Ellie Hipkin tells us about the influences of nature on her life and art


Your Open House is called the ‘The Nature House’. Would you like to tell us about the reason for this name?
My landscapes and seascapes aim to express the profound sense of calm that nature gives me. It’s the atmosphere, the drama, of the natural world that moves me; how it makes you feel.
I never doubted that this enduring theme would be at the heart of my Open House, bringing together likeminded artists and makers. Each unique body of work will complement the pieces around it.Visitors will find paintings, photography, ceramics, jewellery, glass and garden sculptures, with organic forms and textures through to literal interpretations, all inspired by nature.

What is your background as an artist?
I’ve been drawn to textiles since my school days. My background is in fashion design, which I studied at Nottingham Trent University. I went on to work with high street names, designing clothing and fabric prints, and seeing manufacturing processes up close.
My career took me around the world, and the cultures I experienced have had a strong influence on my artwork. Techniques that I learnt in India – such as textile print, hand painting, embroidery and embellishment – feature in my work to this day.

Would you like to tell as a little about the life changing events that made you decide to return to painting, using nature as a theme?
I was in my early thirties, and just becoming a mother, when I lost my mum and dad, and three of my aunts, in quick succession. My brother had died ten years earlier. Then, as our daughter was one, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This lifelong and life-changing condition meant a whole new world of hospital visits, injections and worry. The combination of grief and stress was overwhelming. Time spent in nature – and then transforming this inspiration into textile art – was what saw me through those difficult early days.


How has painting helped you over a really difficult time?
Painting was a way to still my worried mind. But where most people would work on canvas or paper, I only ever wanted to paint directly onto fabric. I remember sitting at our kitchen table with my paints and silks spread out in front of me, with the backdoor open and the sun beaming in. In those moments my breathing slowed, my mind was focused, and I felt peaceful in the creative flow.

Back then I would never have guessed that this coping strategy would lead to a career as a professional artist. As I played with techniques, I began to develop my own distinctive style. My starting point was always colour – how it varies with the changing of the seasons or how the sun reflects off the sea.I’d go foraging and beach combing for pebbles, seed heads and grasses, and use these finds to add monoprinted effects to my painted scenes, and to inspire the collage and embroidery detail. Beginning to sell my artwork took a leap of confidence, and it was exhilarating to discover that it resonated with others.

How does opening your house and engaging with visitors to discuss your work influence your artistic practice?
It’s really built my confidence and given me direction. Speaking to visitors last year, it became clear how much they loved the colour and drama in my work. So this has become even more of a focus for me. There is something special about sharing your work in your home rather than at an exhibition. Somehow it all makes sense seeing art in this personal setting.

Last year, as I prepared to open our house for the first time, I did wonder whether it was crazy to do it when lots of Covid restrictions were still in place! But it went brilliantly, and I loved every minute. I’m thrilled and proud to be a part of such a fabulous creative event.


Would you like to tell us about the other artists who will be exhibiting with you and how you selected them?
I’m so excited about my guest artists. I chose people whose work would complement everything else on show, and I’m sure the house will flow because of it.

Jo Hathaway – a painter whose work explores the relationship between landscape and memory. Her work is strongly influenced by poetry and prose.
Matt Goddard – serene landscape photography celebrating the beauty of Sussex through its seascapes and landscapes.
Chris Murphy – handmade, one-off ceramic pieces for the house and garden, inspired by his love of the natural world. Chris will be showing a selection of dishes and wall pieces depicting ocean and land animals.
Sarah Rickard – creates stunning, unique and handmade decorative ceramics from her garden studio in rural Sussex, inspired by her love of nature.
Abby Martin – a sculptor whose work explores nature, making the small big and the big small. Specialising in mould making, using fibreglass and resin, she creates sculptures to enhance any garden.
Lizzie Kershaw – a jewellery designer who uses gold and silver in organic and sculptural designs, inspired by natural plant and flower forms.
Lugna home fragrance – creates Scandi-inspired and eco-conscious candles, designed to bring you calm. Their candles use relaxing and natural feeling fragrances, to keep you grounded and give support when in need.
Kelly Madsen – combines pressed flowers with stained glass to create one-off, handmade wall hangings and sun catchers. Kelly is inspired by the wild beauty of nature. The vivid colours brought by the glass gives each piece its uniqueness.
Jan Irvine – known for her illustrations, Jan also turns her illustrative skills to jewellery. She enjoys walking on the local Sussex beaches, often foraging for unusual shells which she hand paints and turns into stunning, one-off pieces of jewellery.
Vannucchi – a slow fashion jewellery brand, using a contemporary blend of woods and metals. Handcrafted in Sussex.


Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
I’m a passionate textile art teacher, as well as an artist. I get enormous pleasure from passing on my favourite skills to others, and seeing their excitement as they get to grips with fabric painting, printing, embroidery and collage. As well as leading in-person workshops at Made and Making in Hassocks, I also run Flourish Textile Art Hub. It’s an online community for anyone who wants to explore mixed media skills. You can follow video tutorials, or become a member and connect with likeminded people, enjoying a new project each month. Flourish is a happy, thriving group, and I’m thankful to all the people who entrust me with their creative journey, and who allow me to continue mine.


Visit The Nature House 
113 Preston Drove, Brighton
In the Fiveways Trail 

For courses and workshops: https://flourish-hub.com/