- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.6XeXEVt9.dpuf The Curiosity Project: Curb Your Curiosity: Elsy & Vine

23 July 2012

Curb Your Curiosity: Elsy & Vine

There have been several weeks with a Curb interview and I'm really missing them, so here's a super-inspiring one from the lovely Claire of Elsy & Vine. Claire's collection of retro inspired knitted homewares stole my heart from the moment I saw them. They're deliciously eye-catching, kitsch to perfection and I want to fill my entire home with stacks of her cushions. Prepare to loose control of those purse strings...

• Introduce yourself to us! 
Hello!  I'm a knit and print trained textile designer with a passion for family, home, love and lambswool! I'm the wrong side of 35 with 2 teenagers, a dog and fabulously patient husband who often comes home to the likes of clouds on the back of the sofa and knitted trees blocking the dining room door!

• Describe your style…
My work is fun. It's very often inspired by childhood memories, and I regularly come back to those slightly gritty sandy UK holidays we all had in the 70's and 80's (today's kids don't know what they missed out on!) I work mostly with lambswool, I love how versatile it can be and of course with today's technologies it can come in many different guises, although to be honest I mostly knit and wash to slightly felt and rely on the surface pattern and shape to make the piece pop.  I'm also keen on the idea of layering. I appreciate how modern life has 'layers'; it has to multi task. A family home can be a playground by day but an adults retreat by night and I like the idea of layering my pieces to suit the real need of a family home. I'm keen for my pieces to be child friendly, tactile and fun but resilient to real life.

• What do you love about the medium you work in? 
I love knitting!  I love how its one of man's longest known skills and here we are STILL knitting be it by hand or on a machine. Just think, some fabulous fashion forward cavewoman whipped up comforts and clothing for her family with a couple of sticks and a bit of sheep. Amazing! Of course with the advent of modern technology the yarns available are amazing, and the posibilities are so exciting. I would love to spend a year with a CAD technician all to myself to just experiment and mix different yarns to create an untold wealth of fabrics...but hey ho!  

• Where do you find your inspiration- who or what inspires you? 
So, so many things inspire me; a snippet of conversation, a flash of an image on the television, a magazine scrap. I like to keep up to date with future trend predictions although for the most part each collection evolves from a title. I love magazines both online and printed, and very often a seed is planted from an image or article. My mother hides her magazines, I’m not sure why, but she gets a bit cross when she finds sections missing from her magazine pages!  

• How do you translate your inspiration into a design?
I have realised all my collections or pieces have titles which I very often use as a starting point, words and titles float around my head. I’ll start collecting images, found items, visit a couple of inspiring shops, visit the kids section in the library or book shop and start building a mood board. Sometimes I’ll have an idea kicking around my head for a couple of years. At the moment I’m desperately trying to remove the moustaches from my head!  Sometimes I have an idea but no title, this generally causes a bit of chaos in my mind and until the title comes to me, I’m unable to develop the work (bit of OCD there!) Once I’ve got the beginnings of a mood board I’ll start developing ideas in my sketch book which I’ll translate to my knitting machine. The relationship between my sketchbook and knitting machine is a close one, it can take days of sampling and playing before I get something right, sometimes it becomes a bit too intense and I have to move away and start working on something else. Invariably, when this happens I’ll have one of those 3 o clock in the morning flashes of inspiration and be raring to get back to it. Once I’ve developed a product or collection, I’ll let it sit on my desk for a few weeks.  It gives me a chance to see it from a distance, to let it settle. Then if needs be I’ll go back to it and give it a tweek. 

• How do you structure your working day? 
My day usually starts in a slightly manic manner; a flurry of gathering P.E kits, lunch boxes, lost ties...followed by a good walk with Lola to clear my head, read e-mails, make phone calls and plan the day ahead (bit of multi tasking; walking and admin!) On a good day I get to spend time fiddling in my sketchbook, (my favourite thing), followed by knitting samples on the knitting machine (and of course they all come off perfectly!) followed by a bit of stock piling! Dinner with husband and teenagers and another walk to finish the day. On a really good day, I manage to keep my head out of the fridge!! 

• We all get creative block. How do you combat it?
When I find myself heading for the fridge every 10 minutes I know there's a blockage. I tend to take Lola for a long walk at the water meadows (running water always soothes me) or I shut the door on the studio which is in the house and treat myself to an afternoon on the sofa with my crochet and a good box set/movie/catch up session. Invariably I find that the solution will come to me once I stop trying so hard.  If its a real BLOCK, then I will make a space somewhere, lay everything out and let it be for as long as it takes to resolve the problem in my mind (currently I have a project thats been sat for 2 years!)  I realised a long time ago, there really is no point trying to force things, it isn't productive in any way.   You just end up going round and round and winding yourself up into a frenzy, which inevitably ends up affecting everything. Thats the downside of what I do, my work is me and if it's not going well it effects the whole household. I've learnt that it's ok to not be working for a few days if it's going to be more creative or productive in the long run.

• Share your favourite tool with us.
Without doubt my sketchbook, felt tips and knitting machines (can I have tools rather than tool?!)  

• Describe your dream creative space…
My dream creative space would be a beautiful wooden and stone cabin with white tongue&grooved walls on 3 walls inside and one wall exposed stone (think 70's Bond skiing cabin) one of those beautiful nordic woodburners in a corner, a velvet sofa and lush bed for Lola to loll around on.  There would be a whole wall of built in storage with glass sliding doors to create a yarn wall (all my cones) in every colour from the shade card. In the snug area would be the woodburner, sofa etc with a little kitchenette (in case I get snowed in!) and another glass wall to build a library in...gosh I'm so excited, when can I move in!! Oh, and a few sheep skins (possibly a little politically incorrect, but heyho) on the floors and sofa and enough space for several knitting machines and a cutting table, admin desk, sewing table...and it's all at the bottom of my garden. 

• What lead to the moment that made you decide to sell your products professionally?
I realised pretty quickly whilst I was studying that I didn't really want to design for someone else so it was my only option really. Being home with my family is very important so it sort of happened all by itself anyway.

• What are the obstacles you've encountered on your journey so far?
Mostly lack of money! As a family I have to prioritise what's more important and of course it's always the family's needs. I'm happy ticking along for now. It can sometimes be frustrating when you meet the newbies to the circuit who have not a responsibility in the the world and dedicate their whole time and earnings to their work, but my children are growing fast and my time will come.

• The biggest high of your career so far is...
For me, my proudest moment was opening my BA results letter. I can never explain the feeling I had seeing my First with Honours. I cried hysterically! I had endured 4 years as a lone parent and full time student, it was heavy going but the most amazing experience ever. My tutor told me later that I had been awarded the highest mark she had ever given!

• What's the biggest lesson you've learnt on your creative journey so far & what advice would you give to a newbie?
It's all in the planning. Work out exactly what you want - do you want to sell wholesale to shops or direct to public, or both? Spend a year visiting every event you can and decide which would suit your product, attend as many free business and networking seminars as possible, spend a little on subscription fees if necessary and join the mailing lists for organizations such as Cockpit arts, Arts Council England, CraftCentral, these all offer business advice and networking sessions. Arts Council have a jobs and events email that goes out every week which is always very useful. Sit down and work out your finances. Unfortunately the boring bits tend to take over at the beginning, but you soon start gathering knowledge and contacts and the business side of things becomes easier to understand and manage. My biggest piece of advice is stick with it and be true to yourself. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing, your individuality will take you a long way.  

• What's next for you?
To be honest I’m taking it a bit slower of late. I recently had a small sculptural exhibiton at the Theatre Royal Winchester, it was lovely (if I do say so myself!) lots of clouds suspended from the glass ceiling, wooden swallows swooping, and giant knitted trees. I plan to push this side of my work further. I’m also a member of a recently formed collaborative group 5am, we have been asked to contribute toward a National Trust exhibition at Mottisfont Abbey, Hampshire and have various other events lined up over the next 12 months.

I was also at Pulse tradeshow in June (stand LP40, 10-12 June, Earls Court) with a few new pieces to add to the collection.

• What's on your bedside table?
Crumbs, a massive stack of paperbacks waiting to be read (I had over £40 in Waterstones vouchers for my birthday and loved every minute of my 2 hours browsing!) plus several of my old favourites - 'Time Travellers Wife', 'Pride & Prejudice' and 'Cold Mountain' that I read over and over again and leave permanently on my bedside table. I love to read but I often find I'm too tired to concentrate on new titles so I reach for my old faithfuls. I also have a vintage French child's tapestry, a vintage french lamp with a couple of vintage plastic brooches attached to the lampshade, a Julia Pott print, a red lipstick (!!) last month's copy of Mollie Makes waiting to be read and the current copy of Selvedge.  Oh, and a cup of cold tea from last night!

• iPhone, blackberry or android? And why? 
iphone without question! could never be without it, I love how easy it is. Everything automatically syncs to my laptop. It's so easy to photograph stuff and email straight to yourself, it's just a great little gadget to make life easier.

• Complete the sentence: "If I could live in another country, I'd move to…"
Sadly, I'm probably not qualified to answer this as I've never really been anywhere! I have always fancied Sweden; one of those fabulous wooden cabin affairs on the water front and of course I would be all serene and gorgeous in a fabulous Swedish fluerdy birdy sort of way!  

• You're planning your last ever meal and celebrating with a dinner party. You have 6 seats around your table-who would you invite to join you and what would you serve up? 
I'm going to be boring and say my husband who I absolutely adore, my 2 children who are cheeky monkeys, (the 4 of us always have such a good time together), my best friend and wife Sadie, Matt Le Tissier to keep my hubby (his footballing hero) happy  and...I can't decide!

And we would have a massive chinese banquet from the Mandarin Chef!

• Give us a song! Which one song helps you whistle while you work? 
Stereophonics Dakota, doesn't make me whistle it makes me sing at the top of my lungs! 

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