Petalplum

weaving

Weaving Journal Notes :: The Space Between

Creative Process, WeavingEllie BeckComment

Many of my weaves over the past few months have had a lot of feelings of angst, dealing with internal issues, working through ideas, overcoming emotions / working on emotions. You might not see or feel that when you look at my works, but that's what I know I'm weaving. The stories that evolve while the threads are pulling through my fingers. 

That's the way I weave.... a story telling itself to me, bit by bit. Thread by thread. It unfolds on my loom. Sometimes it changes during the weaving process, it resolves itself, has a beginning, middle and ending. Sometimes it's just a section of the story, and the story continues on in my mind. At any rate, I know when I'm weaving that it's not just stitches and yarn - for me... it's so much more. 

This piece -- I spent three full days ( as full as full time mother with a child beside her can) at the loom. I've tended the yarn, listened to the story, thought about the end image... what it might look like. At the end of the day, regardless of how much I talk about process, I need to finish these pieces and remember that I'm hoping for someone to love them enough to buy them. That really is what it comes down to - alas my financial life doesn't really allow for much languishing of weavings and yarn.

These whites and naturals and blues are feeling much less angsty than previous works. A little more resolved in themselves. Of course, not all smooth sailing as such... but gentler somehow. And then I realised how and why. 

I am weaving myself. Well, always I'm weaving myself. A version of myself. A story of myself. A story of how I view the world, how my emotions and thoughts and feelings and ideas fit into it. I can't help but do that. My art is a self-portrait I suppose, to a degree. Well, this self-portrait I'm currently weaving is a good one. She's content, she's at peace with herself. She's feeling sad and that bittersweet emotion of the looming death-date of her moth. But she's also feeling good about her space in her environment. 

Life is not easy, golly it never will be, but somehow things are in a settled space in herself. Even with external issues (children, friendships, finances, vulnerability about 'being an artist'), there's something that is right inside. There's something that is glowing, and blooming. The depth of the blue that I'll be dyeing in my indigo vat is the depth of my soul - it's a good depth... it's not scary or wrong or too deep. It's the space to feel things, to know things, to discover things. It's the space to feel connected to self, to space, to earth, to landscape. 

I like mountains & rivers

WeavingEllie BeckComment

My daughter came into my room, with a cup of tea for me, she looked at this new piece and said ‘it makes me think of mountains & rivers’. I said, ‘is that ok’. She said, ‘yes, I like mountains’.

This piece is called “We are standing on the edge of this World”. The names seem to come to me before I begin the piece. I don’t know if that’s because I’m spending more time writing words, and allowing words to come - in a vague sort of poetic sense.

When we exercise a muscle it gets stronger, knows what to do. The brain is the same as any muscle. So the more I think in poetic words, the more that is what my mind wants to keep doing.

 

This piece for a local art-prize exhibition. I would love to have a work at our local gallery. Which is actually an award-winning, well respected regional gallery. It will be due at the Gallery on 17th May. I think I’m giving myself enough time, around life and other work. 

 

I am not sure if I actually want it to be as representational as ‘mountains and rivers’, so we will see how I feel once it progresses. I am thinking perhaps I’ll display it sideways - which will change the look / feel, but will also mean logistics of weaving & warp strings, and we’ll (Sam & me) need to work on that. But easy enough I think. 

If the piece needs it, we’ll / I’ll make it work.

 

The name comes (again) from a song, from Robbie Robertson. But it makes me think of our beautiful region where I live, and of our Earth, our World. So it’s a love weave to Mother Earth. 

 

 

 

 

tutorial :: weaving on sticks and walks in nature

Weaving, Craft Tutorialsellie4 Comments

"Teeny twiglet loom weaving using hand dyed silk thread"

For me, creating with my children is a natural extension of my own making and we do lots of crafting, but even I can be known to think of crafting with them as too annoying. Often we put crafting with children into the too hard basket because we think we don’t have enough time, it’s too messy, a perceived lack of skill, or it will be expensive.

I have some news to share with you – crafting with children can be as simple and beautiful as tying some yarn around a stick and hanging it in their bedroom window, or outside in a tree. Sitting beside you with your full attention is just as important as the project itself.

This is a simple weaving project which uses found and low cost or recycled materials. Children as young as three or four will enjoy being able to master the technique while older children and adults can make their designs more complex or personal. It's a great way to explore colour combinations and textural differences - it's fun to mix and match different wools, cottons, fabrics and found objects.

To start this project you’ll need:

  • some twigs or sticks :

While paddle pop sticks will work, it’s much more fun, environmental and prettier if you use twigs collected from the backyard or a walk around your neighbourhood. Choose sticks that are not too thick but are strong enough they won’t break easily (eucalypts work well). If they have a wiggly shape or interesting details this will add to your finished piece. To make the most of spending time with your kids, think of the twig gathering as an activity in itself and enjoy the walk in the Winter sunshine, exploring and taking time to stop to look at things instead of the usual school-day attitude of hurrying curious children on. Take a gathering basket with you!

For our weaving we found some sticks with a natural fork in them, and used that as the edges of the loom. If you can’t find a forked stick you can create one by tying three sticks into a triangle. Your twigs can be as long as you like; experiment with different sizes, and shapes; try four sticks to make a square weaving loom.

  • some yarn, thread, wool cotton for weaving :

I use whatever yarn I can get my hands on, though I do prefer natural fibres. Children appreciate using beautiful crafting supplies – you will all enjoy the look and feel of interesting colours and textures. At markets and op-shops keep a look out for bags of wool, cottons or yarns. You can also make your own yarn using old sheets, fabric or t-shirts. I often find great yarny supplies at my local Environment Centre as well. 

  • a sewing needle :

You can use a larger eyed embroidery needle with a blunt nose, or find some plastic needles for children, which are excellent for learning to weave.

Tie the warp thread tightly onto your twig, then wrap around and around to create your loom.

Once your warp thread is fully wrapped and tied tightly at the other end, start your weft thread (the yellow thread above) and weave under and over. Depending on the thickness of your stick, you may find this easier or harder to get a smooth finish.

  • What to do:

Tie one end of the yarn to the bottom of one of the forks of your branch. Stretch the yarn across to the other fork and wrap it around once so you have bridged the thinnest part of your triangle. Take your yarn back to the first side and wrap around about 1-2cm above the first wrap (the thickness of your yarn will determine how far you make these strings/wraps). Continue wrapping the yarn between the two sides, until you get to the top of the fork. In weaving terminology you have now created the warp. Then, taking a new length of yarn (called the weft) weave across the warp threads. Start by knotting your weft onto the bottom warp yarn and threading the yarn over one warp thread then under the next one, then over and so on. When you get to the end, reverse direction and take your weft back down going under the warp that you previously wove over and over the ones you went under.

You can change your weft colour to create patterns or a random effect. Tie each new weft colour yarn onto the previous colour or onto the warp so the whole lot won’t unravel. You might also weave in leaves, feathers, grasses or flowers you found on your walk; or ribbons, lace or other found string-like items. There are no rules. 

I used a needle as the shuttle for these tiny twiglets that I worked on. It was so much easier than pushing the weft through the warp. You can also use some flat cardboard cut into a long 'needle-ish' shape with the end of your weft yarn sticky taped to it; this helps kids have something to work over and under the warp threads, and then pull it all through. 

The more you practice, the more even your tension will be – which means that the weaving will be tight and firm, not too floppy and not pulled out of shape. My children and I are slowly filling the bare Winter branches of a special tree in our garden with hanging weavings and yarn wrapped twigs. It makes me smile each time I look at it, and I'm wondering what the kookaburras think of it all! I think one of the most important things about being creative is not if it’s perfect or neat, but if you feel joy in the making of and looking at it. And if you can share your making time with someone special you just

might multiply this joy. It's important for children to learn that mistakes in creativity aren't a bad thing, and to be able to enjoy their artworks in all their wonky amazingness!

This one, made of op-shopped wools and fabric yarn, lives outside under our tree.

I can't wait to see your tree filled with yarn wrapped wonderful-ness. Please do share! Please contact me if you need any more pictures or extra info. {the children took over my creative space so the photo session was cut short......}..

I love the shadow play that was happening on the sunny day I was a-making. This makes me think of a weedy seadragon; one of my favourite of all animals is a sea horse.

*this was originally written / published on my old Petalplum blog, July 2013. You can still read my blog there, and see sweet photos of my kids as little ones. This weaving still hangs in my studio. 

The seasons of our creative lives

Creative Process, WeavingEllie Beck2 Comments

Last week I sat down at my weaving loom for the first time for many months. And bleeping hell did it feel good. Really really good! And I'm suddenly addicted to loom weaving all over again. And it got me thinking about all the creative pursuits I have, and how I fit them into my days. But actually it got me thinking even more about how sometimes I feel desperately like basket weaving, or dyeing fabric, or stitching, or crochet, or loom weaving, or photography.... or sometimes none at all. And how this is all good and ok. How sometimes I simply don't feel like sitting at my weaving loom, or sometimes I don't feel like sewing or picking up a crochet hook. And I started to think about how I personally have different 'seasons' for my creative making. And I wondered if you might too? What I mean by this is that at certain times throughout my days, weeks or even in a year I'm drawn to different types of making, different ways of making, different techniques & processes & materials & even outcomes. I realised that rather than ending up being inconsistent in my creative practice, what I've been doing is going with the flow of life, and allowing myself to slip easily within the different things that I enjoy and not be held tied up to something that can't fit into life at that moment.

Being a mother and an artist is a whole conversation of it's own. Well it's actually more than one conversation. It's a motherhood-lifetime of thoughts, words, ideas, anguish, conversations, turmoil, joy, overcoming, working through, pondering. And maybe once or twice actually getting down to doing some making. So it's with this motherhood / artist juxtaposition that I've realised it doesn't have to be a fight, a divide - perhaps it can be more a yin / yang. Finding the unbalanced balance, the imperfect perfect. That idea.

Ellie Beck Petalplum Seasons of our Creative Lives Loom Weaving

So. The actual true and real reasons I haven't sat at the weaving loom is because of family life, and the smallest child mainly. When he was a baby he lay quietly beside my loom while I wove (and it made for sweet pictures too!), but as he grew and became more active I couldn't tied to a loom that sits rigidly still. And as he became quite aware of what I was working on, he wanted to be part of it too. And not having my own proper studio space always meant weaving in the lounge-room, where he loved to pull at my yarns (which of itself is ok), but pulling at my weaving, disturbing the tension of my warp, destroying the stitches I'd stitched. All aside from constantly climbing on me, and dragging me outside to play and jump in muddy puddles. Picking up and putting down my weaving became harder and harder. Eventually my loom sat in the corner of the lounge-room for a few months, with spiders building homes in the fluffy yarn, before I packed it up and stored it away. I tried a few times here and there. But the reality of having children, of being a stay-at-home mother before I'm an artist, meant that smaller more portable crafts and creative moments needed to be picked up.

Which is where the seasonal aspect comes in. Each time in my months as a mother has given new breath for different making. New space depending on the busier or slower aspects of the children's ages or activities. Sometimes I can only crochet something the size of a pebble, other times I carried around blankets that I crocheted stitch by stitch. Lately (the last 9 months) I've been working on basket weaving because raffia is easier to pick up and stitch one slow stitch at a time. Without having to count stitches or remember a pattern, or worry about finishing a row before you're dragged away.

And like the seasons in each year, when we really stop and simply enjoy where we are, without longing for the past or the future - then the present season is exceedingly special. It brings what we need in terms of nourishment, being propelled outside or brought inside, of quietness or noisiness, of slow or fast. We're headed slowly into Autumn here, and I love this season as much as the Summer we've just left, and the Winter that will follow soon enough. I love it not for being in between, but for being it's own self. For teaching new things that Summer can't teach, nor Winter can show. And if I apply this thinking to my different creative spaces I've found that being in my season of crochet or my moment of basket weaving, or my year of natural dye - then each one teaches, gives, shows, provides different things.

One of the remarkable side-effects of all this seasonal time, means that when I'm in my off season my brain is thinking and tumbling and processing and pondering. Wondering & wandering. And that sort of thing. So that when I finally sat at my weaving loom last week, with the yarns I've been dyeing in my botanical dye pots. And I had the quiet time I so desperately was craving. And the small baby isn't so small anymore. When all that happened. And the season of weaving came around again. You know what! I think it's going to be quite an amazing season. I think after all this waiting, and getting on with enjoying all the other makings and time, and realising the other seasons are just as beautiful. Well - suddenly things are blossoming because like the lemon or orange trees in our garden that begin as buds last Spring and spend all year growing slowly slowly slowly. Everything is helping and working with that fruit, towards Winter. The fruits soak up everything the tree gives it, while the tree still nourishes itself. Or the magnolia that seems to take almost a whole year before those buds open to reveal the most magnificent bloom you may ever have seen. A whole year of growth the create something. Where most of the growth is quiet, slow, hidden. And then BOOM! You're hit with the season when everything is ripe and ready and blooming and glowing.

That's how I feel. I've spent the season of lying breastfeeding River, pondering while slowing slowing growing. And now. I'm ripe. I'm ready. I'm blooming! The weave I just took off the loom feels like something different to me, for me. A few way to working. A new way of expressing myself. Like I've been hiding and planning, and then I finally had the right space - the right season - to say 'hey, here I am. THIS is me!'. Do you ever feel like that? Do you know what I mean? Or am I just rambling again.....?


This blog post was originally published on my old blog, which can now sadly not be accessed due to internet things..... , in March of 2017.

Ellie Beck Petalplum Seasons of our Creative lives Story.jpg

weaving process photos & dyeing with eucalyptus leaves

Creative Process, WeavingEllie Beck3 Comments
IMG_4521.JPG

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...).