Ella is a multi-disciplined artist, living in East Sussex with her husband and five children.
We met with Ella on a balmy late-summer afternoon at the Royal Academy of Arts. Softly spoken, tall and willowy - somewhat otherworldly in appearance, wearing an eclectic mix of masculine, feminine, old and new, accessorised with a single enormous antique ear-cuff, she exudes the aesthetic of someone innately creative. We talked about her work, her life and her passions over a pot of tea.
You work with many different artistic disciplines, how did you come to arrive at this point in your career?
I learnt all the basics at school, which is where I discovered and formed a love of ceramics. I am self-taught up to a point. However, I have had the help and guidance of my great friend and mentor the ceramicist Candice Coetser.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I love working with porcelain. Technically it can be quite challenging but once you have worked with it, it is hard to work with anything else.
Tell us about the tea bowl and how it came about?
The tea bowl holds a fascination for me, as its form is simple yet important to its character as a piece. It has the potential to take many subtle forms. It is held and holds at the same time. The gold has become my trademark as it symbolises so much of history within it.
You sketch a lot, does this influence your sculpture and ceramic work or is it entirely separate?
I sketch to help my observational skills as well as to document my life. I have branched out in recent years to some imaginary work. I will sketch ideas for sculptures but other than that they are separate.
You are of course also a mother of 5 children (Theo 22, Morgan 17, Magnus 15, Ileana 13 and Yasmin 11), an accomplished actress and an avid gardener! How on earth do you balance all of this?
I am a mother above everything. Ideally all would run parallel and smoothly but that is not always possible. Gardening is incredibly creative and nurturing plants is relaxing.
Where do you go for, or find inspiration?
For me inspiration is everywhere. It is never far away.
Do you have a favourite artist or artistic discipline?
Over the years I have grown to appreciate the vision of so many artists, their originality and quests for creative truth and expression. If I were to choose one influence it would have to be Picasso. The ark of his career was extraordinary.
What are your favourite books or writers? If you could recommend one book, what would it be?
I am a big reader but my mood dictates what that is. I re-read a lot. My comfort read is Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I love the line “it is difficult for a women to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs”.
What exhibitions or events are you planning to see this summer - do you have any recommendations?
I hope to go to the Serpentine gallery to see the incredible pavilion by Japanese architect ‘Junga Ishigami’. I love his concept of taking roofs, our most common architectural feature, and creating an international cultural platform for us all to share.
What’s next for you?
I will be creating some new sculptural pieces as well as continuing with the ceramics. I am also making spoons!
Favourite wise words?
‘I never lose. I either win or learn’ Nelson Mandela
Thank you Ella.
Ella's Ceramics are available here and you can follow her on: @ellagyates