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.
Jeweller, potter, designer, and painter
works and access
Likenesses of the Artist: Pencil drawing Charles Naper (c1910); depictions of Ella by Laura Knight Ella playing the mouth organ at Dozmary; Self and Nude (1913) and Ella nude in chair (Spring 1916); depictions by Harold Knight The Dark Pool (pencil drawing) and Dozemare Pool (1916); The Bathing Pool; Bonfire (destroyed) and Dozemary; Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein) ; Ella Naper Ruth Simpson; The Critics (Harold Harvey 1922)
Access to Work: Birmingham Museums; Penlee House Archival Deposits
Papers and letters are held by the family.
NAG December 1924 (Jewellery), December 1925 (Jewellery & enamels), December 1926 (Craft section) July-September 1928 (Jewellery); RA; SWA; L
NSA; NAG 1927-1946.
misc further info
The Cornishman 8 Dec 1926
Branfield (2003) John Ella and Charles Naper, Art and Life at Lamorna
Berriman (1986) Arts and Crafts in Newlyn;
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary
Hardie (2009) Artists/Newlyn & West Cornwall pp107-9 (essay J Branfield, illus, on 'The Napers')
Hoyle, H (Sept 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Laura Knight - Representations of Women'
NAG Exhibition Programme of Pictures & Crafts, July-September 1928
Wallace et al (1996) Women Artists in Cornwall 1880-1940