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Resident Spotlight Natalie Ellner

In a nutshell, what do you do?

NE: Bespoke millinery, sculpture and creature design.

Tell us a bit about your journey...

NE: My degree at LCF was in special effects and costume, it was very story based, that's where I learnt to sculpt. When I graduated and got a job as a limb-maker, amazing to put creative talents to help people. On the side, I started making little creatures and the Ellsewhere story began.

Next I met my current boyfriend at a festival (SGP) and his band Badger Badger, an amazing band with animal dancers. I created his badger mask, met Kate Winslet. I couldn't keep my full time job going.

I still freelance for the Alternative Limb Project.

Best thing about The Heartspace?

NE: I've got some good friends, everybody leaves each other to get on with their work and respects the peace and quiet.

At the same time, it's amazing to have creative support, unconventional colleagues who understand the life of a freelance artist, the highs and lows. When you're stuck, you can ask somebody who comes from a different angle, like a photographer or a painter. It's inspiring.

What's it like being a freelancer in East London?

NE: Being a creative person, this is the best place to be. I'm not the odd one out here. Artistic stuff happening everywhere, people get it and help you on your journey.

I come from Cornwall. I didn't know anyone when I moved to London, I knew people on the festival scene. Noone tells you how to be a freelance artist and being on your own is a lot harder.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the creative industries?

NE: Constantly research everything, don't think that because you have a skill, that's that. There are so many ways of doing something and being better at something. Be a pleasant person to work with, be adaptable and cope with whatever is thrown at you. Use a wealth of skills and meld them together for each project.

Do you recommend 'going it alone'?

NE: You've got to be prepared to deal with the instability that can come with it. That was the biggest shock, going from a full time limb maker (proshetic limb sculptor) to having to find projects yourself. Quite a different kettle of fish. The best thing you can do is to be proactive and collaborate. The way you envisage something may not be the best way, someone else's perspective can expand your work. That interaction is a springboard for creating something beyond your boundaries on your own. The more you give, the more you get back.

Best thing about your job?

NE: When working with props companies, I get to work with other amazing people. Being around incredible people, people who worked in Jim Henson's in Camden when it was open, worked on original Turtles movie and Labyrinth and trained from the beginning when creature making was at it's most pioneering.

Best project or collaboration?

NE: Working with Kate Winslet was pretty amazing, I made her a hat for her CBE to meet the queen. She was lovely and very creative. My third commission as Ellsewhere.

How did that come about?!

NE: I was asked to go to a festival, I had made a badger headpiece for my boyfriend who was working on the gate. Winslet commissioned me to make a badger, a fox, a bunny and a peacock, and then she called me a couple of months later...it was a good start to being a freelancer!

Also, I once made a unicorn headpiece for Victorian horse taxidermy at Aynhoe Park.

What can we expect from you this year?

NE: I've just launched my new website. I'm yet to launch my blog section which will feature guest writers, all the little creatures of Ellsewhere (they do all the work!). I'll also be working on a variety of stories about the creatures of Ellsewhere. Lots of commissions, little badger and fox masks.

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