Creative Process

8 tips for creative mamas to find your voice in the family noise

Motherhood, Creative ProcessEllie Beck2 Comments

Doing what I do - being an artist, an indie business owner & a mama to 3 noisy kids - is big, hard, mentally exhausting work. I know I talk about slow a lot, and I do live it in my everyday life. But the reality is you need some tricks to get through being in the noise of mama and finding your way to being the artist. Don't you think?

I'm still learning, and slowly on a journey of how to make it work best... but I thought I'd share what is currently working for me in the hopes it'll help you too.

Having one kid or four kids, it's all the same - ok it's not the same at all, but what I mean is having kids is having kids, so it's not a competition or guilt thing of saying oh she only has two kids, and I have five.... everyone has different journeys and one noisy kid might be more intense then three calm kids (wish I had the three calm kids!!). Anyway, what I'm saying is stick to your family, your mothering, don't beat yourself up because you're not doing what other mamas are doing - everyone has different skill sets, and different family set ups (including extra help or not from extended family).

So here goes: 8 ways to make the "balance" of mama & artist just that little bit easier:

  • Be where you are - in your current season / situation. If no baby-sitting is coming and the kids are being crazy, there's no way you'll get that deadline finished without causing yourself a heart attack. Put aside your work for half an hour and be with the kids. Give them your full attention - that's all they're actually asking for. Do something super fun and high energy - running in the garden, having a dance party, watering the plants. Anything that gets your mood elevated, and the kids using up their crazy energy. Being outside does often help. Then you can settle them down with popcorn and a movie, or reading books quietly and do some work.
  • Be gentle on yourself. The reality and truth is that parenting is your number one job right now. For the next 10-15 years. Sorry, but it's true. Realise that you're not going to achieve every single thing that's on your list right now - so look at your list and prioritise the most passionately important or (if this is more an importance right now) the things that are actually bringing in money compared to the dreamy things. Put those things on a next year list, and let them leave your heart. I promise you'll thank me for it when you do that. This has been the biggest thing to free up my working creative self.
  • Live in a messy house - ok, not really.... but when you have kid free time, DO NOT TIDY THE HOUSE. Do I have to repeat that?! Kid free time should be spent focussing fully on your arts practice or business work. Find a spot where you can't see the mess and ignore it. How ever much you keep tidying, it keeps getting messy anyway; so do your work and then do a quick 15 minute tidy once the kids get back.
  • Eat cereal for dinner, or toasties or pop corn or plain pasta with cheese. Not every night, but when it gets to that point where you simply can't stop working (hello Muse thanks for finally turning up!) in order to make dinner for the family. Realise that one or two nights of not proper meals won't kill anyone. Actually the kids will probably love it. If it's happening too often, then you'll have to look at ways to create simpler healthy meals that you can prep quickly and easily.
  • Get real with yourself. Call yourself an artist, and then others will. If you walk around telling your friends and family that you're not really an artist, then why should they value it. Be clear with family members what your art means to you, and how important it is that you have child-free time. Even if you're not bringing in an income - your art is valuable to your sanity as a person which carries through to your mama-ing energy.
  • Get the kids creative too. Set up a desk beside yours filled with easy to use paints, craft supplies, glue, etc. Make it help-yourself easy and allow (expect) mess. If you have to keep stopping to open a lid or fill more paint it will stop your flow. So choose activities that require minimal hands on from you. Three paint colours and a giant stack of paper, with a line to peg things on.
  • Work out what your noisy & quiet activities are. For me, there's some things I can do with kids climbing on me and demanding things of me - emails, packing orders - and other things I know that I need quiet time for. So I do what I can while the kids are around me, which gives me the space and freedom to do the other things as soon as they're gone.
  • Be prepared and organised. As soon as those kids walk out the door get working. (Yes, I'm telling myself this as much as you - I always want a nice quiet cup of tea before I settle down for arting). If my studio is tidy (sadly rarely) then I can jump into creativity straight away. I hate spending kid-free time simply tidying up yesterday's mess.

I feel like I need to go into depth on a couple of these, as they've truly been eye-opening for me this past year in making big changes to how I work, which has resulted in bringing in more money for our family, feeling more fulfilled into myself and less head-in-the-clouds about everything. It's given me focus and clarity. SO... stay tuned for next week where I'll share what these are and how I really made them work for me.

I feel like we're all bumbling along trying to make it work somehow, and fighting it. Whereas I don't want to divide my mama and artist self, I want to make them a beautiful cohesive part of me. It's not a balance, never will be - that much I know. It's more like yin & yang : a little of this inside a big part of that, but it flows around and works because you allow it rather than aiming for balance.

I'd love to know how you fit mama-ing and creativity into your life, your soul, your mind & heart. Please give me any tips you have, as well as any scary things you keep coming up against. How old are your kids? Do they go to school or care? Do you consider yourself a full time artist or a hobbyist or something in between? I'm so curious about how everyone makes it work in different ways.


create more :: stash less ~ a community for crafty folks

Creative ProcessEllie Beck2 Comments

Do you sometimes look in your crafting / art supplies cupboard and feel a little overwhelmed / guilty at all the extra things you have sitting around, just waiting for the right project. I know I do. I have more fabric than I'll ever, or my kids will ever use. And my tastes have changed, along with my interests and time doing certain things.... which means I have supplies in my cupboard (and packed in boxes) that no longer have a purpose for me. But I know there's someone out there who wants it and will make beautiful things out of it. Which is where Stash Less Create More comes into play.

A short while ago, almost on the spur of the moment, I started a new instagram account, along with Fiona (an online friend, with a private account). I've been meaning to photograph & sell my excess crafty, crafting supplies (fabric and what-nots), and while I was re-folding fabric Fiona was doing a de-stash sale on her account. Being a private account means that Fiona can only sell to her followers, rather than larger audience; and me being more of a curated(ish) account means that I don't want to post lots of pictures of fabric for sale on my main account. SO, like a bolt of lighting I came up with the idea of creating a community account where anyone and everyone could sell their extra supplies - in the crafty world called their stash.

But it sorta goes deeper than just that, and I'm keen to work on taking it deeper over time. It's not just about selling and buying, it's about thinking about buying second hand before you buy new (and buying ethical before you buy mass produced). It's about shopping from your neighbours and sharing our supplies. It's about us all looking at the things we're hoarding / holding onto and asking ourselves if we really do need them. So - it's about encouraging people do to more creating and use things up, and if we're not going to use them then to share them with someone else. It's part of a simplifying of life....and a re-think of possessions.

Please do join our community - share the word with your creative friends and see what fabulous things you might find lurking in someone else's craft cupboards - it could just be that perfect piece of fabric (zip, button, stamp, book, yarn, etc) you've been looking for! If you're keen to sell your supplies you can contact me via our Instagram Stash.Less_Create.More or even email me at

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.

Gathered Treasures : Forest Finds

Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

I've been making photos of some of the treasures I gather up around our forest home. I'm enjoying doing this a lot. Taking the pieces from the scattered forest floor, where they often times get lost amongst the brown of leaf litter. And putting them against a white background. Showing off these simple moments in a new environment. I've been sharing them on Instagram, but thought some of your who don't play over there might like to see them too.

I have been finding more feathers over the past few months than ever before. Gathering up their soft fluttery-ness makes my heart soar and my head sigh. They have come from all sorts of birds - emerald forest pigeon, white cockatoo, moor hen, lorikeets, parrots and more...

What treasures have you been finding and enjoying lately?

Skinmade - natural beauty care (& a discount).

Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

A few years ago I was introduced, via Instagram, to a beautiful and local-to-me skin care small business, Skinmade. I've been loving using their organic and natural products each day. These are products made with thought, intention, care and a commitment to bettering the environment as well our skin. The simple packaging appeals to me - I don't need (or want) excess packaging or gimiky products, I prefer to use products that have pure simple ingredients and are easy to add to my daily routine.

My boy has also been using the oat & lemon myrtle scrub, which you combine with the castile & lemongrass cleanser to create a gentle yet very effective and lovely to use face cleaner. His skin (and mine as well) looks and feels so soft afterwards. I can't decide which moisturiser I like best - I'm using the rosehip & cucumber serum for refreshing daytime use, and the vitamin E & balsam as a night time cream. Both are nice and rich, yet not heavy - which is perfect for the coming Summer.

When I was younger a friend of my mum's started a skincare range, and my sister and I helped her sell it. We learnt a little about the products and the ingredients, and got to enjoy using beautifully made natural skincare. Finding Skinmade has been a wonderful way for me to use something that fits within my lifestyle and environmental ethics, while supporting a local business as well. It's important to do each little thing we can in our regular purchases to make differences in our environment, our economy and our personal welfare. Choosing a skincare company who doesn't test on animals, uses organic and local ingredients and makes a conscious decision to support the environment in their manufacture and packaging is an easy way to make such a change. Next time you go to the department store to purchase your new moisturiser and a million cleansers and such, have a think about the what you are actually putting on your skin, where and how it's made, and what happens with the excess packaging afterwards (Skinmade has a fabulous program where you can return your glass bottles for reuse - just another way they are actively committed to environmental consciousness).

I asked Claire and Genevieve to share a little about their beautiful products and their business. They've also shared a 10% discount code (find it at the end of the questions) so that you can try out their range yourself - you'll find their products very reasonable before the discount, so this is an added incentive! And make sure you add one of their super soft bamboo facecloths to your order.

Why did you start Skinmade?  

After having children it really opened our eyes to what we were using on our skin - especially our babies skin. (Did you know that a leading brand of baby oil has only two ingredients: mineral oil and fragrance. Mineral oil coats your skin like glad wrap so it can’t release toxins. It also interferes with the skin’s natural immunity barrier. And unspecified fragrance is usually synthetic which can cause major skin irritation and even cause dizziness. It horrifies me to think we lather this on our new born babies).

So we started Skinmade - making up our own plant-based oil blends using recipes passed down from our mother in-law. We felt like there was a gap in the market for affordable, good quality, plant-based skincare. There is no shortage on the market, but most if it is very expensive.

What makes it special?  

We use really good quality, mostly organic, plant-based ingredients, subtle earthy scents - nothing overpowering and we keep our products as simple as possible. They feel really clean and light on the skin so they can be used by the whole family.

What's your favourite product and why? Claire: I have fair, dry skin so my favourite product is the Vitamin E + Balsam cream. Sometimes when I run out(yes that sounds crazy as I am the maker) I will use pure rose hip oil until I make a new batch. When I get finally get my hands on a new jar my skin feels so supple and nourished.

Genevieve: My favorite product is the castile and lemongrass CLEANSER.  I have normal kind of skin that can get a bit oily at times.  This cleanser feels so nice and gentle and the smell of it is very fresh and light.  I use it with an organic bamboo face cloth and the scrub.  It was very hard to formulate this product as there is nothing natural that foams, except organic liquid castile soap, which is what makes this cleanser so special.

Tell us a little about the making process, and what you love about the ingredients you use. We spent a lot of time with a local naturopath learning about oils and herbs, and perfecting emulsification etc. I think for both of us two of the most exciting parts of making skincare is seeing the cream emulsify. It really is amazing. And secondly when we come up with new essential oil blends. Our first priority is to make a product that is 100% natural, second is to make a product that is nourishing, healing, and rejuvenating. Affordability to our customers is really important to us, so you won’t see us using exotic ingredients such as gemstone crystals from brazil, caviar or snake venom. Instead we use the highest quality ingredients that are more sustainable and readily availablesuch as jojoba, rose hip, essential oils, shea/coco butter, vitamin e and aloe vera. We source organic and local where possible.
How do you work together - what are your roles in your partnership? We mostly do everything together. At the moment Genevieve is pregnant so Claire has taken over making the product and Genevieve looks after ordering, shipping, online enquiries etc. I think we really compliment each other in our business partnership. We both bring unique skills and ideas to skinmade, and when one is having a busy week with family or work commitments the other steps in and picks up the slack. We have a good laugh when we are together.
What are the challenges of having a small handcrafted skin care business?
We both have busy families and work part time, so it is often a challenge to find time.  One of our biggest challenges is getting skinmade out there.  Once people try it, they love our products for life, so we are constantly thinking up ways to promote the brand and reach as many people as possible.

Skinmade has been around for just over a year now, how are things going? What are your plans for the future of your business? We hope to grow the skincare range to cater for more skin types and also develop a range of natural remedies for children such as a breath easyessential oil mix, chest rub, natural insect repellant and, head lice repellant. We are very committed to minimizing waste and are working behind the scenes on developing 100% compostable packaging. Our beautiful skin tea range comes in 100% compostable containers, so we aim to extend this across the range.

What's the 'secret' to beautiful skin, in your opinion?
Never believe the marketing ploys from commercial skincare brands about getting rid of your wrinkles or making your pimples disappear over night. The secret to beautiful skin extends well beyond what you put on it. Firstly HEALTH. Good health including diet and exercise… Secondly HAPPINESS. Balance in your life and finding happiness and mental strength. These are the building blocks for beautiful skin. Finally skincare. Your skincare should always be plant-based with no harsh chemicals. It should leave your skin feeling clean and nourished. It should basically be edible.
Why is local and handcrafted so important to you, personally and for your business? Can you share with us some other local makerswho's work you love? Buying local is reducing environmental impact, creating more local jobs, investing in the community, buying something unique and encouraging local prosperity. But most of all you are buying something from a real person who has made the item with love. 
We have a huge crush on handmade pottery at the moment such as thrownbyjoHarvest ClaySusan SimoniniKanimbla Clay.

We are loving the vege died clothing range from Vege Threads and the up cycled kids range from Alfie Children’s Apparel.

We get weekly veggie boxes from Farmer Foster (Murwillumbah) and make food for our kids from Jude Blereau whole food cookbooks. 

We are saving up for some recycled furniture from Simply Recycled Furniture.  

Anything else you'd like to add, please share ~ We would love for you readers to have the chance to try our skincare. Use the code: petalplum to receive 20% off Skinmade.

Check out the website, and make sure you read the blog with some really interesting (and scary) info about beauty products and ingredients. 

Connect with Skinmade on Facebook

*all images by me, except b&w one of Claire and Genevieve from their website. 

watching the light

Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable LivingEllie BeckComment

IMG_9230IMG_0212 The change of season has shifted in, it was ever so slight, barely perceptible at first. But I see it now, feel it. Autumn is here and I know that Winter won't be too far away - while Summer takes her time to go, leaving us with extra hot days, more than we want; Winter quickly fills our forest home with cool mornings, early evenings, and foggy windows.

The light has changed, and the shifty shadows leaking throughs the trees are different - the slants softer, shorter, briefer than on our Summer days. We wait for the sun to come up, to shine through those trees perched upon the hill. The trees that every Winter we say we need to remove to give us more sunshine. Living in a forest home is beautiful, but it shortens our days, our sunlight hours. (Those trees are all big camphor laurels, which is terrible weeds around our area - so removing them isn't a bad thing).


I know soon we'll have our fire going all day long, we'll drag ourselves out of bed and cluster around the warmth of the wood-buring fireplace. We'll chase the sun all day long, following it in patches across our yard. But for now, before Winter well and truly settles down, I'm enjoying these glorious Autumn days. Enough warmth during the day - windows and doors wide open, but those stinking hot days are (hopefully) gone for now.

The subtle shift of the trees changing - the leaves, those goldens, oranges, reds tinging the green. It's a little bit magical. And the light in my home ……. it sorta makes me smile seeing it all.

So - here I am embracing each season as it comes. Seeing the beauty, noticing the small moments around me.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset


the art of art

Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment


Here's some truths….

I grew up in a very very extremely creative home. I was supported in my artistic, creative wishes… My parents helped, pretty hands-on, with my massive end of high school art piece. Actually, they probably helped with a whole lot of most of the things we made at home. Not always hands on helping, but support and idea sharing, and offering advice and suggestions. And supplying materials and space to create. And sharing "real" artists - books of, stories of, taking us to exhibitions and talking about their history, their careers, their art techniques.. That sort of thing. The sort of things that we took for granted. Some of which I offer my kids now, and they take for granted. Which is cool - I think kids should take some things for granted from their parents.

But - here's the thing. Through all this. Going to a Steiner school, having special art teachers, going to art camp during holidays… all those things (Which for my parents would have cost a lot, and been a challenge for them to find the funds for - somehow they did; with 4 kids too!). I still didn't go to art school, or ever consider myself as becoming an artist. (I did want to be an actor, which is an artist in itself - but I gave that dream up when I didn't get into any of the drama schools I wanted to). I never once considered the possibility of "being an artist when I grow up". Neither did my younger sister, or my older brother. My older sister did go to art school, and majored in photography, and she now works in the arts industry - but not as a photographer, and not as an artist.

Now - at this stage in my life, where I'm coming closer and closer to calling myself an "artist" I still have these issues, doubts, thoughts about it. I know mostly all real artists go through this.. huh. Do they. Maybe. I guess everyone goes through different aspects of that through whatever their career. I'm not saying I'm special or different by having these thoughts, issues, whatevers.

What I am saying, asking… is why.. And then - I remember that while my parents lived this very creative artistic life, neither of them was really a practicing artist. My mother wanted so desperately to be a potter, well to be accepted and acknowledged. She plugged on and on, with all her creative skills and talents - but always was left short of that particular fulfilment of being recognised. Even her craft of being a yoga teacher wasn't respected the way she deserved. But she kept at it, and battled through it.

Many of you know that my mama is no longer here, walking our Earth. I was youngish and caught up in myself when she died, so much of this could be strange memories, or made-up extrapolations. And I don't know / will never know the full depth of much of what she was, went through, wanted… But I do know, remember, and now myself feel, that pain - a deep ache - of wanting to be 'accepted' somehow.

I don't talk about my dad much here, because he's himself and I don't think he wants his story to be shared - especially my version of it.

All this is the lead-in to say…. I've been thinking about the art of making art. And about the anguish of. But mostly - about the way to come around and away from that strange need for validation from an outside world. Which is hard in this time of 'likes' and 'followers' and such a big world of popularity. Everyone wants more than their 15minutes of fame - we all want continual ever-increasing fame. And many people will never get that, many people who don't deserve it (artistically speaking) will get it….

So - as a society, and a community. What do we do about this? How do we raise a new generation who don't value or need this validity of 'likes' and 'followers'. Or is it just a bigger version of the school yard where we can all see the physical number count of someone's popularity - rather than guessing at and giggling about the losers in the playground. I was never the popular kid at school; I was quite happy being the slightly strange 'hippie' kid (not self-named) who was respected by people but not their number one or anything.

For me, as a mother and a creative and a sorta-kinda practicing 'artist/maker' my goal is to let go of the 'likes' issue. To make for making's sake - to delve into what I want. To remember that girl who made because she loved making. Who stood in drama class and spoke words loudly and proudly. Who made a plaster cast of her body and filled it with precious things, and glued birds wings on her back for her high school major artwork. That girl. The one who spoke up to the bullies and didn't really mind what people thought of her if they weren't her friends. And to help my kids be that person too - find that person in themselves and never forget him / her throughout this world of popular.

Yep - that's my goal. Find the girl who glued green bird wings to her plaster cast body.

(*I wish I could share a photo of this piece with you. For while I still have it, it's slightly the worse for wear… not having been stored in an art gallery or anything prestigious like that Cause doesn't everyone's year 12 artwork get picked up by a gallery! also - bird wings / feathers were found in our forest home, no birds were harmed. Also - I love that we dyed paper and fabric with natural berries from our forest home for part of the work. These things - from way back then - are my life now.)

crochet bowls :: the glint of the golden

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie2 Comments

I have been making these lately. My nature is to become wrapped up in the making of one thing, with endless variations, until I no longer want to make that. I think crochet stones are still a love, but I haven't felt the urge to make one for a while, of course I would if someone asked me nicely!

But here - this is a similar process, with different evolutions. Crochet vessels. Some are more bowl shape. Some are part of my "embrace my wonk" shape. I love the little ripples and curves that happen along the way. 

I'm loving loving the golden threads I'm weaving through most of them. It's feeling so satisfying to have this sparkly jump out. Especially when they sit in the sunshine and glimmer and glint.

My mums hair used to do that. She had strands of coppery hair in amongst her darker (and they greying) hair. I loved the way that at certain lights, the sunshine would catch these copper hairs and her whole head would glint and glisten and glow. Lately my kids have been noticing the same in my hair. And oh boy, doesn't that make one happy. My girl has the same too - I can see it in her. 

So, here. I've come around again to talk of my mama. I think the more I envelop myself in my craft/art making the more I feel her deeply happily in me. I also feel the appreciation and support from my online friends (here and on instagram) to be so much what my own mother wanted for herself, and often wasn't able to find. Oh. I think that's another topic altogether. 

This is about how I love these crochet vessels. Them forming in my hands. And being a practical thing for our home. To gather and catch our keys, spare change, trinkets, though mostly my more crochet supplies and other crafty bits! Now that's pretty sparkly and golden itself isn't it!!

always with the crochet :: beautiful v useful

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie3 Comments

Last week I sent these small crochet doilies off to their 'owner'. I wrote about it


. And with that project gone, I can move onto new and different crochet works. But the strange thing is, this pattern is now (finally) stuck in my head and I want to stitch this again and again. Ah ha - the mind is a funny thing. 

Anyway, I have some important pieces I need to get made and posted, for an Instagram Swap I organised. Life took over, and I haven't been able to make the pieces I want. I'm guessing my swap partners will receive some doilies and such. 

While I love making doilies and crochet covered stones, I keep asking myself the "importance" of them. Usually I have a thought/feeling/inclination to produce.make.create practical things. I question myself on why I'm adding more and more to this world of things that aren't practical and useful. I remind myself often of this quote; which I believe rings true for myself (and probably for many of you also):

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" William Morris

So, while my crochet stones may not be useful (except as little paper weights), they are indeed beautiful. Thank you William for your words.

Having said that - I am enjoying working on

crochet bowls

and vessels and having them become useful (and beautiful) things to hold the useless yet beautiful items.

* I gather a collection of crochet inspiration on my

Pinterest board

, if you're in need of some hookery. 

1000 crochet doilies & connections stitched

Creative Process, Craft Tutorialsellie3 Comments

This week I am finally sending off the 30 doilies I have crocheted for

Lisa Solomon

's 1000 Doilies project. I have loved working on these for so many reasons, the main being the connection to all the other people who were making them as well. 

How wonderful for someone to put the word out, and ask for people to follow a pattern and crochet some pieces to add to an installation of her work. 

You can read a little about Lisa's

art piece here

. I love the thread colours and the 10 doilies x 100 colours = 1000.

I first "met" Lisa through Instragram, I think.. I can barely remember anymore. Does it actually matter? Nope, not really. I was immediately drawn to her use of colour in a methodical and thoughtful way (I mean, look at those colours up there - this project is about tonal gradation and hues), and to her dangly tangly threads that I saw in her work. The finished yet unfinished aspect of it really captured what I myself felt I was working on - or maybe a bit of how I work. I urge you to go and have a look through her


and find some lovely.

Lisa is also super-cool. And I love that. Cool in a real way. She is an art teacher and a practicing artist, and a mama. I love her instagram feed with the view points of shape and colour and line. I love

her book

. I also love the way Lisa seems to be collaborative - she has connections with other artists, and gathers people in. She shares skills and advice. 

Mostly I love that Lisa trusted me enough to be part of this amazing project with her. With everyone else who is making. All these lives that we've stitched into our doilies will be gathered together into Lisa's hands and displayed. And most people who look at the art work (in real - I'll only see it in pictures) will probably see the beauty that is there. The colours and lines and shapes. They won't know the stories of the people who made these pieces. The way that I carried a little fabric pouch with my thread and hook and pattern, the way I never fully remembered the pattern, so had to carry it with me. The way I sat at cafes with threads in front of me, and other customers asked about the teeny little work I was making - and were surprised that I was making it to send to an artwork on the other side of the world. The way my family knew it was an important thing I was working on, for an important project, and helped me along the way - let me count that one row of stitches where I couldn't talk or I'd have to start again. 

And you know what. I love the fact that two of my very special instagram friends also made doilies.


(blog) /


(IG) and


(blog) /


(IG). We encouraged each other and enjoyed sharing where we were up to. The way I thought maybe Kate and I could sit and crochet together one day, and somehow here we are are working on one big thing together. 

You can see the doilies here on the instagram hashtag


. I'm following along to see the final work with all our stitches and those colourful doilies talking together in one room. Thanks Lisa for letting me crochet with my far-away friends. xxxx

*bottom image of threads stacked is from Lisa Solomon's blog.

thoughts on schooling at home {homeschooling}

Motherhood, Creative Process, Slow & Sustainable Livingellie7 Comments

Last week I announced on my instagram feed that the kids were going back to school. That we had tried homeschooling, and had decided it wasn't right for us. 

Oh, but my heart is torn about this decision. For many reasons. Some I don't know I can share here. Some....

Firstly. I want to share with you why homeschooling didn't "work" for us. You might be thinking we only gave it a short trial, and yes, that's so true. But I think we threw ourselves into it as quickly as I throw us into other things. Of course, I'm the one doing the throwing / pushing / pulling, and they all come along with me. 

I wanted homeschooling to be us. I wanted us to be homeschooling. But in reality, the situation that we are currently living in ~ one tiny house, with no space for study, or creativity, or spreading out of books, reading, drawing, making, doing. No space to be away from each other. No space to choose to be together. No space to be organised and planned. Only space to feel on top of each other constantly. Not really very good to suddenly throw us into 24hours on top of each other. Suddenly it felt like the school hours were 7 hours of baby-sitting we were missing out on, 7 hours (that includes bus travel time, etc) of peace and quiet that we were missing. 

And sometimes I realised it also included 7 hours of doing something separate to each other. I stopped asking the kids what they'd done during the day. Because I'd been there with them the whole time, I neither needed to ask, nor wanted to hear their voices whining at me again. And maybe perhaps they didn't want to go over school work with me again, either.

Sam and I lost time to be alone together. To talk with no-one interrupting, or over-hearing, or wanting to be part of it all. No time to just sit and enjoy being with each other; a quiet coffee in the sun (once the kids have gone off to school) with your partner is surely an important thing in any relationship.

I did barely any - actually maybe none - crochet or screen printing or sewing or anything once the kids started schooling at home. Everything creative I did involved them, and had them at my side. And oh yes, that's what I wanted. It is what I DO want. But I also wanted just snippets of myself. My head my thoughts. Small snippets that I never got. 

I think, really, the biggest thing was that our little

skateboard jewellery making business

got a little bit busier. YAH to that!! And I needed to spend time working on all that was needed for that. And that meant taking time away from schooling and the children. And whenever I wasn't there at their side doing work, preparing work, pushing and enticing work to happen it just didn't. The kids thought they were on holiday if I wasn't teacher at the school desk. 

I guess it's unfair of me to have expected them to be any different. But I think that I expected they would "self learn" a lot more than they did. I think they were maybe too used to school where the teacher walks them through everything. I wanted them to grab their passions and interests and run away with it, and me be there to offer thoughts and advice and encouragement and assistance, and drive them to the library or show them how to make papier mache. Oh. How naive was I!!

Having said that; some school days were excellent. They made me the happiest mama in the world. To sit with my two babies and see them soaking up the learning. To talk with them about things that interested them, and help them discover more. To hear them sharing and learning and teaching each other. For them to be side-by-side learning were some of the happiest moments. 

and therein lies my heart ache. For though I know we can continue much at home, now that they are going back to school, I also know that after-school, weekends and holidays are brief, and that mostly they want to play and explore and 'not do school work'. We will always, as a family, be learners and explorers and teachers in our home (that is something I cannot give up), but I know that with them at school it is in a limited capacity, and that sometimes I am battling against the norm of a public schooling education with my thoughts and ideas to stretch their little minds further and bigger and deeper. Sometimes they feel locked into a system that they don't want to break out of. The ease of cut and paste from a google page, instead of exploring the library or art gallery or museum for the answer. Of saying that their school teacher says their work is good enough, and they're happy with good enough.....

Oh the sadness of a mama who knows her children have more potential than they will receive at school. 

I want it to be known that the school they go to, the local public school, is beautiful and supportive and loving, and has a solid foundation of honest and real values. I just feel that the education system in general lets education and learning down. Every week it seems I hear a teacher, or ex-teacher, talking about the stupid paperwork rather than actual teaching they have to do. And having 20-something other kids in a classroom isn't always the best learning environment. But then, maybe sometimes it is. Children are strong and resilient and perhaps we can give them enough (more than enough!) at home to counter what they will miss.

This for me is an on-going thought / feeling. I hope that with them and me together we can make learning endlessly happen in our family, in a happy contented joyful manner. Perhaps this can be the best of both options - the 7 hours of space that we all needed (them and us), and then the other time of sharing and learning and evolving and growing and expanding.

The one thing I do know about schooling of our children, is that there is rarely a "right" answer, and sometimes that right answer changes weekly. As parents we are always weighing the options of right and best against mediocre. I guess a school who openly cares and supports and knows my children is a wonderful thing indeed and that I should embrace.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, experiences, feelings on this.