Workshops & Events

Petalplum in Q & A with Think Thornbury - sustainable slow simple crafting

Creative Process, Workshops & EventsEllie BeckComment

Later this month I will be heading to Melbourne to teach some workshops at Think Thornbury, a beautiful looking space that opened last year. I met Maggie when she attended my dye workshop in Melbourne earlier last year, and straight away I felt she was a beautiful soul, someone doing things her way with an intention, and also being open and honest about the challenges of creativity, business and life. Together, Maggie and her partner (soon to be husband) Josh, set about creating a space full of local handcrafted goodness that also included a workshop space. Maggie also works under the name The Middle Aisle for her beautiful bespoke Macrame pieces that she sells or rents for events, and she teaches workshops too. 

I answered a few questions for Josh, for their Think Thornbury newsletter, and I decided to share it here as well, rather than letting it drift away in people's inboxes. Sometimes I write, well I humbly think so :), words that flow well when I'm simply emailing or writing to someone. So here it is. If you want to come along to any of my upcoming workshops, check them all out here; I'm teaching Natural Dye, Slow Stitch, and Basket Weaving.

Think Thornbury: Our first newsletter this year will feature Ellie Beck, the incredible human behind the creative slow craft institution that is Petal Plum. 
Ellie has been a source of constant inspiration for Maggie and myself in starting Think and living fulfilling creative lives. Read on for an inspiring mini-interview that will give you an insight into her philosophy of slow creative craft. {*Thanks Josh, what lovely word}. 

Q. On your fascinating and immensely popular blog you talk a lot about 'Creative Slow Living'. What does this idea mean to you?

It's about being present in my creativity rather than rushing through the process of making something to have a finished thing. The joy and pleasure of making & creating is in itself a mindful practice, that I feel is similar to beginner mediation. When I'm slow in my creative projects, I find that I also am able to bring slow into my days, which means bringing it into my role as a mama to three noisy, creative active children. Taking the slow craft philosophy into daily life is what my practice and my teachings are about - it's no use being slow & mindful when you're stitching or dyeing or doing crochet, if you can't take that thought and feeling into how you live your other moments. So, I focus on what I'm making and how I'm making it, using my breath and a mindfulness. It also means that my whole life is a slower way of living, in a creative manner. We don't rush through life waiting for the next exciting event, instead being joyfully content with each day - even if that is sipping tea while playing with kids, stitching or cleaning up after endless meals.  

Q. How does your craft reflect this philosophy?

My craft and slow living philosophy tie into each other in the way that each plays off, and responds to the other. My craft or creative life is not separate from my whole life. I don't have a work / life balance because my work and my life are one, everyday evolving and merging together. Being creative in life is more than doing some crochet or sewing, it's seeing the simple moments and how you can take those moments to become the fullness of your life. In my craft & art practices I use sustainable, thoughtful materials - and in our daily living we aim for a simpler way of eating, and being. My loom weaving or basket weaving is made with organic or environmentally thoughtful materials, and the food I feed my family is made from whole real ingredients - sourced locally, mindfully, as low-waste as possible. Both of these ways of living are connected. When I learn more about my craft or art supplies, I also find that propels me to discover more about my food, clothing or living needs, and visa-versa.

Q. What kind of effect has this practice had on other areas of your life?

I find that the more I write and talk about my slow craft practice I am ever more mindful in my everyday life. Being a parent (I have a 13, 11 & 3 yr old) means finding new ways to work through new everyday challenges. By having the quiet and mindfullness of my creative practice I'm better at responding to the noise, mess, bickering or needs of my children. Teaching myself to breathe with my slow stitch work or the simple joyful process of creating colour in a natural dye pot, reminds me to breathe through parenting or other daily moments. It also gives me a wonderful space to step away and refresh my mind and spirit in my creative practice. 

"Taking the slow craft philosophy into daily life is what my practice and my teachings are about - it's no use being slow & mindful when you're stitching or dyeing or doing crochet, if you can't take that thought and feeling into how you live your other moments."

Q. What is your teaching philosophy and what do you try to convey to workshop attendees? 

My aim in my workshops is to open my student's eyes to new ways of thinking, seeing and feeling. I don't want to be the expert in the room, but rather be a guide for someone along a journey where they may be at the beginning or already started, to show a different path that we can take, not the same well-worn track. I hope that I can remind or show people that everyone is creative, that imperfections and our own way of sharing our vision with the world is vital, but that we don't all need to be full-time artists to share this. I want to dispel the myth that making art or being a crafter is hard, and to remind people to learn new things, to make mistakes - in fact to enjoy the process of making mistakes and see where that leads. I encourage always for people to do things their own way. I offer ideas, insights, processes and ways of working, but my recipe might not work for you, and I urge my students to create their own recipes; their own ways of working. I share as much as I can about the way I work and the things I know. I'm not interested in holding onto ideas for fear that someone might steal them. Instead, I remind people to take the information, advice and teachings, and put their own voice to it. I talk about fears, copying, sharing, being part of a creative community, as well as my environmental & sustainable thoughts on crafting, and my practices. I open the conversation for listening to others, and am always open always to learning from my students.

Q. What is the effect of your local environment on your craft?

I live surrounded by forest and nature. Directly outside our home are trees overflowing with inspiration from the shape & colour of the leaves, the birds that come and sit on our verandah, or the mushrooms, sticks and found treasures from our garden. Being so deeply connected with the peaceful joy of nature guides me in slowing down even more - we live a different life than many, where we're content to stay home rather than go into the outside world everyday. I live and work in this environment, and soak it all up. My creative pieces are coloured directly from the plants, flowers, trees, leaves around my home / studio, through my botanical dye pots. And this I then turn into woven artworks or hand stitched fabric pieces. The emotions of living in this environment filter into my work through visuals. For example the scribbly bark of a tree in the yarns of my weaving, or the way the moss & lichens grow create shapes in my threads. While it's not pictorial for others to see, it's part of my process and the story I tell. It is also a constant reminder to take care of what I use, how I process my yarns or fabrics, what materials I use, and consciously making sure I'm not putting rubbish into my environment.

Why I'm teaching 'a creative year' ecourse

Workshops & Events, Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment

I thought you might like a little background on my new online course, and why I'm sharing a whole year of Creative Making. For me making is an everyday "need", and I know I'm lucky to be able to get my fix every day; but I also work hard to keep it that way, and make sacrifices to indulge in my passions. I've also learnt many ways to work creative living into everyday life, around children & daily errands, and other jobs as well as regular life. I wanted to show you how you can change a few a things and learn some new skills to change your outlook on your own creative self. I'm so passionate about people finding their creative voice -- I truly believe that every single person is creative in some way or other. And it makes me sad when people feel blocked to discover their artistic side. Shame or guilt or simply being told you're not good enough has stopped many an amazing creative - putting standards of quality on ourselves dimishes the journey, the feel and the processes of making. Looking only at the outcome, rather than revelling in the doing & being with creativity, often makes people declare 'I cant'. I'm all about letting you know that you can! You might never be perfect, but you've started and that's the best thing ever.

Filming my basket weaving ecourse using my broken phone (cracked screen) & elastic bands to hold the phone onto the tripod. But the quality of the film is all sorts of lovely - well....I hope you think so!!Filming myself teaching & talking is totally new to me, & a little bit scary, but I'm so eager to learn it all, but also just to have a go even if it's not perfect.

I love teaching & sharing my skills & knowledge, and this ecourse is such a fun way for me to connect with more people than only those of you who live nearby. It's available to anyone with a computer & Internet, and anyone who ever was told they weren't creative.... This isn't about copying Pinterest worthy art projects, this is about jump-starting what making actually means & feels like to you. And it's about finding a meditation within your making. About making time for yourself in a day or a week.

My aim for this whole year is to guide you through different projects, skills, techniques that build upon each other, but work independently too. While each month is a finished project, there'll be an underlying hope that what you're actually doing is discovering your creative voice, delving past the need for perfection into the feeling of what using your hands, heart & hand can do for your mental & physical beings. I truly believe that craft can heal the soul if you give yourself the time to talk internally with your inner child (the child who may have always made amazing things or the one whose parent always told them they weren't good enough).

I'm putting heart and soul into this course, and I'm hoping you notice that. I really do want to make a difference in some small meaningful manner.

And in the spirit of being honest, I also want to mention that I do truly think this course is value for money. I've priced it at a rate that I hope it doable for people's budgets, so that everyone can benefit. But I also hope it pays me for the time it will take to create each months content. So >> if you love the course, I would love you to suggest it to your friends, family, colleagues & community. To support me as a Creative Maker in my business, I truly do value your kind words. (And if you don't love something about the course -- PLEASE tell me....I'm always wanting to learn and understand new ways of doing things, and I'm open to different ideas. I value constructive criticism...rather than you not being happy, please do speak up!).

The course starts on 1 Dec and runs for a whole year. Each month you'll receive a new set of videos with instructions for different projects and crafty skills. December is basket making and using kitchen scraps to dye your raffia. More details can be found through my teachable 'school' where the Ecourse is based.

Instagram : insights & business (and yes, being a crafter is a business too!)

Instagram, Workshops & EventsEllie BeckComment

Last weekend I was with some lovely lovely friends who all run their own creative businesses. And they're all really swell at it - seriously! But they all three of them kept asking me about Instagram stuff, and it made me realise that these women are are pretty great at what they do don't have time to keep on top of everything about everything. And seeing as how I'm an Instagram addict - and I teach workshops in it, so I keep on top of current happenings for the 'grams {am I up with the right lingo peeps!} - I know a thing or two. So……. I'm going to start sharing a weekly / fortnightly Insta How To section on my blog. Does that sounds good or helpful? I'd like to know what sort of things you want to learn about and I'll do my best to share them with you.

The big and semi-new thing my friends didn't know about was Business accounts and Insights (analytics) for Instagram. And let me know tell these are cool things that you should tap into if you've got a business-ish account.

Firstly, to access any of this data you need to have a Facebook business page - because FB owns Insta I guess they want to make it all connected. So, go set up a page for yourself. It really is worth it. Once you've done that you just need to connect your Insta account to your FB business page. (This also means you can automatically send all your IG posts right across to FB if you choose).

How to Convert to Instagram Business Account - On your home profile page, click the little cog in the top right hand corner, then scroll down under 'Account' and click 'Switch to Business Profile'. This takes you through the process. It's super easy, so don't worry at all. Just follow all the prompts. Add in your email, phone number and address - I've only got my email added because I don't want people to ring me (eeekkkk - but if you're a bricks & mortar this would be great), and same with my address - I work from home and well…….

Insights & Analytics for Insta Business - After you've connects you'll automatically get access to the insights pages. You'll notice beside the cog there is now a little graph symbol in the top right hand corner. Click on that and there's heaps of info to find. Note - it only starts showing info and analytics on pictures you've posted after you connect, so you'll have nothing straight away. But in about a week you'll have some good stats to look at. (And if you ever unlink your business account, you lose the stats and start fresh again when you relink).

What stats can you find? Well, it'll tell you the average ages of your followers, % of male / female, where they come from (city & country). You'll be able to see how many people actually see each post - which can be highly different to your number of followers, what your engagement rate is (which is the likes + comments combined). Impressions and Reach are different things - impressions means how many times it's viewed altogether, reach is how many different people see it (unique views). Follower activity includes what day and time they're online - mine shows 8-10pm and 6-8am each day as the highest, but I'm noticing that the actual best day changes every single day….. so either the stats are constantly being updated and taking into account each single day's activity or they're not highly accurate and keep fluctuating…? Basically just keep clicking on all the different blue spots to get more info - start tracking it if you want and see the difference.

What's the important stats to look at? In my opinion, the reason I like these stats (in combination with the other analytics I use from Iconoquare and Squarelovin') is that it shows me the actual number of people who have seen the post and the engagement rate. So from that I can work out which of my images appeal best to the people who are actually seeing it. You might find that one image gets more views (reach) but less engagement, that's showing that it's not as 'loved' as an image with more engagement but less views. Work it out as a % if you want to know the really accurate numbers. {engagement / reach = how much your image is loved}. My big advice always, in my workshops and when I chat to friends - is to take notice of this and give the people what they love!

Do you need screen snap shots of how to do this? I can update the post if you let me know… I did find this video that might help - or you can contact me via Insta (send a DM if you want) and I can talk you through it. If you want to get some more of my Insta tips - I've made a little free booklet that you can grab here to help you out.

If you're a local (Gold Coast, Brisbane, Byron Bay regions) - I'm teaching an Advanced Instagram Workshop next Saturday with the totally savvy Dotti Media girls. We've run these workshops together a few times this year, and every single time there's so much information shared that people go home filled and ready to take their Instagram accounts - and their businesses - to the next level. This isn't just talk and networking, this is real solid information that we share.

Please do let me know what other Insta tips you'd be keen to hear about. I'm working on styling & photography for Insta and can't wait to share that with you soon.