Beyond Creative: Ellen Thomas Design

This is one of the reasons why I love being Editor of the HOP Design Studio – when you stumble across great talent it’s always an exciting experience. Seeing their passion, determination and flair literally wafting off the products they produce is a wonderful sight to behold. So when I met  ‘The Milk Series 2’ for the first time at the Heals Press Day I had to find out more about this innovative designer. British freelance furniture, product and interiors accessories designer Ellen Thomas focuses on the beauty of contemporary design, adding value to each piece. Here I interviewed Ellen to investigate what inspires each piece and what pushed her to start her own collection…


HOP: Did you always know that you wanted to enter the fabulous world of Product Design

ET I always knew that I wanted to do something hands-on and creative, but I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I wanted to be a product designer. Product design is something I got to as a result of educational choices.

HOP: How did it all begin

ET In all honesty it definitely began with my mum – she’s very creative and when I was a kid she was always making things with me.

Secondly it was education, I knew I always loved to make things so I studied Fine Art and Product Design at A-level before going on to do the Art Foundation. Art Foundation [qualification] was a great experience and I feel I could have gone off in one of many directions from this point. Having had a chance to try lots of things I fell in love with the workshops, I learnt about processes such as glass-making, smithing and woodturning.

From there I decided to take a course that would allow me to be hands-on as a maker and give me the freedom to be self-directed to learn about different manufacturing processes.

I still pride myself in having a very hands-on approach, and although I am not now always the end producer of my work I still do as much prototyping as I can.

HOP What challenges do you face as a Designer

ET I think one of the hardest things certainly early on is to have belief in yourself and your own work. It’s important to take others’ view into account but you have to have belief in your work. Making decisions and learning to compromise when I have to are two other things I struggle with but I’m not sure how that has to do with being a designer.

HOP Describe a typical 24 hours at the Ellen Thomas Studio

ET I wear many hats! So I can safely say no two days are the same and there isn’t such a thing as a typical 24 hours. In all honestly most of the time I like that no two days are the same, I freelance as well as working on my own projects so I have to be adaptable. I do however try to spend an hour sorting through emails and call it a cut-off for the day and always have a list of to-dos, which I add to & cross off each morning.

HOP What are your top tips for anyone wanting to become a Designer or someone who is thinking of  a career change

ET Make up your own rules; I have been through design education, A-levels, Art Foundation, a degree and a residency. But as I get older I realise that if you can identify what it is you want to do, you don’t necessarily need education to start doing it.

From a personal viewpoint I don’t think you’re going to know how you feel about something until you try it. So take up a night class, buy a starter kit or watch YouTube tutorials do whatever suits you, just ask lots of questions!


HOP Where do you draw your inspiration

ET Everywhere!

If you were to look through my phone you would find pictures of all sorts of things. Nice fixings, graffiti, an unusual manhole cover, old door-knockers, industrial estates, antique spoons. Why? Something in all of those pictures inspires me in someway, the colours together, the material finish, a clever detail or just the visual impact.

One of my favourite places in the world is the V&A in London. I love to walk around and pick objects apart. I like to try to work out what they are made from and what the process of manufacture is.

HOP: What three things could you not live without

ET: The Internet, paper and a black pen.

HOP: If I was stuck on a desert island, my three creative must haves would be…


ET: A sketchbook preferably squared (the type with the elastic and envelope at the back), a pencil and a Swan Morton retractable scalpel (with a pack of spare blades if I was being cheeky).

HOP: I’m happiest when…

ET: I’m making things.

Images credited:

Ellen Thomas Design

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