Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eco Weaving Kit–the beginner’s weaving guide

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy  - Beginner's Guide to Tapestry Weaving

The Eco Weaving Kit is designed for beginners and more experienced weavers alike; someone at any stage of their weaving journey will appreciate the artisan-made loom and bobbin, luxurious plant dyed organic cotton yarns and handmade organic cotton carry bag. But I suspect that the part that beginners might appreciate the most is the 19 page beginner’s weaving guide that is included.

I developed ‘Modern Weaving Using Traditional Techniques’ for my full day workshop of the same name. In this workshop I take participants through the tools, terminology and troubleshooting of tapestry weaving, choosing appropriate materials to weave with, show them how to set up their weaving, teach them basic and some intermediate tapestry weaving techniques as well as how to finish and hang their weaving. I share with them the tips and tricks that I have learned over the years (that you don’t find out on blogs or Pinterest!).

The guide gives the instructions that I give in the workshop, with full colour, step by step photos. My aim was to provide a comprehensive guide that would allow people who learn better by reading (rather than listening or watching) to get a better grasp on the workshop content, as well as allow everyone to refer to the guide along the way, both in the workshop and when they are weaving at home. I don’t want to leave anyone guessing about how to warp their loom, tie a complex knot or keep their weaving straight, for example.

This detailed guide, which took months of preparation, weaving, photographing and editing, is included in the Eco Weaving Kit.

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - booklet detail

Find out more about what’s included in this kit.

Find out more about the sustainability credentials of the kit.

Please contact me at alchemybotanicals@gmail.com for high resolution images and a media release.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Eco Weaving Kit–the plant dyed yarns

Plant dyed yarns for Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy

I have a special passion for natural dyeing, sustainable materials and discovering the Australian natural landscape, so I knew that yarns in the Eco Weaving Kit would have to be inspired by my travels and grown, spun and dyed thoughtfully.

Being an experienced tapestry weaver, I have used MANY different new, vintage and found yarns in plant, animal and synthetic materials. Some are beautiful, some less so. Some are easy to work with, others are a nightmare. I tried several different natural dyed yarns for inclusion in this kit and after much consideration, these plant dyed organic cotton yarns are the ones that I’ve included.

I selected these yarns and fibres for their colours, quality, easiness to weave with, colour fastness and sustainability credentials. The kit comes with six different yarns and fibres that are either naturally dyed, undyed or colourgrown organic cotton or soy silk/bamboo roving,

The yarns contain only plant materials – they are made of cotton, soy or bamboo (no wool or silk) and dyed only with plant dyes (no animal or insect dyes). They include:

- 100% organic cotton yarn that has been hand dyed using traditional methods with chemical free, non toxic, plant dyes to create beautiful, vibrant colours and tones. This yarn is Fair Trade and organic certified. 

- 100% organic cotton colourgrown yarn.

- Plant silk roving made using soybean byproducts from the tofu making process. This fibre is processed using only natural products.

- 100% bamboo roving that has been unused and reclaimed as industry surplus

- 100% cotton yarn that has been unused and reclaimed as industry surplus.

- 100% handspun banana silk yarn.

They come with the kits in a choice of four colour schemes inspired by my travels across Australia: summer wildflowers, eucalyptus forest,  seaside holiday and dream state.

Plant dyed yarns and their natural inspiration for Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Summer Wildflowers packPlant dyed yarns and their natural inspiration for Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Eucalyptus Forest packPlant dyed yarns and their natural inspiration for Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Seaside packPlant dyed yarns and their natural inspiration for Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Dream State pack

If you are after a few extra colours with your kit, the coloured yarns are available to purchase individually in addition – you just add each extra yarn that you want to your order and I’ll send them together.

Find out more detailed information about these yarns.

Find out more about what’s included in this kit.

Find out more about the sustainability credentials of the kit.

Please contact me at alchemybotanicals@gmail.com for high resolution images and a media release.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Eco Weaving Kit–the idea and the woods

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - all components

I created these kits after searching for the perfect weaving loom for myself. After years of weaving I knew just what design would be the right size, shape and quality for me to use (as well as being truly environmentally sustainable), but I was unable to find exactly what I was after. So I decided to put many years of woodworking and weaving experience to good use and, after trying several difference prototypes, this is the design that I found works best for me. It’s based largely on the design of professional tapestry weaving looms that I’ve used, scaled down for portability and constructed in a PEFC certified sustainable local hardwood. This timber is strong, has beautiful natural texture and colour, and each loom has been hand cut, drilled and finished by me.

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - process shot 10

The kit idea grew from there. I made a few more of these looms for friends and family and got such positive feedback about their quality and ease of use for beginners that I decided to include them as part of my Modern Weaving Using Traditional Techniques workshop. It seemed a natural next step for me to make a few more and make them available for people who want to start weaving, like using beautiful quality materials (like I do!) but can’t make it to my workshop.

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - process shot 8

I knew that I couldn’t make every part of the kit myself, but I wanted to be sure that everything that was included was guaranteed to be as produced in a way that was thoughtful, ethical and environmentally sustainable. My experience working in environmental sustainability for over a decade has taught me that in order to achieve this, a product has to be certified by a reputable organisation and/or I have to speak to the maker myself. Not easy but, with a bit of extra effort, certainly possible!

Next I worked with a local wood turner to create the second wooden element of the kit – the bobbin. I designed and he hand turned the most exquisite bobbins out of fallen melaleuca and grey gum timbers. (see top photo). I love them! I’ve included one of these in each kit (and kept a couple for myself, of course).

The last wooden element in this kit is the hardwood rod (see top photo), which allows you to hang your woven masterpiece on the wall after you have finished it. I sourced this hardwood as unused industry surplus. It’s wood that, while being absolutely new and perfect, it is not suitable for use in the industry from which it came (in this case, probably because it was cut too short). Industry surplus products are not always easy to find and require a bit of time and effort to source exactly the product you are after, but they are out there. My two favourite places to purchase industry surplus materials in Melbourne are not-for-profit organisations Resource Rescue, and Reverse Art Truck.

Find out more about what’s included in this kit.

Find out more about the sustainability credentials of the kit.

Please contact me at alchemybotanicals@gmail.com for high resolution images and a media release.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eco Weaving Kit

Eco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Summer WildflowersEco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Dream StateEco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Eucalyptus ForestEco Weaving Kit by Alchemy - Seaside Holiday
I’m excited to announce the launch of my latest project: a limited edition 14 piece Eco Weaving Kit. This sustainable, high quality, artisan made kit is designed to give weaving beginners access to professional quality equipment and information that will allow them to make their own beautiful wall hangings.

I’ll share more about my process with each of the pieces of the kit in the coming weeks. If you want to know the basics in the meantime, here are some links:
Find out more about what’s included in this kit.
Find out more about the sustainability credentials of the kit.
Please contact me at alchemybotanicals@gmail.com for high resolution images and a media release.

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.