. Sometimes designs are inspired by people I know – they start out as a present for someone in particular, and then end up on my market table. Typography, fairy tales, nature, and music all inspire me too. I love taking song lyrics out of context – illustrating them and printing them on a t-shirt.
What are you reading?
I’ve just finished My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell – about his early life in Greece with his eccentric English family; a lovely escape from Winter. I’m working my way through the Penguin Classics.
What are you currently listening to?
The National – High Violet was my last purchase. I also love collecting cheap old records and enjoy listening to the likes of Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan on my record player.
Recommend an album: Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
A favourite quote: “These are the days of miracle and wonder” – Paul Simon
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Purple
You’ll find more of Ellie’s work in her Felt shop, Miss Ellie May, and if you haven’t happened upon Extra Curricular yet, you should definitely check it out – it’s full of feature articles on local talent and interviews with awesome people – heaps of creative inspiration to be had!