Tuesday 26 March 2013

show & tell - ellie beck


I'm so pleased to have another north coast nsw blogger this week for you in Show & Tell. I've known Ellie Beck who writes as petalplum for a few years now, in fact looking back, ever since she won a giveaway on flowerpress way back in 2009!

Over the years we've continued to cross paths on the interwebs and these days she is also one of my favourite instagrammers. I love her tranquil still life photos and covet the crocheted stones she makes, so I was delighted to see her open a new shop recently selling these stones along with her beautiful screenprinted fabrics.

There is a lot of talk online about living simply. While not making a big deal about it, since a tree change a few years ago Ellie lives in a small 6 x 4m house with her partner and two children, but without electricity! They are slowly and carefully building their new house and studio themselves. And yet those restrictions are never what I remember after reading her posts or seeing her photos. Rather it is her delight in her surroundings and her love of creativity, the art and beauty of the everyday.

Ellie is also a community minded artist who helps promote art and craft in her local area, she recently helped set up the Hey Maker collective which reinvigorated empty shops around her local town with art and craft and workshops. She also runs a local craft market at the wonderful Tweed River gallery.

While choosing photos for the post I was again taken with with all the beautiful images on Ellie's blog. If you haven't seen them, or don't follow her instagram stream, do go and spend some time with her in her simple, but beautiful and creative life. You will be inspired.

Ellie Beck
Crystal Creek, in the rainforest outside of Murwillumbah

1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work.
My blog is about my daily life, my family, the things I do and things that catch my fancy along the way. It's ever evolving, but always somehow me. My style is personal and quiet and thoughtful. I like handcrafted pieces that have mistakes, and a story, and meaning; an impression of the maker. Also, very experimental.


2. Why blog? How did you start?
I started my blog many years ago, I think 2006 or so. When my kids were little.

At the start it was about connecting with other young mothers, and having an outlet for showing/sharing my creativeness. The connections are the best part, and why I still blog today. And having a record of things I've done, and occasionally remembering to write about milestones in my children's growing up!

I also like the accountability of having a blog - wanting to keep my blog updated with new things, and things that I've made/making. I know I'm not the only one who'll make and then photograph something for my blog; I sometimes wonder if some things wouldn't get finished if it weren't for my blog.

3. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
Oh, family taught and self-trained. I grew up in a very creative and nurturing family; everybody was always making something or doing something in a creative way. I was very lucky to go to a Steiner school for primary, where being creative was part of every day schooling. I also had excellent high school art and drama teachers.

Apart from a short time at TAFE a million years ago ("graphic design" then was not what it is now), everything I currently do/make is an experimental journey. Continual practice and persistence and enjoying the process - it's still about the process for me. {Also, blogs and the plethora of crafty books available have helped me to learn little skills along the way!}


4. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
Mainly kitchen table. Anywhere really. Crochet and embroidery are so portable (at the creek, at a party, in the car). Screen printing on the kitchen table around life. (Wet fabric hanging everywhere waiting for the prints to dry!). We are currently building our home, and studio - so one day I'll have a real printing table. Oh, I can't wait!!

5. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
My blog name, Petalplum, comes from the name my mama used to call us when we were children. One day I heard my Grandma call my nephew Petalplum, and it made my heart sing!


6. Favourite media/style/medium to work in?
I love fabric and texture. Screen printing will always be a favourite, and important to me. I love the fact that all the dirty ink and rambling of my image/design making produces something so crisp and clear. Seeing your own design printed onto fabric is really just one of the best feelings. I also love thread - stitch work, simple lines along textural fabrics, embroidery.

Over the past few years  I've come back to crochet (my mama taught me when I was young), and I'm loving it so much. Small projects normally, that are quick and easy to finish.


I'm also really loving the experiments of natural plant dyeing. Unlike the crisp marks of the screen printing, this produces unexpected, often glorious results - shapes and colours and patterns that really make my heart sing. It's a bit magic, a bit witch like (bubbling pots and such), and also a connection to past skills and crafts; a remembering of how things used to be. Enjoying the ephemeral marks of life.

I'd let to get back into drawing and watercolouring again more this year.

7. Ambitions/future directions/future projects you'd like to try?
At the moment finishing building our house, and having a studio space are big in my life. I'd love to host workshops and gatherings at my home, one day down the track.

Connecting people is important in my life at the moment. Getting together with like-minded creatives; even just for a cup of tea and some inspiration, but making things together is wonderful too. Sharing skills and learning (or relearning) new skills. I have a few big projects in mind for this year that relate to this making, and being creative, and connecting together.


Also, continuing on with my natural plant dyeing experiments is exciting. And a new online shop has giving me a creative burst to fill it with things that represent me, things that make me happy, and bring me joy to create.

8. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
Just plain messy. As much as I try (and as much as my husband wishes) for the neatness it never happens. At present we are living in a teeny 6m x 4m teahouse/shack with the four of us; so storage and space for spreading out my creative wips and thinking space is super tight. We're all four (my two children and my husband) building creative piles on any spare surface! Thankfully my husband mostly puts up with it, and eventually cleans it all up.


9. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you.
Two things. The tea cup that my mama made, that I am lucky to own. I remember her making it / painting it. It makes me happy to use it. The other thing is a little felt needle case my 8yr old son made me, with the sweetest stitches. He made it to swap with something I'd made that he wanted.

10. Favourite food/recipe?
We make subzi a lot in our family. Subzi (or subji) is the Hindi word for vegetable. So, really it's the meal that most Australian's would call curry. I grew up eating it most every night, and despite whinging as a child, we make now make it at home, and I love my dad making it when we visit him.

We make our own spice mixture, rather than using a bottle thing. Also chai is being drunk a bit around here lately - I gave up coffee a while ago, so needed a replacement (I love green tea, but it's not the same as a milky drink). I never ever use syrup, only ever make our own mixture up.
I'm also getting into raw chocolate - somehow I feel like it's better for me, so we can eat a bit more. Only ever dark chocolate. 

11. Favourite colour?
I think a deep indigo inky blue. Something that might come out of a dye pot (but I also have a screen printing ink colour I mix up that's pretty close). The golden sparkling yellow I dyed this week onto vintage Kimono silk, using turmeric powder is also very amazing!

12. Star sign?
Gemini - hence the fact that I'm so indecisive.


13. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I think here where I live. It's pretty magical - in the forest, amongst ancient trees and moss and ferns.
I haven't done a lot of traveling in my life - New Zealand was quite magical. I'd like to visit Morocco.
Actually - standing on the headland at Fingal Head at sunrise is a favourite place.

14. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
Oh, I'm not excellent at this - some days are easy and lots gets happily achieved. On other days, when I see I'm not going to get my own making happening, it's best for me to stop having those expectations. To give into the joy of being in the moment with my children, rather than be annoyed that I can't do what I want. It's better that way as I'm more peaceful, and more connected with them.


We often all end up crafting/painting/making together. If I sit down to stitch or crochet one or the other of them wants to join in. Having little projects to pick up whenever I can (a stitch here or there) is a good technique too.
I do stay up later than everyone, in that quiet time of night where I can think and be and make (or blog - which is creative too). And other times I simply skip off from duties and have a half day of being with other creatives.
My house isn't tidy, though I try to do whatever little bits I can around other things. Multi-tasking.

15. Favourite designers/artists/crafters/writers etc?
Again with the choosing favourites thing... Writers: Lily Brett makes me laugh, Helen Garner makes me nostalgic for a time I didn't even live through, Roald Dahl... Artists: Joseph Cornell, Eva Hesse, Georgia O'Keeffe, Fred Williams, Frank Lloyd Wright. UK stylist Twig Hutchinson (she does all the Toast styling). Photographer Tim Walker. Fabric designer Nani Iro (Naomi Ito).
Crafters / makers - I endlessly love the Ink & Spindle girls for more than their designs. The quilts and little dolls and artwork of Tiel Sievl-Keevers (tsktsk). Everything that my friend, Jo Olive (of Olive and the Volcano) makes. The fine delicate work of (local to me) ceramicist Pinky & Maurice. Kate of Greedy for Colour blog, and Kate of Foxs Lane blog are injections of colour and beauty into my life.
I'll stop there!


16. Your favourite thing you've made/written/done.
A simple tiny painting I made when I was young. It's a purple iris - it's perfect. Still now all these years later it's pinned to the wall in my dad's house upstairs. Also, I'm pretty proud of this skirt that I made a couple of years ago using all the scraps of my screen printed fabric. I loved wearing it, and got so many wonderful comments.

17. Three words to describe yourself?
Muchness, impulsive, dedicated

18. What do you like to do besides creating?
Reading - curled up in bed quietly. Standing in my yard dreaming and talking to the birds. Planning new crazy ideas. Wishing my garden looked beautiful again. Cooking (which is a different sort of creative). Playing at the beach with my family, and my sisters and their children. (and let's be honest here - instagram....)



  1. Thank you for this lovely post. Your words make me smile, and my heart smile. I love this internet connection that is real and wonderful and inspiring - so much goodness and realness.
    The pictures you have chosen are excellent. I'm looking at them again, in a new light. That's always good.


  2. Your so right about her blog Susie... so many beautiful images! And how wonderful to be able to build ones home and studio! What a lovely show and tell!

  3. Oh, what a gorgeous interview! I love Ellie's instagram pics! It's so great to learn some more about such a creative soul. Just gorgeous.

  4. You have such good taste in bloggers Susie! Another wonderful interview. Despite following many of the bloggers you have featured, I always get a different feel for their work and life when it's put together this way. Always inspiring. :)

  5. Beautiful and such perfect accompanying images!


Thank you for dropping by and commenting :-)