FYI: Ellie Brennan, artist

‘FYI’ is The State of the Arts’ irregular column. In it, we ask artists, writers, authors, curators and other amazing people to tell us a little more about themselves and their work. Short and sweet, it’s the perfect introduction to (your new favourite) local creatives.


What you’ll be discussing:
Rug making!

People should know about it because…
It’s a wonderfully therapeutic way of making, and there’s hundreds of ways to make a rug. It’s really fun to use such a traditional method and apply it to modern themes, it takes the idea of quaint, quiet textiles and flips it on its head. It soothes anxieties and can be used as a form of methodical creative therapy, making it the perfect technique for workshops.

‘parmo, chips and garlic’
April, 2019
200cm x 150cm
Acrylic wool, woven cotton

I am inspired by…
Mostly by food! I love food packaging, takeaway signs, regional recipes and family cookbooks. My personal relationship with food has been an intense one, and I like using memories of picky eating and drunken teenage nights out as subject matter. I tend to take a lot of pictures of dropped food, signs, and other things I find interesting, and patch them together into finished rugs. I also like working with ideas of comfort and interaction, and considering how we seek comfort in inanimate objects like textiles and food, in a very cold and unforgiving world. Some artists that I constantly look to for technical inspiration are: Anni Albers, Erin M. Riley, Tara Colette, Robyn Nichol, Moira Quinn and Hannah Epstein, and in terms of social and community based inspiration, Georgina and Ashleigh of Babeworld and Shy Bairns are excellent resources, and lovely people.


How it began…
All of the women in my family are pretty into textiles, so I always enjoyed working with fabrics. I think I made finger puppets of My Chemical Romance when I was about 14, embarrassingly enough! In college I was encouraged to work with different, more traditional materials, but continued to enjoy working with textiles. During my degree, I tried to make work that was more serious and used new materials, until in my final year I decided that film and performance work was not working for me, and began making latch hook rugs to fill time in the studio until I decided what direction my practice was going in. I found that the methodical, labour intensive process, and the soft, tactile end results really made sense to me, so I bit the bullet a few weeks later, ordered a tufting gun and started making more rugs! My final portfolio for my degree was mostly rugs, I churned out so many in a few weeks, as I fell in love with the technique.

‘REDUCED: NOW £0.85’
February 2019
50cm x 50cm
Acrylic wool, latch hook on canvas

My favourite thing about it is…
How soft the end results are, and how it disrupts the ‘don’t touch the art rule’ within a gallery.

The main challenge of it is…
Finding time to start large pieces in between working full time! And explaining what a tufting gun is to people, it’s not as violent as you think!!

Next up I’m thinking about…
I want to start making larger works, and collaborating with other artists to create textile pieces that combine both of our practices. I’d also like to continue with workshops, I enjoy them so much, I’m thinking of applying for funding for a series of workshops that would benefit people who are usually missed out by the art world, and creating collaborative community pieces. I’m also doing a lecture at the RCA in collaboration with Babeworld and Whinegums! I’ll be speaking about disability and art, and how autism effects my practice.

Here are some links you might find interesting:

Some final words I’d like to add…
Have a go at rug making! You can get kits online that are pretty cheap and great, and it’s simple to teach yourself. Also, be kind to everyone, hug your friends and never eat 2 day old takeaway out the fridge or you’ll be poorly!