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Textiles (MA)

Ellen Merchant

Ellen Merchant specialises in designing and hand-printing original patterns for interior textiles, championing the application of traditional craft skills and values to vibrant, contemporary design for a modern audience.

Having re-joined the course after a two-year leave of absence, Ellen enjoyed a unique opportunity to return to this phase of creative exploration. During her time away, Ellen established herself within the industry through a series of professional collaborations and started her own business. In 2022, she was named one of House & Garden's Rising Stars in the Decorative Arts.

Ellen's MA collection is titled 'Rewilding', meaning the recovery of nature and the return of our native wildlife, but also reconnecting modern life with craft and traditional processes within printed textiles.

Degree Details

School of DesignTextiles (MA)PrintRCA2023 at Truman Brewery

Truman Brewery, F Block, First and second floors

Portrait image of Ellen Merchant in her studio, standing in front of lengths of her printed fabrics.

I draw inspiration from both the style and sentiment of the British Arts and Crafts movement, which praised the benefits of toil, the satisfaction of hand craftsmanship, the beauty of nature and the tactile sensation of materials. The movement was bound by a shared concern with the detrimental effects of the industrial revolution on society and traditional craftsmanship. I address the same concerns through a modern lens in reaction to dissolution with the digital revolution, overproduction and globalisation.

Nature is a perpetual muse for the decorative arts, yet today the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. In manufacturing, modern technological advances can substitute time and skill, removing an essential human element in favour of efficiency. It has led to the decline of our heritage craft industries as traditional processes are passed over in favour of cheaper, faster methods.

Through my design practice, I aim to educate and encourage conversation around the conservation of precious things that are in danger of being lost. I hope to demonstrate the joyful, enduring value of craft and quality over mass production. Embodying a traditional approach to print, I utilise natural, sustainable materials and minimise digital intervention wherever possible. At every step, I prioritise the integrity and character of hand processes, resulting in a decorative design alive with the spirit of its making.

Mood board of inspiration for Ellen Merchant's 'Sycamore Lace' design
Printing 'Sycamore Lace' wallpaper on Ellen's offset printing press
Colour palette for 'Sycamore Lace' by Ellen Merchant
Ellen Merchant hand carving lino tiles to create printing blocks
Mood board of Ellen Merchant's 'Posy' design
Printing inks
Colour tests of Ellen Merchant's 'Posy' design
'Posy' printed linen by Ellen Merchant
Mood board of Ellen Merchant's 'Wild Grass' design
Ellen Merchant's 'Wild Grass' design
Screen printed fabric
Inspiration image of a wildflower meadow
Colour sampling of Ellen Merchant's 'Wild Grass' design
Sketchbook image of House Sparrow by Ellen Merchant
Print on paper
Printed textiles on a wall