Jo Elbourne’s creative background in art, design and fashion has informed her innovate wrapping and weaving technique, which she used to make a variant of contemporary pieces, from chairs and stools to wall art. She set up her own studio in 2015, working as part of Margate-based arts community Resort.
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A multi-disciplinary approach is important to me. I like to remain open to my work shifting in many directions over time and I’m inspired by creative people who haven’t confined themselves to one medium. It’s good to be a little entrepreneurial.
Creating blocks of colour or shape rather than a repeated woven pattern really interests me. I used to be a menswear designer, but when I hand knitted accessories for a friend’s fashion label, I realised I was benefiting from physically making something, as opposed to working on a computer. A little later, on a whim, I bought a big spool of cord from a charity shop and I just kept trying things out on a chair that I had at home.
My environment has been transformative. Resort, in Cliftonville, was set up in 2013 by a group of seven like-minded creatives. Now there are more than forty of us, including photographers, artists, architects, jewellers, printers, writers, film-makers and furniture designers, working together in our beautiful Victorian warehouse building.
I trained as a designer, so creating items that are functional and useful is ingrained in me. Often, when I’m in the middle of weaving one frame, I’ll have an idea for the next, so I take a lot of photos at various stages, which creates a natural flow from one piece to another. The shape and style of the frame also influence the design of the woven component.
I enjoy the collaborate process. It’s much more satisfying than working in isolation. It was a group exhibition that prompted me to explore a wrapping and weaving technique, and various collaborations since have been instrumental in me developing new ideas, from string-wrapped bricks to skateboards and large-scale installations. Currently, I source stool and chair frames from markets, boot fairs and eBay and rework them, myself or with the help of restorer, before adding the woven element.
I like making intricate pieces using a material that is simple, honest and useful in itself. Initially I used what I had to hand or colour easily buy. Now I carefully source cord, flash and baker’s twine. I like to use natural fibres that take to dyeing well.
Every day, I take the train along the coast from Whitstable where I live. It’s a peaceful commute and I use the walk along Margate Sands and up to Cliftonville to mentally prepare for the day. I always have a to-do list and I try to follow a mostly production schedule to keep on track.
The stools I make have a nostalgic quality. They are at once familiar and yet different. It’s wonderful to have furniture commissions and now I’m expanding into window display, installations, wall art and designer collaborations, too.
Jo Elbourne, Cumulo Design, Resort Studios, 50 Athelstan Road, Margate CT9 2BH, cumulodesign.co.uk; resort studios.co.uk. Studio visits appointment only, 01843 449454.