March 30, 2015

Window Shopping || 5

Scarf: Bohem | Tanktop: Mother's Daughter | Skirt: Vaux Vintage | Necklace: Prairie Oats

It's that awkward time of year where the weather can't make up its mind - leaving us to fend for ourselves when the temperatures switch dramatically from morning to afternoon and big interior spaces like school haven't quite figured out what the heck to do with the thermostat yet. I approach this issue with layers. Lots, and lots of removable layers.

This scarf from Bohem is something I've had my eye on for a while and I think would be the perfect 'transition' scarf for seasons. Bohem seems like a really great company - the couple who run it have a really cool story about constant travel and making things together, isn't that the dream? My kind of folks! As I read their little story I got visions of myself backpacking across Europe with my fella... oh wait! That's in a month! AH.

On a side note: just last night I finished my last two thesis paintings - holy goats, is it ever a strange feeling to be DONE my thesis! Well, the main body of work anyway. I still have to spend the rest of today scanning every bit of process work from the entire year and compiling it into a pretty little PDF. And then there's the big ol' grad show at the end of April. But you know, close enough to done! So now I can daydream freely of my upcoming travels in May. I'll be visiting some friends and cities in Europe and it's going to be such an adventure - I can't wait!

What are you looking forward to in the next few months?

ps. The Giveaway winner was announced on Saturday! Check it out!

March 25, 2015

The Final Stretch ( & A Thank you!)

The end of something never feels quite 'real', even though I am right here, right now, smack dab in the middle of this real life ending. In less than two weeks I will be done with my undergrad and onto bigger, (hopefully) better things. This next little bit of time will be filled with the wrapping up of loose ends, finishing projects, and writing an exam (just one though, yay!).

This drawing is a self portrait I did in my first year - that's already four years ago! Though I really liked how this portrait turned out then, and still like it now,  it's crazy to think of how much I've improved, grown, learned, and changed since then. In first year I thought I'd be able to get by without drawing hands properly and neglecting elbows and knees. I've since learned that shortcuts don't get me anywhere in art (and sometimes in life, too).  In first year I had friends who I don't see anymore - we all went separate ways and became interested in our own things. I would never have imagined that I would experience as much as I have in these 4 years. It's been a wild ride! I can't believe it's almost over, it's so surreal!

 So, I just wanted to check in and let you know what's up, as well as give you all a big THANK YOU for the support and the excitement over the re-brand last Saturday! It's really exciting that you all love it too, and that my amateur coding skills are holding their own in terms of design at least!

If you missed it, check out the Re-Brand post for more information and a little giveaway. Last day to enter is this Saturday, March 28th!


March 21, 2015


Happy Spring guys!
Today's the day (coincidentally at the start of spring, too, how funny is that?!) and my new layout and re-branding is officially UP and running! I'm so excited, and proud.

Now you guys can see what I have been ranting and raving about when it comes to Corina's fantastic work! The hand logo on the side is technically the secondary, simplified logo, but I loved it for the layout!  I'll roll out the primary one for another use soon though ;) She also created all the gorgeous patterns you've been seeing lately, and another that will make an appearance soon. I'm obsessed with the beautiful hand design she came up with for me. Isn't it so elegant? The biggest thanks, once again to Corina!

The layout - now that's where I'm proud! I really dug deep into the recesses of my mind to remember some coding and then filled in the blanks when I wanted to do something new. Not bad for my first time really diving into coding a whole blog huh?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I really want to start selling some of my creations, soon. I am super close to being done with school and will finally be able to, and I'm really looking forward to showing them off. Consider this giveaway a little sneak-peek to the kind of stuff I've been playing around with and a little thank you for following along with my blog, and for getting excited for this re-brand with me!

This is one of my hand-made weaving wall-hangings! It is a pretty, textural piece with a small dose of colour amongst soft (and fluffy!) neutrals! It measures 6" x 17" (with tassles and hanging length included).

The winner is:

Congratulations Marisa! How exciting! Please e-mail me your address info at katia.engell (at)!

I hope you guys love the re-brand as much as I do, and that you'll enter this little giveaway of mine :)


ps. If you notice any glitches in my new layout, please don't hesitate to let me know!

March 19, 2015

Why I Thrift // 2 Days Until the Re-Brand Launch!

As part of my re-branding launch this coming Saturday March 21st, which is just two days away (wee!), I wanted to share a little bit more about myself, my history with thrifting, and what brought me to start this Year of Thrift challenge!

I have always loved thrifting.

I remember when I was just 12 or 13 I convinced my mom to take me to the near-by thrift shop so I could scour the racks and racks of clothing for some special finds. I had no clue what I was getting myself into!

Looking back on it, I wonder what made me so persistent in my desire to go thrifting. The shop was pretty grungy and smelly and not appealing, but I wanted so desperately to go! I think it came from my desire to differentiate myself through my style. I grew up amongst the Hollister/Abercrombie and Fitch/American Eagle crowd. It never suited me. I was really disinterested in wearing the same skirt we all bought in different colours and wearing it with the same tank top and heavily branded sweater combination.

Thrifting was my way of rebutting this uniform of sorts. I wanted to find pieces that no one else in my class would be wearing, I wanted to set myself apart. Sometimes this meant cutting the sleeves off a shirt, adding iron-on letters to spell the word "freak" on a black tank top and wearing it over top a lime green tshirt. But I soon realized thrifting was a little less on the "lets destroy all my clothes and look like a crazy person" side of things.

(An early attempt at differentiating myself through style.) 
(Just Kidding. I just enjoyed playing dress up for a few too many years past childhood... hehe!)

Now, my reasons are a little bit different. I go to an art school and there is no such thing as a uniform. If anything - self expression through fashion is the thing to do! I LOVE walking through my school and checking out everyone's outfits. The creatives of Toronto are pretty funky people. However, I still find myself a little dissatisfied when I walk into stores and see 50 of the same shirt on one rack. In this sense, I really love the thrill of finding that one little gem, the one special little item that might be in the thrift store that day!

Another, more recent reason that I love thrifting is for sustainability reasons. I must get this from my mom (thanks mama!) as I've always been raised to be aware of my actions' effects on the environment. It wasn't until the last year or two that I started really believing it and being passionate about it myself, as opposed to something I had simply been raised to believe was "right". For me, this meant that my near-obsession with clothes and fashion was wrong, in a way, because I regularly bought too much and didn't actually wear enough of it. I was also often buying from companies with morals that don't match mine - ones that steal from artists, ones that mass produce and pay their workers close to nothing, ones that make clothes so cheap we need to replace them after a few wears. I started to hate this habit of mine, and realized there are alternatives and that I could make a change in my habits!

Thrifting is sustainable, budget friendly, FUN, and totally do-able if you go in with an open mind. So is buying from small businesses, and you'll also be making someone's day a little brighter when you buy their handmade goods. And it's good for our world on so many levels. My heart feels lighter as I continue in this year of thrift, and that is a feeling I'll gladly take more of!

To learn more about about my Year of Thrift challenge, read the Year of Thrift Manifesto and a few more of my thoughts on thrifting in this post.

Do you thrift regularly?  
What are your reasons for thrifting or shopping handmade?

Come back on Saturday for the re-brand launch to see the new layout, branding, and a fun giveaway!


March 17, 2015

Thrifty Outfit .03

Jacket: Thrifted / Sweater: Roots / Shirt: Thrifted / Scarf: Bought in Belgium / Corduroy Pants: Thrifted / Bag: Gift / Necklace: Roots & Feathers / Shoes: Winners

Total Thrift Tally: 3/8 + handmade necklace!

Guys!! Notice something exciting about this outfit? There's no winter jacket! Look at how (relatively) light and airy my new spring jacket is! I bought it at Value Village a few weeks ago, since I am looking to try and find a waterproof and windproof, but light-weight jacket to take with me for backpacking in Europe. I love this little trench coat style with the faux-Burberry collar and cuffs!

These pants come with a fun little story: I got them in a thrift shop when I was living in Paris! I grabbed them and didn't feel like trying them on at the store (the store was a little grungy) so I just guessed that they were the right size, paid 5Euro, and they ended up fitting PERFECTLY. I was very proud of my size-judgement hehe.

The sweater, bag, and shoes, have all been very good buys - I've had the Roots hoodie for nearly 6 years! The shoes and purse probably closer to 3. The zipper on the bag is broken, but I think I'll get it fixed. It's a leather bag my parents brought back for me from Italy and it's the perfect size for all my stuff!

Did you notice anything else about this post? Like, say, another cool looking pattern behind one of the photos? Stay tuned for this Saturday, March 21st, for the official launch of House of Ell's new branding!

March 16, 2015

5 Days Until the House of Ell Re-Brand!

Well I've decided - I will be launching the new layout & general re-branding for House of Ell this coming Saturday, March 21st! I am very excited - so much so that it is taking huge amounts of self restraint not to just throw it all up right now! But no, I have a little bit more work to do with tweaks on the layout and I think Saturday will be a good day for the launch.

I decided that I would get my blog properly branded by someone who knows what they're doing, as I would love to one day use this as a platform to build a little business off of. It's a little daydream of mine - but a feasible one! I just need to invest the money and time into it, so I decided to start NOW!

I can do graphics and things just fine, but I also know how hard it is to brand yourself (I have an impossible time at it) and I'm not EXCELLENT at it. So I wanted to hire someone who was, and I hired Corina from Cocorrina to do it for me because I have been enamoured with her work for quite some time. The process was so fun! It was really neat to be on the client end of a creative job, and to see this perspective of the process. Corina is sweet and easy to work with, and really throws herself into a project! I never felt like my branding was less important to her than any other work - even though she was doing big jobs like designs for Elie Saab while she was at it! It was a really great experience and I have ZERO regrets. The work she has done for House of Ell is beyond my expectations!

So will you join me in anticipating the launch? All this week I will be posting tiny little bits and pieces of the re-brand (like the groovy pattern in this graphic) and I hope you will get a little bit excited with me! There may even be a little treat in it for you.... ;)


March 15, 2015

Weekly Photo Capsule .8

Hey everyone!

I've had a very exciting week. I submitted my second last essay of my undergrad (woop!), I'm working away at my 'memory mandala' piece, and SPRING is showing its face around here (double woop!). I walked to work on Monday and was so thrilled to see the sun out and the concrete of the sidewalks showing through. I can't remember the last time there wasn't ice on the sidewalks! I decided spur of the moment to do a painting class inspired by Spring, and my participants painted beautiful scenes with flowers and sunshine and pastels. It was a great way to start the week.

That skull in the picture is a horse skull that was brought into class for a painting set up - it's HUGE. It looks like a big ol' dinosaur head, and it was so bizarre to me to see little spider webs inside it's eye! The idea that something that was once so alive is now the home of a living creature was really thought provoking and beautiful.

On top of all that goodness, as I mentioned in my Creative Crush post about Cocorrina, the branding for House of Ell is done, and I've been working away at turning it into a layout that I will launch next weekend, along with some other exciting things! This timing coincides perfectly as I've recently been refreshing my html and css skills for a website for class. It's been really fun to dive back into coding.

I'm going to post more about the re-brand launch, and little tidbits and sneek peaks throughout the next week! Stay tuned!

How has your week been!?

March 11, 2015

Creative Crush: Cocorrina

Today's Creative Crush is a particularly special one! You might know her already:  Corina Nika from the amazing blog, Cocorrina.

Corina Nika is a talented graphic designer and all-around creative located on a dream-like island in Greece! (yes, I'm jealous.) Her work is a great mishmash of geometric elements and organic textures and I love how it comes out!

So, other than her talent, what makes Corina's work so special?

Well, I recently hired her to do a branding job for House of Ell! Ah! I'm so excited about it! And, not to tease you all too much, but it turned out even more beautiful than I could have imagined! Corina is the I'm hoping to launch the re-brand in the next two weeks, but more on that later ;)

I chose to show some of Corina's quirky and wonderful patterns and geometric totem work. Some of you may know I'm a total sucker for patterns - just short of being totally obsessed! I would undoubtedly fall in love with a notebook or pillow case with some of these patterns.... ouu, now I'm day dreaming!

Check out more of Corina's work here.
Also be sure to check out some of her scanned floral work, so cool!

What creative have you been crushing on lately?


March 9, 2015

5 Thrifting Tips: Avoid Being Duped and Disappointed

When I tell people about my thrifty adventures, I quite often get stories in response. Stories of various thrifting misadventures; of a dress someone brought home once that brought awful moths with it, of someone thinking they were purchasing a unique designer piece and discovering upon closer examination that it was a complete phoney.  For anyone who hasn't much thrifting experience, there's a lot of unnecessary fear floating around it.

I thought I'd share my 5 tips that make the experience less daunting and the disappointment less imminent!

1. Check the tags. This is the big one. What brand is it? Is the item over priced considering? I see that all the time, cheap clothes priced more expensively than they would be in the original store. That and H&M or other similar clothing being passed off as vintage. Under certain definitions I suppose it could be, but, that's not usually what I'm looking for at vintage shops. What material does it say on the tag? Is it a material that looks like silk and is being priced as silk, but isn't actually? On a less scheme-y note, it's also good to check the tags to see if the item can be easily washed or if it will need regular dry cleaning.

2. INSPECT CLOSELY. And I mean closely. Check all the seams and lining for rips, buttons and bits for missing closures, for moth holes and armpit stains. Also be sure there are no pests! Most thrift stores are pretty good about bed bug and moth issues, but you can never be too sure.

3. Don't be fooled by language. Beware of words like "authentic" or "unique" and of other terms used to catch your attention and sell the item for more than it's worth. They can be plastered on so easily, even if they're not

4. Smell it. Yea, seriously. Make sure it's not got a stink you will never get out.

5. Try it on! And be realistic about whether or not you'll actually 'take it in' or 'switch the buttons', or if it'll just sit in your closet untouched for a few months before you donate it back again.

I'm curious - do you have any thrifting horror stories? My worst was a little vest that I thought was so cool and unique! Until I saw it on three other girls in the next week, and found out it was from Zara, currently! AH!


March 8, 2015

Weekly Photo Capsule .7

Another productive week! School is certainly keeping me busy, but it's going well!

You might recognize the 'head piece' of the top left image - I shared it in last week's photo capsule. But now my boxer has a little body! I still need to screw the two together and figure out how to hang it, but I really enjoyed painting on these different types of wood.

Lots of sketching this week - a silly Spencer mandala, a study of a crow, and finally, a photo of an installation at school that made me giggle

Did you catch my previous post about my portfolio site update? Check it out if you haven't already! I took some time out from essay writing to put it all together this weekend, and I'm quite happy with how it came out!

What did you get up to this week?


March 7, 2015

Update: Portfolio site!

Happy Weekend everyone!

Just popping in to share that I have updated (*cough* created...) my portfolio website, complete with illustrative works and paintings. Check out my portfolio here!

We've been working on portfolio websites for a class, but I've taken that particular project and turned it into a website specific for my thesis project (Have you checked out Spencer's Adventures? He can also be found on my instagram!) Still, I took some of my learnings and whipped this site up to share with everyone.

What do you think?


March 6, 2015

Dreaming of Summer

"Winter is here!" I cringe, brace yourselves.
"It's still winter!" I could cry. Sometimes I do cry.

In the city, the snow turns to slush. Everything is grey and the blue sky doesn't show itself for what feels like weeks at a time. Anytime I wake up at a reasonable time, it is still dark outside. I leave my classes to find the sun has gone already, replaced by bitter night time winds. Dry cracking hands (and nostrils, and eyes) and toes that are sick of socks and boots.

I'm sure it is worse elsewhere, maybe Northern Canada. Perhaps it is a personal preference (my brother loves winter). Regardless, I can't stand it. By mid-February I feel myself succumbing to the winter blues and wishing wholeheartedly for summer!

(photo taken nearly 4 years ago, the summer of red hair!)

And so I daydream of summer. I envision myself running outside with no shoes on, grass squishing between my toes. Letting my hair dry outside while I read a good book on the back patio. That feeling of the sun on my skin and the breeze a welcome pause from heat beating down on you. I picture a day at the beach eating snack foods and wearing tie-dye. I imagine camping trips and hikes to high up hills, birds singing sound tracks to my adventures. I imagine a sky, a forest, a world, that welcomes me and makes me feel at home.

I belong in summertime.


March 1, 2015

Weekly Photo Capsule .6

As I put this photo capsule together I realized how artistically productive my week has been! A lot of my plans fell through this weekend so I ended up staying in and painting for hours and hours and hours - it was kind of nice! To work for so long, uninterrupted.

A little more than a week ago, I took my brother out for dinner for his birthday. He turned 15! But looks quite a bit older - the waitress nearly served him alcohol with my sister and me! He's a handsome little guy.

I also hung out with my parents a lot, like the cool kid that I am. But actually. I went to see visit my mum and we all drew "THE DRESS" in the colours we saw it. Without getting too into the topic right now, I have to say, it BLEW my mind (Blew, not blue. ha!) and my eyes keep bouncing between the two colour combos and it's quite mind boggling. This time that I drew the dress was a particularly blue and black kind of day.

What colours did you see the dress as? Have you managed to see both as well?