I have been a fan of Kirsty Elson’s work since the day blog (May 2008) ie. the days of yore. I remember being utterly drawn in by her ability to find a piece of unpromising looking driftwood on a beach and transform it into a tiny diorama, a reindeer or a little boat in a harbour. She has an eye for a knobbly plank this woman. I’m THRILLED that she has agreed to share the creative process she used to transform a bit of woody something into something quite other and quite wonderful…
Kirsty says: I love working with driftwood: it’s weathered appearance, layers of peeling paint, the mystery of its history. Most of all, I love its natural form. I have to work with whatever I find and let the shapes guide me, which can be very exciting and means I am rarely stuck for inspiration. Sometimes an unusual piece forces you to think outside the box and try new things.
I was very excited to come across this on a local beach recently. It is part of a boat, consisting of several bits of ply etc nailed together. It was the metal bits (possibly hinges) that I found particularly fascinating. I sat on the sand and rotated it for a minute, then I decided what I’d do with it (inspiration isn’t always this instant, I’ve had some wood in my shed for years and I’m still unsure what I’ll use it for!)
So after removing the old bit of ply on the top and finally managing to get the screws out too, I found a nice “platform” taking shape. The ply underneath (the water) was found on the same day and was exactly the right size. Fate obviously! The large nails in the corner are functional as well as decorative – they hold the whole thing, which is very heavy incidentally, in place.
I suppose the majority of my work is quite pretty, but I decided I was going for a more industrial look here with the bold metal uprights and rusty stains on the wood (again letting the materials guide me.)
*A bit of background for you here. I grew up in Paignton, and we regularly walked along the seafront along to the harbour. I don’t get to visit much these days, but it still has an old-fashioned charm. It’s pretty on sunny days when the tide’s in, but I like it best in the winter, when the water’s out, so that all the lovely rusty chains and rings are exposed and the grubby undersides of the boats are visible. The smell is very vivid too, along with the sound of seagulls crying.
I feel sure that my work is influenced by my childhood, I know I was very lucky to have grown up by the seaside. *
Anyway, back to the piece! So I’m not going for an idyllic cottage here, it would look out of place on a jetty anyway, instead I’m thinking a rusty old boatshed. The roof is made from a strip of old metal found on the beach at Lyme Regis – presumably it was once in the rubbish dump, part of which fell from the cliff several years ago.
And now for my favourite part – the details! A bench from which to admire the view. The slats are made from the old bit of ply I removed at the start (I like to keep things as authentic possible)
A ladder and boat, made from a walnut shell.
Seagulls and ropes
And flagpole! All finished!
Sheesh – so wonderful. Thank you SO much for sharing this piece of handmade joy Kirsty.
You can find more of Kirsty’s work on her website, Twitter and Facebook. She lists new pieces of work for sale in her website shop, although they’re always snapped up very quickly. She has collections in these galleries if you’d like to seek one of her pieces out.
NB Some rather unscrupulous folk try to ape Kirsty’s work. Accept no Elson substitutes.
How utterly charming. I'm marvelling over how Kirsty has made this piece look exactly like a bit of harbour whilst looking exactly like a bit of old wood at the same time. Thank you Emma for introducing me to Kirsty's work and thank you Kirsty for sharing your creative process.
I absolutely love Kirstie's work, all the more because it's made from things that have been discarded or naturally washed ashore. I have her website saved in my Favourites, and believe it or not I was just looking through her gallery yesterday – what a coincidence. It's the perfect weather for finding things washed up on the shore at the moment. I never get tired of looking at her beautiful creations, she's so very talented and imaginative. And how nice to see how a piece develops. CJ xx
I have know of Kirty's work for a long time and have been and admirer since I found it. Her pieces are just so 'right'. Good to have read a little more about her, thank you.
Handmade in Israel says
I adore Kirsty's work. Each time she posts something new, it becomes my new favourite! It just gets better and better. Thank you for writing all about her.
I haven't seen her works before but it seems as I joined the army of her fans. As I can see her works are really very interesting and unique.
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