Who are you/what do you do?
My name is Ellie and I run East End Press, who design and make hand-printed and hand made decorative homeware, mainly Christmas and party decorations!
Is there a story behind the name (if it's not your own?)
Ahh not really! In fact, it was a very last minute decision...I was needing a domain name and, as I was based in the east end of Glasgow, and as a lot of the design inspiration for the products and manufacturing of the products is done in the ‘east’ of the world (...from Britain anyway) I just went with East End Press!
How old is the business and how did you get started?
I started the business in 2015 and initially started East End Press because I had returned to the UK from living abroad and couldn’t get a job anywhere. So I started drawing and screen printing products, and selling them at markets and shops, and slowly are the business from there. Originally everything I sold was printed and made by me!
Do you have a style? What are you known for?
I don’t think I do have a style, because I just draw how I want to draw and don’t think too much about it, but one of the biggest compliments I’ve received is people who say they know my work just by looking at it. I think I’m drawn to using the same colours and shapes throughout my work, so this does sort of become my style, and there are things I always return to when looking for inspiration.
Who/what/where inspires you?
I have always loved traditional folk art…old Native American quilts, Eastern European paper cuts, Indian block printing; and so the designs and processes of these crafts have always inspired me. I also love Matisse’s line drawings, and French illustrator Nathalie Lete’s images. Day to day there are lots of other small businesses that inspire me to keep going - working on your own business can be lonely and hard work, so I find it really helpful to have a network of friends in similar situations to remind me that it’s all going to be ok!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always knew I wanted to do something arty, but that I didn’t want to be an artist and so I didn’t have a set plan. None of this has been planned really - after I left art school I spent three years travelling and didn’t pick up a pencil to draw once! It just sort of organically grew, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To work hard and have confidence in myself. Some of the biggest delays in growing my business so far have been from me not having the confidence in myself or my work or believing I was ready for the next step or good enough to succeed.
How did you learn your craft?
I studied Illustration at the Glasgow School of Art, which I really enjoyed. In the third year of my degree, I discovered I loved screen printing so joined Glasgow Print Studio and developed my love and knowledge of printing. I then spent a few years traveling while funding myself by working in various cafes and bars and had the best time and made some amazing friends. Although I wasn’t learning my craft during this time I think it was fundamental in getting me where I am now...I learned so much about being resilient, and working hard and what makes small businesses succeed; as well as growing in confidence and I think it set me up well to grow my own business. However tough it gets now I can always remind myself at least I’m not picking tomatoes twelve hours a day!
What do you do on your days off?
I have got much better in the past year or so at taking time off! It’s tricky when you run your own business, especially when your work crosses over into the things you find fun. For me, a good time is poking around museum gift shops or looking at different print samples, so it’s really important to make sure you have time off where you are completely away from work. I have my little dog Frida, and I love getting out of Glasgow for the day and exploring Scotland - there is such beautiful countryside so close to the city.
Biggest highlight or achievement to date?
Key milestones for growing the business have definitely been setting up supply chains for my products so that I don’t have to make everything in house, and starting to exhibit at trade shows. Both of these are things I probably should have done years before I eventually did but my confidence held me back. Sourcing manufacturers is definitely a work in progress, and I’m learning more about it every day, but it has been a huge development in scaling up the business. This year my products are going into a chain store throughout Britain (can’t reveal all just yet!) and that has been a huge achievement!
Struggles you encounter? How do you solve them?
Finding consistent, good quality, reliable and ethical manufactures has been hard! But worth the effort. People ask me how I find the people I work with, as many of them don’t have an online presence as they are small cottage industry type businesses, and it generally is literally me flying to a country and driving round in a tuk-tuk knocking on doors and meeting people - as easy and as difficult as that! The other struggle is the universal pressure of cashflow! A lot of businesses struggle with this, and as my sales are so seasonal it can make managing cash flow tricky.
What sparks joy in what you do?
Feeling empowered and in control of my days and my future! Providing work and opportunities for other people, specifically keeping traditional crafts and processes alive. Hearing people love my products. I feel very lucky to do a job I love and that for fills me. Also, I think I’d be a nightmare employee, I like working on my own terms.
Dream stockists/brand to collaborate with?
I absolutely love Anthropologie as a shop to browse and shop in so would love to work with them!
Any lessons you'd pass on?
Work hard, have confidence in yourself and your abilities, and don’t imitate - there are enough squiggly calligraphy quotes out there. Also if you ever want to realistically make a living from your work then you have to make money - it sounds obvious but I think a lot of creative people are just so happy people like their work they forget the bottom line for earning a living and doing what they do long term is making some money. In my experience totally new, original products sell far better than mugs or notebooks manufactured in bulk with your artwork printed on them. Why not collaborate with a local ceramist or bookbinder and get your designs on something a bit different and beautifully made? I know which I’d rather spend my money on.
What's next for you and your business?
I’ve just returned from a research trip to Mexico which was so inspiring - both work-wise and personally. I came back full of new ideas and brimming with energy to get going with them! However, in the immediate future, the next step is Christmas…I launch this year’s Christmas range in New York at NY Now in August, then am exhibiting it in London and shall hopefully be spending the rest of the year madly boxing up decorations!