Meet the Maker - Sophie Elm

Tuesday, December 02, 2014
Local mixed media artist, Sophie Elm, produces a dazzling array of hand painted pottery, greetings cards, stationery, prints, and even children's book illustration.  We knew instantly that her work would be perfect for our shops, and chatted with her recently about her love of the Bloomsbury Group...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work? 
Hello! My name is Sophie Elm, I’m from North Yorkshire, but now live in Cheltenham with my husband Craig. I work from a little home studio under the alias of Jeff Josephine Designs. I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a BA (Hons) in Illustration. I have a passion for pattern, colour and typography. As Jeff Josephine Designs I produce linocuts, screen prints, hand painted pottery, greetings cards and stationery that celebrate this. I also take on a wide range of commissions, from bespoke wedding invitations to tea sets, and I’ve also illustrated two children’s books. 

Apart from creating things what else do you do? 
I started lindy hop dance classes earlier this year, which I am really enjoying. Not only have I met some lovely people, but it is also a fun way to exercise and it combines my love of music and vintage clothes of the 30’s and 40’s too… Any excuse to dress up! I’m also a big fan of outdoor swimming and I love messing around with cameras. I have quite a collection of old and new, film and digital, the oldies are definitely the best! A year ago we moved into our very own home and amongst work and the above activities we are also trying to redecorate and plant a little garden. I love having outdoor space. I’m a bit of a country girl at heart and like to sit outside in the summer months surrounded by plants and buzzing bees. We only have a postage stamp-sized space, but I’m hoping it will soon be a relaxing and inspiring space to be in. 
When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and making things. From as early as I can remember I knew I wanted to do something creative. I used any opportunity to make cards, or draw pictures for people when I was growing up and favoured art over most subjects through school. When I became a little older and others started to appreciate my work it became twice as rewarding knowing that not only was it something I enjoyed, but others enjoyed it too. 

What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? 
I work in quite a few different disciplines and love the variety. One day I might be working on a print and cutting lino, and another day I might be painting a plate. Variety is the spice of life! Also, the beauty of being able to work for yourself is the freedom to make your own decisions and plan your own day. I love the fact I’m not stuck behind a desk, and that at the end of the day; I have produced something all by myself. It’s very rewarding. 
Where does your inspiration come from? 
I have a real fascination with nostalgic British design, often termed 'Popular Art', and something I would call ‘mundane beauty’. Packaging, advertising and shop signs of the early 20th century, I feel all held a crafted elegance and it is this ethos of nothing being too banal to be beautiful that I wish to celebrate in my own work today. The Bloomsbury Group, William Morris and the Festival of Britain are all of influence to me from their use of colour to their pattern designs. Other influences include Scandinavian patterns, European ceramic designs, vintage children’s book illustrations and greetings cards, old product packaging and advertising, and British folk art. 
Describe your studio or workspace? 
Colourful and chaotic! I work from home and my studio is crammed full. I split the space up into printing, drawing/designing and ceramic areas, though ceramic work sometimes has to be done elsewhere due to dust and mess. I like to fill the space with inspiring books, objects and imagery. 

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman who would it be? 
I’d love to have seen inside The Omega workshops of the Bloomsbury Group, I think they would have been fascinating, so too would William Morris’s studio. I love Jonny Hannah’s work and imagine his studio to be crammed full of interesting objects and work in progress. I also think the hand printed wallpaper of Marthe Armitage is just stunning and would love to spend time looking through her wallpaper archive and the rejected colour ways and off cuts. What a treat! Sorry, that was more than one, but there are so many inspiring people out there! 
How would you describe your creative process? 
I always seem to have a few ideas buzzing around in my head at any one time and once I’ve finished a project sometimes find it hard to pick the next. There are times when I have an urge to draw or make something (likely to be completely unrelated to whatever I’m currently working on) and so I just do it, mainly to get it out my system… quite often they end up being the most interesting things I do and the start of something exciting, leading me down a path I hadn’t envisaged going on. It pays to creatively procrastinate! I often have a few projects on the go at any one time. This is quite handy if I get stuck with one of them, then I can work on something else… but I do have to be careful not to start everything and finish nothing. If I’m working on a commission with a deadline I’m usually very focused, I quite like having that prescribed time scale sometimes. 
What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
That’s really quite tricky. I’m very lucky to have lots of talented friends and family who have made me many lovely gifts. To pick just one is really rather difficult, I guess this is not what you would automatically think of when you think of handmade, but for our wedding day, we asked all our friends and family to take as many photo’s of the day as possible, as their wedding present to us. (We chose not to have a photographer and took some photos ourselves on an old twin-lens reflex.) There were so many wonderful pictures taken, some sent as digital albums, some as physical ones and some framed. I love the fact we saw the day through everyone’s eyes and everyone helped to make the day what it was. I cherish these greatly. 
What do you do when you are stuck in a creative rut? 
I find it helpful to ask others for their opinion, it’s good to get another perspective from someone who is not close to the work like I am and therefore can be objective about it. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from something for a little while too and come back to it later with fresh eyes. 

Where would you like to be in ten years? 
I’ve been wanting to design fabrics for the home for a while now, so I would love to think I might one day have a range of Jeff Josephine Designs fabrics. I’d also love to experiment more with ceramics and create new ranges…. Oh and design lots more prints… I’d better get started!

Thank you Sophie, we love your inspirations, and yes it's totally OK to peek in any studio you like, we won't tell!  You can discover Sophie's colourful work in our Made in Britain shop.

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