Meet the artist and printmaker whose Wakefield-inspired travel posters are proving a hit

Artist and print designer Ellie Way had only been living in Wakefield for a few months when the first UK lockdown came into force a year ago.

Like many other freelance creatives, her work suddenly dried up and she was looking for something to keep her occupied.

“I have always loved travel posters and I thought with the world standing still and no-one travelling anywhere, it would be nice to remind people of places nearby.” Inspired by her once-a-day lockdown walks, Way began to create a series of images of significant locations around Wakefield.

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“I wanted to illustrate places that people could recognise and feel connected to,” she says. “The idea was to make something positive, to celebrate what we have around us, to evoke a sense of belonging and memories of good times.”

Artist and designer Ellie Wa in her studio in Wakefield.

The resulting series of 13 beautifully illustrated, boldly coloured, posters will be on display in the Hepworth Wakefield’s café once the gallery reopens in late May.

“It was a very personal project and I really enjoyed doing it. As I was relatively new to living in Wakefield it was also a way of introducing myself to the city and exploring it. It definitely kept me going throughout lockdown.”

Way initially approached ArtWalk Wakefield, who organise bi-monthly showcases of the work of local artists, to see if there might be a way of sharing the posters more widely.

“I asked them if they could do something with them online – and then everything went a bit bonkers from there.” The response to the posters was huge, immediate and overwhelmingly positive.

One of Ellie Way’s Wakefield travel posters of The Hepworth.

“Lots of people started contacting me to say they were interested in having them. It was lovely that people had the same feeling about the posters as I did when I made them. To have that kind of response to a project I felt so passionate about was really special.”

It wasn’t long before the Hepworth Wakefield – which features in one of the posters – got in touch. “They were really keen on having the posters in their shop and promoting them for me. They have been so supportive, they have given me such a platform – I wouldn’t have reached as many people without them.”

Originally from Penarth near Cardiff in South Wales, Way moved to Yorkshire in 2013 to study Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University).

“A lot of the work I was creating during my course was about people’s connection to design,” she says. “I have always been interested in place and place-making and people feeling strongly connected to design. I have always liked design that instigates conversations. That is where my passion lies.”

Her poster of The Art House

Having graduated in 2016, Way worked in Leeds for a while and took a studio space at the Art House in Wakefield in 2018. Soon after, a post came up there for a print studio technician; she applied and got the job. That’s when she decided to make the move over to settle in the city in late 2019.

“I have felt a great sense of community since living and working here – it is such an interesting, quirky place. It’s not trying to be anything else and that’s what I really like about it.”

Way is currently working on a new collection of posters, this time of Leeds.

“This could end up being a project I keep returning to and it is a lovely way for me to get to know new places.”

At the Hepworth Wakefield Café from May. ellieway.co.uk