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Ellis Benji Bertram is a BA Illustration student and multi-disciplinary artist with a passion for printmaking, illustration, and comics. She likes to explore different mediums and techniques to create weird and wonderful works of art. All of her products are made in LCC workshops or at home by hand.  

We spoke to Ellis to find out more about her Cat Pronoun Badges and where she wants to take her illustration work next.

What attracted you to your craft? 

I like wearing badges; they’re fun little accessories that I use to express who I am and carry a little bit of art around with me at all times. I really enjoy exploring new mediums and ways of making, and I stumbled across making badges and just fell in love, really. They’re a real exercise in making simple and charming designs, and I love the process — die-cutting the design, assembling all the components in the badge press, and pressing the big lever down! 

What does your typical day look like?  

If I’ve got university in the morning, I wake up early and make lunch to take to uni, but otherwise I sleep in a bit. I always have a pretty big breakfast in the morning (usually porridge or cereal), and I try and work from about 10 to 5, with a break at about 1 or 2 for lunch. I try and stick to those hours, but it can be difficult—I struggle with executive dysfunction from autism and my focus can be pretty variable, especially in a studio where there’s a lot going on. I’m still figuring out the schedule that fits my brain best, but I always try to finish my work at around 5 so I can rest my brain and do things I enjoy in the evenings. Usually that’s drawing for myself, watching TV or YouTube, chatting to people, or playing video games. 

Do your badges have an environmental focus?

I reuse paper as much as possible, but badge making can be pretty intensive, with all the metal blanks and the paper, so I try and make sure none of that goes to waste. In my online shop, I sell badges that aren’t to my quality standards (off-centre or the printing came out wrong) for a lower price so they don’t just get thrown away. 

What is the unique selling point of your badges?  

My products (my Pronoun Cats badge series) help people not just communicate their pronouns, but express themselves with a charming little piece of art. Self expression is really important with gender, and I wanted to make pronoun badges that were enjoyable to wear, as well as less intimidating or formal. I also included an ‘ask my pronouns’ option for people who might have less common pronouns, because I believe that people should be allowed to express themselves in any way they like, regardless of how ‘normal’ it might seem. I’m glad to see people talking about their pronouns becoming more standard across the board. 

I was also inspired by the queer history of badges, and how badges have been used for political expression in the past. I’m a huge fan of the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ button collection. (link:

I also aimed to create something that felt unique and charming, that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. 

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?  

From all around the place! I’m always mentally collecting things I like from so many different places and wondering how I can take inspiration from it. I read a lot of books (especially fantasy and science fiction), follow other artists, listen to music, watch TV… my brain is like a sponge, I’m always trying to fill it with creative stuff so creative stuff comes out. 

The ‘two cats’ design on these badges have kind of a long history, I have a tattoo of a very similar design that went through a bunch of iterations before that, even. It’s inspired by a song called Alley Cats by Hot Chip, which played a lot when I was a kid and I’ve developed a real fondness for it.  

Please can you provide a little more info on how your interest in design started and  developed?  

I started drawing and illustrating in my preteens, I think? I’ve always adored stories and was always creating stories in my head, and I wanted to learn to draw to bring what was in my head to life. I read very widely as a kid, but I was always in love with fantasy and science fiction. Above all I loved this kids’ book series called Warrior Cats, which was all about these cats in this society in the English woodlands and their political and emotional conflicts, and I started drawing cats to go along with all the cat stories in my head. I draw mostly people now, but I always seem to come back to cats! 

Do you have any favourite items in the collection? 

Not really… they’re all basically the same design. But I am very proud of the colour schemes. 

Does your work have a social impact?  

I hope it helps people to express themselves and feel proud, as well as helping them be respected by other people. If you’re not queer, it can be hard to imagine how important being respected in the littlest ways by other people is. 

What are your hopes for the future? Where would you like to take your design career / collection?  

I’d love to put more products in not just a shop, and continue making things that make me happy and that make other people happy too. Although I’m still a student, I’m already exploring working freelance and in fields like murals, publishing, and comics. I love all aspects of illustration, so I don’t have any concrete plans for where I want to end up next, but I know I always want to be experimenting and playing around with my art. I would, ideally, love to end up making my own comics and bring all of my stories to life, but that’s a long way off. Or work in a printmaking workshop—I just really like the process of printmaking.