Ellie Heywood is an artist & designer from North West England. Ellie specialises in calligraphy and painting, with a focus on abstract calligraphy. Her inspiration comes primarily from nature and space. Ellie graduated with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design and won the Leeds Arts University Duke Studios graduate residency in 2020. 

Here’s what Ellie had to say:  

Can you tell us a little about your practise and how you came to work in calligraphy, is this something that has evolved over time? 

In our first term at Leeds Arts University we studied typography, its anatomy and how far you can push letters before they become illegible. The last part really seems to have stuck with me, as a lot of my work now is about pushing letters further in to abstraction to create abstract imagery with a calligraphic flair. Over my time at university I swayed towards hand-lettering and hand drawn work within the set briefs, which evolved to calligraphy in my third year and post-university.

Image: Ellie Heywood calligraphy commission

What has the experience of being the Duke Studios Resident been like? 

The first few months of the residency were super helpful, meeting the other studio residents and hearing their stories alongside getting mentorship from another Leeds Arts University alumna. Having the studio to come to really put me in the right mental space to push my work further and focus on the business side of things. Since the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve been working at home again and, if anything, this has shown me even more how valuable the space at Duke has been!

What did you enjoy about your time at Leeds Arts University and how did the course help you in starting out professionally?

One of the best things about LAU and something I still miss is the hive of creative minds. The possibility of collaboration was everywhere and this is where myself and a few others started Goat Collective, which was our first real look at professionalism within our creative fields. Word of mouth is a great tool and during my second and third year especially I was able to work on paid briefs outside of the course which kick-started a client base and allowed me a bit of insight in to the industry and being self-employed.

Image: Ellie Heywood pot collaboration.

What did you do straight after leaving University?

I moved home for a few months before coming back to Leeds and getting a café job. I always worked part-time so I could focus on art and design related work in my free time, and gradually I was able to cut down my hours in hospitality. In 2018 I spent 6 months out of work and out of the UK, which really helped me to shift focus on to what I wanted to do going forward.

Could you give us a description of a typical day?

Each day is quite different at the moment, my work is split between physical painting commissions and digital briefs. On the days I’m painting I stay home and work from the home-studio, and when I have client work I usually come to Duke, grab a coffee from the guys at Sheaf St café and check my emails before I start work. There are a couple of days a week I set aside to pack orders from my online shop and take them to the post office.

Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates wanting to work in your field?

Definitely start sharing your work online! So much of my work comes through Instagram, an account I set up in 2nd year at LAU. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting it out there, even if you aren’t 100% happy with it. Share your process, behind-the-scenes, etc. Also take advantage of being at an arts university, get to know as many people as you can because this more natural way of ‘networking’ is so much easier!

Finally, are there any future projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?

Last month I collaborated with an artist from Norwich to create some concrete pots and dishes which I hand-painted and we sold on, as part of my personal practice. I’m currently working on a brief with a London based company who make natural coffee blends from adaptogens, where I’ve created some t-shirt designs which will be launching in the next couple of months. I’m also branching out my product range to include enamel pins and jumpers this year. Hopefully in the future I can work on more personal projects to develop ‘art for the everyday’ including homeware and clothing, plus working with more clients who’s ethos aligns with my own.