Ella NAPER

1886—1972

Born on 9 February 1886 in Charlton, SE London, Ella was the fourth daughter (of nine children) of Alfred Champion (aka Adolphus Couchman-Steele), a fireman, and Mary Ann Champion (nee Weeks). She attended the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts from 1904-06 under the jeweller, Frederick James Partridge.

The School had been founded in 1896 by John Passmore EDWARDS, the Cornish philanthropist who had given the Art Gallery to Newlyn the previous year. As her biographer, Branfield comments, 'It was Ella's first link with Cornwall.' Her training there was thorough, and she learned a wide range of techniques in metal, wood, enamelling, and design in general.

Two major influences on her work were those of Art Nouveau design, the rage of the times, and the work of C R Ashbee, as filtered through to her by Partridge. She married Charles William Skipwith NAPER in London in 1910, and they made their honeymoon trip to Looe, Cornwall where they remained for two years, prior to making their permanent home at Trewoofe in Lamorna.

Much of her work was sold through events such as 'Arts and Crafts Exhibition', 'Woman's Art Exhibition', Newlyn Art Gallery craft exhibitions after 1924, and other venues such as Liberty's of London. After WWI Ella, together with her friends Kate WESTRUP and Emily WESTRUP ran the Lamorna Pottery, which continued in production (and exhibition at NAG) until 1935. The Napers were close friends of the artists Laura KNIGHT and Harold KNIGHT, and their neighbours Professor and Mrs Alfred Sidgwick (the novelist). Likenesses of Ella were made by Charles, Laura & Harold Knight, and Ruth SIMPSON, and she is also one of the models in Harold HARVEY's painting The Critics (1922). Ella and Laura Knight collaborated on the design and making of several small enamels based on the artistry of the ballet.

A full page of her enamel jewellery appears in colour in Hardie (2009, col pl section 4, facing p304) together with an essay by John Branfield in the section 'The Marriage of Art to Life'. Two examples of the ballet series are illustrated in Wallace (1996) pp21-2, and in Branfield's essay.