Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sophie Moran

Sophie Moran ceramics by Belinda EvansSophie Moran ceramics by Belinda Evans 1

In July I decided to stop retailing my jewellery in my online store. I was finding that, although I enjoyed the making/selling process, it had started to become the centre of my creativity and a consumer of a large portion of my time. I felt that all the time and energy that I was spending on this particular aspect of my life was hindering my ability to explore other mediums. So after a lot of deliberation, I decided to sell off my remaining stock and focus on other things.

One of the opportunities I wanted to pursue more was artist swaps. I generally prefer to swap rather than purchase goods and services as it feels more personal. I get to connect with another person, we both get to receive something that has been made (or service that has been performed) with love, and I think that when something is traded (of given as a gift) it somehow holds more value to the receiver. I suspect that this has something to do with the lack of involvement of money, which, to me, seems to make any life experience just that little bit more enjoyable. I have a huge amount of respect and love for the work of other artists/designers/makers (I never quite know the right term to use!), and it gives me a lot of pleasure to see other creatives enjoying my own work. So, as is what often happens, as soon as I put it out there to the universe that I wanted to swap more, more great swapping opportunities presented themself.

One such opportunity was a trade of my work for some of the new work of Melbourne ceramicist Sophie Moran. I first encountered Sophie through instagram and, through this medium, quickly came to admire her work and process. Her pieces are refined, and she obviously appreciates a quiet aesthetic with lovely details. Like me, she uses both traditional and modern techniques to turn simple, natural materials into beautiful objects. An established ceramicist with 15 years of experience, Sophie sells her work in stores across Australia and teaches wheel throwing at a number of Melbourne organisations (including Cone 11 and Northcote Pottery). So it’s no surprise that, even when she tries new clays, forms and glazes, the resulting work is fantastic.

Sophie Moran ceramics by Belinda Evans 3Sophie Moran ceramics by Belinda Evans 2

The main instruction that I gave Sophie with regards to our swap was NO CUPS! I have so many beautiful cups, mainly from a past swap with (and a number of purchases from) Sophie Harle. I also mentioned that I was rather partial to the faceted pieces that I had recently seen on her Instagram. The lovely little collection in the top images was what she sent me! The faceted lidded pot above is without a doubt my favourite of all of the pieces she sent me. I love its shape, the facets, the blue-grey glaze, the proportions of the pot, lid and lid handle to one another, the relationship between the glaze and facets, the way the inside of the lid and pot are glazed.

Sophie Moran ceramics by Belinda Evans 5Sophie Moran ceramics by Belinda Evans 4

Every piece is lovely to hold, use and look at, and they all compliment each other in their form and finish. I am looking forward to using them every day.

If you want to see Sophie’s work, have a look at her website, instagram, or if you’re in Melbourne over the next week or so, check it out in person at Domestic Frontier (where you might even get a chance to meet Sophie).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Natural dyeing with foraged flora for a modern aesthetic

Plant dyeing with foraged flora by Alchemy 5

I’ve long been interested in natural dyeing, and have experimented with it over the last few years. I’ve really wanted to delve more into dyeing with foraged, found and waste plant materials as I feel better about using sustainably and locally sourced materials rather than using powdered natural dyes. While these processed dyes are usually quicker and easier to dye with and produce some really vibrant colours, I feel slightly uncomfortable when I think about about what kind of damage they might have caused to the local environment and the people processing them in the place that they are grown and processed, how far they have to travel to get to me, and whether they contain exactly what they say they do. I understand that every action I take and product that I buy has a certain impact, but, like I do in every aspect of my everyday life, I’d like to minimise that impact as much as I can.

So I’d like to see what results can be achieved using plant matter that I can access locally. Australian natural dyer India Flint shares a lot of her experience with dyeing with foraged flora in her book Eco Colour. I have found this book to be really good in that it gives a basic idea of how to dye with natural materials without the addition of chemicals, and it goes into some detail about the use of foraged Australian flora. But (and in alignment with India’s way of thinking) I’ve found that in order to achieve good results with found materials that are local to me and develop a good understanding of the natural dyeing process, I’ve needed to do a lot of experimentation.

Experimenting with natural dyeing, especially with foraged and found materials, requires a lot of physical space and time, and I have not had both of these luxuries at the same time for quite a while now. Over the last five months, however, I have finally been blessed to finally have both the space and time to indulge in this laborious craft.

Plant dyeing with foraged flora by Alchemy 3

The photo above is one of my experiments with organic cotton and flowers that I gathered while spending a weekend in Kyneton. As with all of my creative pursuits, I’m interested in taking aspects of my time in a physical location and interpreting and preserving them using slow, thoughtful techniques in a quiet, modern aesthetic. Below are the results of this experiment with cotton and Kyneton flora.

Plant dyeing with foraged flora by Alchemy 4

As I experiment more I am coming to know which of the flora and food materials that I have access to prefer cold or hot processing, which give up their colour quickly or need a bit more coaxing, whether they prefer a more acid or alkaline environment, how they react differently to different textiles, etc. I’ve learned that detailed documenting of the process is essential as it is impossible to accurately recall every step of the process (especially with the amount of dyeing that I’m doing!). I’ve also learned that sharing my process and speaking with people who have been natural dyeing for many years are some of the best ways to get over any hurdles that I face along the way.

Plant dyeing with foraged flora by Alchemy 2

The photo above shows some of what I have been doing to accurately and methodically record the results using different flowers, techniques and materials. I think that it has helped that I have done a lot of research and smaller scale experimentation first, and I am finding that I am consistently pleased with the results that I am achieving with all of the mediums that I’m using. The photos below and at the top of this post are the results of this testing (on raw silk).

Plant dyeing with foraged flora by Alchemy 1

I will certainly be doing more experimentation with natural dyeing and will continue to share my journey here (and on my Instagram @iamalchemy).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shop update–a small collection

Tathra necklace by Alchemy 2Tathra necklace by Alchemy 4Eden necklace by Alchemy 1Eden necklace by Alchemy 3Grampians necklace by Alchemy 5Grampians necklace by Alchemy 3

I’ve just completed a small collection of limited edition necklaces and added them to my online store.

The first is the Tathra Necklace. Made using ceramic beads that have been made using found clay and pit fired using found materials, assembled on a natural linen cord, this piece is inspired by the tidal detritus that I discovered on the beaches of Tathra, NSW.

The second is the Eden Necklace. Made using a soft natural cotton twine that is hand dyed with natural indigo plant dye and hand knitted to a piece that is inspired by the time I spent in Eden overlooking the Tasman Sea.

The third is the Grampians Necklace. Made using ceramic beads that have been made using found clay pit fired using found materials and assembled on a pure silk cord, this piece is inspired by the textures, tones and colours of the rock formations of The Grampians.

You can ready more about these pieces and their inspirations in my store.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians

Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 10Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 1Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 2Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 3Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 4Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 5Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 6Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 7Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 8Textures, tones and colours of The Grampians by Belinda Evans 9

Last spring I hiked through Grampians National Park to discover the wildflowers that fill this beautiful part of Australia during that time. What I discovered while I was there is that this mountain range is also filled with rock formations that feature the most incredibly diverse textures, tones and colours.

These are some of the rock formations that I collected images of while I was there (originally posted on my Instagram). It’s a very inspiring part of the world.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Weaving: Surf Coast in deep winter

Surf Coast in Deep Winter weaving by Alchemy

I was recently commissioned to complete a weaving inspired by the ocean for a woman who feels most at home there. I understand this feeling well as I also feel most at home on the coast and I spend as much time as I can as close to the ocean as I can.

I feel more myself when I have my toes in the fine, white sand, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing and watching the dancing greys, blues and white tips of the Australian oceans and seas.

This piece is inspired by the time that I have spent along the Surf Coast in deep winter. The tones of the overcast sky and ocean are soft and muted. I feel a deep serenity along this southern stretch of the Australian coast, despite the often wild weather.

It’s made using all sustainable materials: vintage yarns (a delicate pure wool, silky soft cotton and a coarser, rugged grey wool) and reclaimed Australian hardwood timber.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Weaving–shop update

Tidal detritus in Tathra, early summer weaving by Alchemy
I recently completed this weaving, entitled Tidal Detritus in Tathra, high summer. This piece is inspired by the tidal treasures that I discovered washed ashore on the beaches of Tathra, NSW, while camping there in high summer of 2014.
I had never visited Tathra before last year and since that visit I feel myself pulled to the area. Some aspects of this pull I can easily describe – the beaches that are both wild and serene, the warm weather, the colours and textures of the natural environment and the people I encountered there. But mostly it’s quite vague – a spiritual attraction. On returning this summer I felt that pull even more strongly, as if the memory of my previous visit had awoken an older, stronger memory. I feel that I will return to this town many more times in my lifetime.
This piece is hand woven using all sustainable materials: found, vintage and reclaimed cotton and wool yarn and twines, local textile industry offcuts and reclaimed wood.
It is already sold, but you can read more about it in my online store.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weavings - shop update

Tidal detritus on Little Oberon Bay weaving by AlchemyTidal detritus on Cape Liptrap weaving by Alchemy

The two weavings, inspired by the tidal detritus that I discovered on the beaches of Little Oberon Bay in Wilsons Promontory National Park and Cape Liptrap in South Gippsland, are now in my online store.

They are hand woven using all sustainable natural materials (found, vintage and reclaimed cotton and wool) and mounted in reclaimed wooden frames.

The frames in which these two pieces sit act as a loom and frame – I wove directly into them. It adds an extra element of difficulty to the process but the result is a perfect fit and a clean finish. It also means that I can use yarns and techniques that might ordinarily render a woven tapestry unstable (and prone to falling apart), but these pieces are perfectly sturdy.