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ELLA BULLEY, transforming raw materials into crafted artefacts

Words by Lula Criado




Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane) is a perennial grass cultivated to produce sugar and other raw materials. Most of us when we see the sugarcane think of the white and brown sugar crystals that sweeten our drinks and desserts. 

However, when Ella Bulley a material explorer, multidisciplinary designer and graduate of Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design sees the sugarcane she sees beyond simple sweet crystals and envisages an opportunity for the production of new materials.

Ella Bulley blends crafts and traditional production techniques with an innovative and dazzling approach to design. With her thought-provoking project Saccharum she investigates new procedures to create materials and blurs the boundaries between craftsmanship, design and natural resources by transforming raw materials like sugar into crafted artefacts.

What do you most like and dislike about the period we live in?

I like how design can challenge perceptions of its role within society as it merges with other industries, especially the medical and science fields.

I dislike that although we have advancements in global travel, we still have restricted movement, not everyone is free to go where they want to in the world.

The world belongs to everyone; we should be able to explore as we wish, as long as the intentions are good and to observe the unseen beauties of the world.

What is your chief enemy of creativity?

Time. I always wish I had more, to create more and do more. It is said ‘time waits for no man’, but it would be nice if would wait for me.

If you would have to give up one of your five senses, which one would it be and why?

Taste. I’m too dependent on the other senses. Although I have a love for food and I know I would miss it if I would no longer had it, I think as long as I could smell I’m sure I could survive.

What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?

At the early stages of my Saccharum project, I was told to stop playing with the sugar and turn the sugarcane fibre into a fashion project.

The person providing the advice clearly didn’t know me and made no attempt to know me as a designer but just made the assumption based on what I had studied before. Lucky for me I’m defiant and followed my gut instincts.

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

I consider myself an introvert, I have always preferred my own solitude to create, reflect and just be me.

One for the ride… Who or what was the last person, place or thing that fascinated you?

My Grandmother, Janet. Standing tall, always walking with grace and elegance, she was a philosopher, traveller, and explorer. Her journey through life is magical to me; she defied what was expected of a woman in her time. She could see the potential of all her grandchildren, and always supported us no matter what we decided to do even if it was to venture out into unconventional careers.

(All photos from the Saccharum series courtesy of the artist)
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