I’m so excited to be restarting my Space to Create series – I’ve been out photographing local creatives in their studios and co-ordinating interviews from national and international makers, so stay tuned for lots of inspiration.
To kick things off again I’m so thrilled to take you into the crazy-colourful and extremely detailed creative world of embroidery artist Liz Payne.
Liz works in a small space which is a riot of colour and a treasure trove of all sorts of beads, sequins, threads and yarn. Her stitched art is incredibly detailed, layered and absolutely exquisite. I have such admiration for her patience and skill, and it was lovely to share a cup of green tea with Liz in her kitchen, and chat about her creative process and journey.
In addition to admiring her finished work, I enjoyed looking through the piles of stitched fabric that are works in progress or pieces that Liz has put aside as just experiments. If you aren’t already familiar with Liz’s work you’re in for a treat.
Where do you live?
I live in a small terrace with my husband Myles and dog Buster in Erskineville, a great little suburb close to the craziness of Newtown in Sydney’s inner west. We bought our place three years ago, and we love its proximity to the city, leafy outlook, nearby dog parks and the variety of restaurants and pubs within walking distance.
Where do you create?
I do the majority of my work from my home studio (which is actually just our spare room) but I tend to work all over the house. Beads and sequins can be found in the most random places and there are piles of wool everywhere!
When do you create? Is it a full-time job?
I’m a person who has to create all the time. I never really ‘switch off’, it’s who I am. I also have a graphic design job and I’m lucky to be able to do most of that work from home, so I’m frequently stitching while I’m waiting for the computer to load.
What path led you to this creative place?
I’ve always been artistic and surrounded with art and craft from a young age. My mum is great at a lot of different art and craft processes, and she can sew anything. Growing up I was always sewing, painting, making necklaces out of beads… I guess it was natural that I would want to create a job out of something that combined my love for all those things!
After high school, I studied my Bachelor of Visual Arts Degree at uni – which I loved. Then I went on to complete my Certificate in Graphic Design, as it was more of a ‘career’. I worked in Sydney as a Graphic Designer at a travel magazine for several years before heading to London (with my now husband) for a couple of years to travel and work at several other magazines. I found myself wishing I could be more creative and actually get my hands dirty making things again, though.
Once we returned to Sydney, it was natural to keep doing graphic design but I also started my art practice and began creating pieces that were embroidered and beaded onto fabric I’d painted. There was a lot of trial and error at these early stages. I sold a couple of works at some local exhibitions, but I was really unsure how to make the transition into taking it further.
It wasn’t until I attended a Clare Bowditch Big Hearted Business seminar that I was fortunate to meet other like-minded people, and I was convinced to join Instagram to share my work. I’m so glad I did! Through Instagram I have been so lucky to meet other artists and I’ve been given opportunities to exhibit at amazing places.
What’s your elevator pitch? How do you describe what you do?
I stitch! My work combines painting into fabric with embellishments like embroidery, sequins, and beads. Each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind, and entirely stitched by hand.
How would you describe yourself in six words?
Creative, crafty, inquisitive, honest, passionate… Alright, maybe a little stubborn too.
Where do you find inspiration and motivation?
As cliched as it sounds, I find inspiration everywhere. I’m currently on my way to Japan and I know I’m going to be inspired by everything I see there. I’m also majorly inspired by textiles of every variety – from weavings, knitting, rugs, fashion, suzani and ikat fabrics… and I’m motivated by wanting to learn all these processes. I’m constantly saying “if I had more time…”
What are the essential items in your workspace?
It’s essential that I have all my thread, wool and beads around me. I have a favourite needle – I don’t even know the size, just that it’s perfect – I can go crazy looking for it sometimes! Apart from that, sharp scissors are a must, music, and Buster at my feet, of course.
What do you listen to while you work?
Triple J or a mix I’ve made on iTunes.
What do you love the most about your creative space?
There are certainly advantages having home and my workspace combined. I don’t have to travel back and forth and even though I have things scattered all over the house, I know if I can’t find anything that it is there, somewhere. I’m also kind of attached to Buster (if you couldn’t tell that already!) so having him sit at my feet is nice too, and I’m able to take a break and walk him when I need to get out and get some fresh air. But the disadvantages can be seeing the dirty dishes or the washing I’ve still got to do.
What would be your dream job or collaboration?
My dream job would be to keep doing this. I guess being able to focus on it full-time is, and always has been, a huge dream. I’d love to work on a reeeeeally big piece, I think that would be a huge accomplishment. And say if Anthropologie (one of my favourite shops) wanted to pay me like millions of dollars for it, that would be alright too!
Tell us an online resource or app you can’t live without.
I love Instagram. I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had and I truly appreciate the compliments people say about my work through it. I also love Design Sponge, The Design Files, The Jealous Curator, and TextileArtist.org.
What’s the hardest thing you find about what you do?
Finding the time to do everything I want to do. Stabbing yourself isn’t pleasant either! My thumb also goes into a square (literally) and I get a lot of pain in my shoulders because of the amount of stitching I do.
How do you work out the financial aspects of your business? What resources, tips and tools would you recommend?
Like most creatives – and I tell myself this to make myself feel better – I let this aspect slide. Massively. It is not my strong point. I am trying to enlist my husband to help out on this aspect (he’s not so keen). I find it overwhelming and all my receipts are filed (i.e. shoved and crumpled) into a little folder.
What advice do you have for aspiring creatives?
My advice to any aspiring creatives out there is persistence. Keep at it. Sometimes days can be tough and you feel like throwing it all in, but persistence, patience and passion will make it happen.
Do you have a dream that you’d love to fulfill?
To look back in 10 years’ time and still be doing the same work and loving it. I guess realising that the hard work and taking the plunge was worth it. In the meantime, I’d love to have a solo exhibition, and I’m working on crafting as many pieces as possible.
I so enjoyed putting this post together and I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into Liz’s creative space and process.
You can purchase stitched art by Liz Payne in her Etsy shop, and she also takes on commission work. Liz will be exhibiting in The Other Art fair in Sydney in September, and she’s working towards the goal of a solo exhibition.
We will be publishing Space to Create posts frequently again, and I can’t wait to share some amazing creatives with you. Catch up on previous posts in our Space to Create series here.
Photos by Lisa Tilse for We Are Scout (unless otherwise noted).