Petalplum

creative process

Nothing ever stays the same : process of my textile art-making

Fabric, Creative Process, Botanical DyeEllie Beck2 Comments
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I am working on some new pieces, with the hopes to get myself together to have a solo exhibition next year. I need to put the entry in by the end of this month.

Nothing ever stays the same > Pondering the way that my visual voice shifts & morphs, but I think still similar. Do you think? Do you see ‘me’ in my weavings and my stitch work? 

I guess the only way is just to listen to my whisper, the quiet soulful voice of working with the muse and making my work. And if I make it with my own voice, then it must be my voice. 

These pieces look totem-ish to me. They feel like trees of memories. I know what the exhibition will be called (I’m going to keep that quiet to myself for a little while). But it’s about memories, motherhood, self, ideas, thoughts, the shifting shadows in our souls & minds ... and other stuff. Haha.

Thought I should finally start using this blog to document my process as I happens. Small quick snippets of work. Would you be interested in seeing that? 

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Its raining here today. Again. Yesterday was pure glorious sunshine and now we are back to the moody skies, those feelings of internalising a day. It’s been raining for weeks. But the grey clouds have a good way of talking to me. 

I saw the moon last night. A moment of wakefulness. 

Heres the fabrics - naturally dyed with a combination of eucalyptus, iron-y water, seedpods & leaves gathered, bark (eucalyptus), silky oak leaves, rose leaves, onion skins. And the pinks are ranunculus & anemone flowers - the darkest purple ones. I can’t wait for more of them next Spring!  

I’m using a combination of vintage kimono silk, scraps of other fabrics from my collections and also a little bit of new silk or linen. 

 

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thoughts on my process making : stitching colours, making tea quilts & breathing

Creative Process, Botanical Dye, Weaving, Words & poetry thoughtsEllie BeckComment

This is the colour palette that I’ve been working with lately. It’s so very different than what I’d usually use or work with, and maybe that’s the reason I’m loving it so much. It’s always good to mix things up isn’t it - to push ourselves in a new direction. Maybe it’s just because seriously, look how good it all looks together.. So shimmery and lovely. I’m making tea quilts out of these pieces of my naturally dyed fabrics.

The goldens and yellows were all dyed with onion skins - if you’ve never dyed with onion skins before (either red or brown onions), they’re seriously the most satisfying to dye with. So much colour, so much depth and variation with different fabrics, weights and weaves, and different processes in the dye pot.

The greys are eucalyptus which was overdyed with iron. Here’s a little how-to if you wanna do this; it’s a great way to ‘fix up’ a piece that wasn’t so spectacular in the first dye pot, because sometimes that happens. And over-dyeing is the best ways to rework a piece of naturally dyed fabric or yarn.

Anyway - tea quilts. Ain’t that a sweet name. I’m not sure where I first saw it (somewhere on the vast amazing internet of inspiration - though I just did a teeny search and most images come up as quilts with tea cups on them… so mine isn’t that). These are lovely little placemats just for one person, for you to sit and enjoy your quiet moments of sipping tea.

A dreamy little moment we can all hope for. Quiet tea sipping and pondering some thoughtful words.

Lately I’ve been asked about my ‘process’, and sometimes it’s hard to articulate exactly what and where and how. Mostly - it comes in spurts and bursts. Keeping on trying, feeling and catching teeny glimpses of inspiration and working with that. And then pushing on without the inspiration. I feel like we have to be here ready and waiting, and working and always working, the inspiration comes and goes, but if we’re not here working then it will most probably slip on by without stopping beside us.

What do you think? Do you agree?

My process is mostly based on the materials themselves, and the pockets of time that I have to work within. I am learning to not limit myself to one form or one medium or only one ‘style’. Sometimes words come out, sometimes images, sometimes simply lines and rows of stitching.

The process of these pieces mostly came about by the dye pot colours. I have a vague idea of what colours or what dye stuffs (plants / flowers / etc) that I want to work with, but then I allow things to evolve. Once the colours showed themselves to me… quilt ideas started forming. The greys particularly keep talking to me and leading me somewhere further and further.

A lot of my work is a journey towards the next thing. While I’m working on something, ideas are forming and evolving and becoming more articulate, easily to recognise and put into form (rather than vague images / dreams in my head). The process of making a piece guides and informs the next piece.

I don’t often use a sketchbook or plan out what I’m making, because the piece becomes the sketchbook for the next piece. If that make sense at all.

So - my process for my creative making & art-making is :

  • having materials that inspire me - natural materials, in colours of the earth & sky & ocean (ie - naturally dyed. I am being drawn more and more to the more muted hues of things lately, as a general rule - but not always, of course!).

  • grabbing any and every moment when something sparks in me - and making it happen. Or writing little snippets of words down to guide me at a later time.

  • always having materials on hand - even just a small pile of fabrics, needle & thread. In my handbag, in the car, beside my bag, little baskets around the house

  • being open to what evolves. Not doing a lot of self-editing while the inspiration is flowing. Just moving with it, trying to listen and hone in my own voice.

  • when the inspiration strikes I get offline (no Instagram or Pinterest to distract me, or pull me away from my own voice), and I settle into where I am.

  • making mistakes.

  • having lots of unfinished pieces. This is ok, because these often form and spark ideas down the track. Nothing is every complete.

  • remembering that I am ever evolving, as a person, as a creative, as an artist - and it’s ok for my work to keep evolving.

  • and just doing the work. Keeping on doing it, showing up again & again & again.

Ellie Beck - Petalplum - Process making - natural dye & tea quilts. Pinterest graphic.png

craft as therapy : different crafts for different moods

Creative Process, WeavingellieComment

Being a creative maker can be hard. Being an artist. It's not easy. Well, let's be honest. Being a human is actually hard isn't it. Showing up every day again and again, and trying to do our best. Some days we just want to stay in bed, yet we can't. Some days I just want to write all day, other days I just want to walk in the forest, or cook nourishing warm yummy things. 

I find that with my moods, my emotional ups or downs, those flimsy ebbs & flows of life sometimes I don't want to do any creative work at all. I want to sit in a slump in the sun drinking tea. Or gin. Gin would be good sometimes wouldn't it! 

But there's only so long that I can indulge in this. Some times I need to push and propel myself out of this feeling. Force myself to start the process of climbing out of the hole*. I do find that by forcing some form of creativity upon myself it does help. Craft as therapy, in a sense. 

But not everything I do (I'm a multi-creative, so I DO A LOT) works in every situation. I just wanted to share a few different ways I work through a creative slump, or a down moment... using my creative skills to help me. 

  • Things that don't require patterns or perfection are good, nor counting of stitches.
  • Things that are repetitive, such as my basket making (pictured) rather than my loom weaving
  • Things that give an outcome are sometimes good; like cooking a meal, or making my lunch look extra special, but not like needing to present a perfectly styled photo for a client
  • Hand stitching lots and lots of straight lines work for me. Not patterns or shapes or anything particular, but just straight stitch on and on, back and forth across my fabric
  • Something that doesn't have a deadline, or even need to be finished; but could indeed sit in a basket of things waiting for the next 'slump' moment
  • Something you know how to do, and don't need to look up the how-to instructions
  • Something that connects you hands and head, and makes you stop over-thinking everything, makes you slow down into the moment again.

What things work for you? What do you do when you're feeling down?

You can learn simple basket weaving here, and add it to your basket of makings, for when you need. It's also lovely for sitting on the verandah in the sunshine with the kids playing beside you. My raffia is dyed using avocado, turmeric and my not-working-so-well indigo vat (just another temperamental fermenting thing really...). And I do wish I had a photo of my little ones with their Lego spread out around them, but I was too in the moment to even think about that!

* I am very aware that my holes are much smaller than many other people's. Some people need help, to talk with someone, to be given a shining bright torch. If you are someone who needs are torch to shine you way through a fog please DO DO ask for help. And don't listen to the friend who says 'they don't do sad', find someone who is there for you. 

The Fearless Quilt : as story unfolding for life

Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment

The Fearless Quilt came to be quite unexpectedly, as does the nature of some things. Divine Inspiration, being open to the muse, listening & actioning, being guided..... or simply following along a path (however wonky & meandering it has been & will be) that you set out on some time ago. It doesn't matter how a thing comes to you, I think what matters is how to receive it and what you do with it, and where you take it, and how you hold it. 

I began on the first of the new year by writing a letter to my future self. I have planned to put it away and read it again in a year's time. What I wrote was nothing too dramatic, but just the putting into words - onto paper - what I have been telling myself all the past year. That I want to make art, create art, practice art, do art. So I wrote - every day this year I will sit and practice art. I will not worry what "art" means, or by what medium I work with. But I will practice at something artfully every single day. 

So, then I sat down with my fabrics and my stitching. And starting my hand sewing. I started slowly, simply enough. The beginnings of a quilt that I have been toying with for a little while now. The fabrics have be unfolded and folded, piled and stacked, sorted, placed, arranged, re-arranged, some stitched over, others the scraps from dye pots. Some ironed, others crumpled. But a smallish collection to begin something, with an intention. 

As I sat working, my mind started pondering. Making art for me starts to work towards the reality of what and where - where does my art go? I live a simple life, in a small home. We do not have space for more things. In my life I often ponder of putting more "stuff" out into the world, of people needing it (I always come round saying people want it, why shouldn't they have my beautiful stuff instead of shop bought stuff). But never-the-less there is that overarching ponder-ment of what happens to it afterwards. Which is why I decided on a quilt. Because a quilt is practical. The bed or person it drapes on becomes the wall for showing off the artwork, but the work takes on a new life by being used, loved, enjoyed. Not simply hung on a wall and looked at (I know that that too is good and important .... but we have so few walls I can't keep making wall things!). 

And as my brain oft does... it starts to ponder how will I be able to support this art making. How will I support my family through this art making. Making art everyday is vital and necessary and good for the soul - but the body and tummy needs nourishment too... which comes in the way of selling the art. And my mind goes off on tangents of selling art quilts... which I would so love to do. To have someone using, loving the work I create with my hands. But the realist in me knows that there's no way I can hand sew enough quilts to make a living, without wearing my fingers raw. 

And while I'm stitching - most importantly - I'm realising that the process with which I'm working / using isn't giving me the scope for the vision I have talking to me. The way that a quilt (bits of fabric sewn together) must work, weren't giving me the right format / blank space for the art aspect. I come across this in my loom weavings sometimes too - where the process of warping and then weaving means that I have to negotiate the vision, that it can't always be as I see it. A painting on canvas is a different way.... a quilt or a weaving has a different structure.

I had wanted to hand quilt the whole piece, but then... due to this aspect I decided to machine sew some sections together, which I can then hand quilt. This putting together will give me a different 'canvas' structure to work with, to begin with. The base plate will give me space for the vision, in a different way. I am not sure if this makes sense at all.... perhaps it doesn't matter ---- because it's all the underpinning for what came next, and then what came next from that. 

So : yesterday, I got out my sewing machine. I laid the backing piece down and started creating the pieces of the quilt top. I worked the colours, patterns, shapes, pieces - like a puzzle. But in small sections only, not like a traditional quilt that thinks about the whole piece as one thing... indeed just a bit here while I worked on that. Then I'll add more while I work on the next bit. And some sections I've left blank at the moment, until I come back to them - to add in other bits as needed. To build the vision, the story slowly slowly as it evolves. 

I am sewing fabrics together with different weights and weaves - some soft flimsy silks beside thick velvet, linen beside wool felt. And the pieces are not the same size or shape, and as in the traditional way of sewing seams and edges of fabric together -  some extend past others, some stop short. The structure of sewing seams together means this is a little wonky, and tricky, and totally "wrong" in any sense of how you machine sew. 

And this.... right here is where it all began!!! The magic of just jumping in. Of starting without an end picture in mind, I do not even have enough fabrics to complete it at the moment, I do not have space on my table to lay it all out. I do not have the inclination to lay it all out as one whole - but in fact to work on one section,  machine sew those pieces together, then hand sewn them onto the quilt backing (Which is a piece of linen). Then add on the next sections, and some will be hand sewn and some machine sewn. And some bits will be wonky, overlapping, there's gaps where the fabrics won't join or match up - I'll simply sew another piece over that to fill the space. 

A combination of all that I am, and all that I know. The straight lines and "rules" of machine sewing, the patched mendedness of boro or kantha, the quiet solitude of sashiko, and the wild fearlessness of my mother!

This morning I got up, the quilt on the kitchen table. (Remember I am home alone for three whole days - no-one to ask me for things, no need to push aside my projects for family meals). And I began playing with the fabrics again. An excitement welling up. But my mind is not one to quietly sit by while my hands work..... 

And so - from there... the notions of pulling my scraps, my precious saved collected stitched loved hand dyed fabrics, combined with my wild notions of making mistakes and just giving it a go, added to my underpinning of understanding the structure of making a quilt / sewing something, joined with the quietness of days at home alone... And I come to this ::

The Fearless Quilt is the story of my life. We all know that quilts are stories of things, and lives.. Traditionally the way they're made, stitched by women around family, life, hardship, joy. Quilt patterns have names that relate to something. Well - here's my quilt pattern, and here's what it relates to.

My life this year will be fearless. I will take all that I know, and jump headfirst into all that I do not know. I will take the precious saved things from our of the boxes and use them, love them, make mistakes with them - maybe even ruin some of them. I will take the knowledge combined with the emotions and create things. I think this is how I run my business, and how I creatively work. But to have the word form in my head - to show me what I have been doing without realising. This year I will take everything and put it together. It will take time, it will be slow and sometimes hard. There will be bursts of inspiration, and moments of having to push through. I'll have to make some new pieces to add in, and borrow some pieces as well. I'll have to find extra bits, ask for help, teach myself things again and anew. 

I received an email this morning that added to all this. That was perhaps like the binding on a quilt - showing me how to make it all as something that can be used. I have an quilt with binding... it's usable but not so practical or pretty, and it looked a little funny, and didn't fold up neatly. And always felt not quite loved enough to be finished. This year I will bind my Fearless Quilt and I will bind my Fearless life, ready to be used, loved, perhaps worn a little, enjoyed, appreciated......

Right now - there's the working it all out. Seeing how it can happen. But the ideas are bubbling. And so here's what I know how :: this year I will write two books. One I already have begun, and have an editor and publishers for. One I will write myself... I will hope to find someone - but maybe publish it myself. It will be based upon my Fearless Simple Creative living, and based upon my Unfurl & Bloom course, and based upon the notions I have inside me that I have so much to give to others... to help them find their creative selves.

weaving process photos & dyeing with eucalyptus leaves

Creative Process, WeavingEllie Beck3 Comments
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This is the weaving that's been on my loom for over a month now. I keep coming to it, to finish it, and being dragged away by something else. I long for the day when my loom weaving can be my full time income, but the truth is I also know that I have lots of other stuff that I need to share with the world as well. 

I thought I'd talk a little about my process of beginning a weaving. I feel like my loom weaving has come to a point in my creative outlet where it's more than just weaving. To me, for me, it's my voice speaking out. My artistic creative voice. Sharing itself with the world. 

Some of my work is my craft, some my writing & photography & teaching. Weaving is my artistic voice. It's not about stating it's goodness or quality in the art world, it's simply how I feel about the work.

Mind you - some one just received one of my weaves in the post and her thank you message was utterly mind-blowing in she felt upon looking at my work. Comments like that make me truly feel like a real artist. Whatever a real artist actually is!

I spend a fair bit of my creative process actually in my head. Due to be a full time mother, with a 3yr-old, 10 & 13yr-old needing me regularly constantly emotionally physically... Well.... due to that, and the fact I don't have full time set aside for loom weaving (or any of my creative practices) I do much of the pre-planing, thinking, emotional work in my mind. 

A story comes to me, an idea, a vague visual reference. Or often an emotion that refers to something. It's never solid or concrete, but also fleeting . Very emotional I think. Very possibilities, potentials, maybes.. 

I start with a colour theme. Because I dye almost all of my yarns myself, I begin my process with the colours. That in itself is a long process of gathering the dye materials, wrapping & binding my threads and yarns, extracting the colour from the plants or flowers. I have an idea in mind, but I know that natural dye is never an exact outcome - so I am open to allowing the process to evolve and be part of the work. 

With this piece I knew I wanted deeps darks greys, blacks, purples, mottled effects. I used eucalyptus leaves gathered from around my property and with the addition of rusty iron (nails and bits of rusty metal), I knew I'd get some blacks or deep greys, with a purple-ish undertone. Maybe a few pinkish underhues if I was lucky. Lots of browns came through - very predictable from the eucalyptus from my region (I don't get much reds or oranges as you can achieve down south). 

Without going into full emotional detail about this weaving, it's a story on the ongoing dramas of life with my daughter. Wonderful, wild, crazy, emotionally big, black, white, pure innocence combined with the depth of drama of troubles & challenges. On the brink of teenage hood, yet still in fairyland. 

I find weaving to be very meditative as well as emotional therapy. For me, a lot of my weaves have this feeling of working through my stories, emotions, challenges, joys. Sharing that in a visual, textural, tactile way. 

My girl has this way, that I've read in some books about sensitive children, of being pure beauty & joy when we're out in public. What she shares with the world vs what she allows her family to see. The exterior of white, and inside this depth of learning, unknowing, discovering, challenges. A darkness. 

Perhaps the darkness that we all keep hidden from everyday society. 

In my current work I'm using a lot of exposed ends, rather than weaving the tails in. There isn't a finished neatness in the life. My woven stories are about life. About those realness moments. Where we have rough parts beside smooth refine areas. 

Using finer threads combined with some fluffy roving, I also like the combination of soumak alongside plain weave. The way they sit together. My soumak is never neat and tidy, I like the way it can be large and messy, or small and neat, pushed together or stretched wide to give space. 

The gaps in the weaving - where you can see warp only - are those parts where her light gets in. I feel like there's the jagged edges of a crystal, the beauty that is formed deep inside the earth, that's often hidden beneath the smooth shell. 

I barely every draw my designs down on paper. I have an idea in my mind - a visual, but mostly a story. I'm weaving the story stitch by stitch, colour by colour, the same way I'd write a poem or a book or a letter. ..... an idea of what I want to say, but until I get to that part I'm not entirely sure how it'll look, sound or feel. 

With this style of weaving I start anywhere, add bits here and there all over. Not in a lineal manner, but a haphazard process... as the story shows itself to me. 

Through this weave, which is almost but not yet finished, I've gone through some deep thoughts on being a mother to a wild emotional daughter. Also, on not having my own mother around to question her, or ask advice (I'm sure her story will always come up in my weavings). I've also found I've come to a peace about my daughter, about her emotions and her depth of character, her challenges in who she is and who she'll become. 

You can view some short videos of me weaving this piece on my ellie.beck.creative Instagram account here. I'll see if I can get videos to upload to this page as well (I'm thinking one day my Instagram account will cease to exist and I'll have everything saved there and nothing anywhere else...).