Sawtell based artist, Krishna Ellis, has been exploring her creative passion from a very young age. After winning an award at the recent Lillipilli Art Show, Krishna tells us more about her artistic flair and her involvement with the Sawtell Art Group.
How did you first discover your creative passion?
I learnt needlecraft when I was very young and was always passionate about using my hands to create something from nothing. As a child, my mother, grandmother and aunt taught me. The skills I have learnt from them have become the basis for the artworks I now create. But it has only been in the last ten years that I have found the time to really branch out into more experimental forms of sculptural work.
Did you ever do any training?
The women in my family have a strong history of creative artistry. I have learnt everything I know from them. But as the contemporary sculptures I create have evolved, I have had to be mainly self taught. I am attempting work using a medium that is not traditionally used for sculpture. This has led to numerous experiments – some successful, and others not so brilliant.
Describe your style of art.
My art is eclectic, contemporary and sculptural. Using natural fibres, recycled materials and found objects, I meld them to create subjects that I hope will linger in the viewer’s imagination. I form these materials together to make abstract forms and realistic sculptures.
I have discovered that once an idea takes hold in my mind, it will not leave until it has been given form. I find myself waking up at night and writing or drawing my ideas in a notebook I keep by my bed.
I am also finalising a range of wearable art, with the label name Pelage. These are a unique lightweight range of hand dyed, hand crafted scarves, made from silk chiffon, merino and silk tussah. They are perfect for the Coffs Coast climate.
What mediums do you work with?
I work with whatever takes my fancy – mainly fibre. I like to source the natural fibres I work with from local farms and suppliers. I take them and alter them to suit my needs. If necessary, I will dye the fibres and sometimes spin my own art yarns. I can then use these in my sculptures. I also use raw silks, alpaca or corriedale fleece, wood, driftwood, recycled steel, wool jumpers and various vintage objects that catch my imagination.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration is drawn from the materials I source. I love the feel of different textures and once I have the elements in my hands, they suggest to me what form they should take. I am also inspired by the Chinese ancestry of my father. Our family history will be the motivation and vision for my next series of work; it already exists in my dreams.
Tell us about some of the pieces you’re working on at the moment.
At the moment, I am working on the Pod series – a group of hollow forms that represent the natural cycle of birth and rebirth, as well as being a recreation of a natural haven for wildlife. These are made using traditional and contemporary felting techniques.
I have also started working on the next body of art sculpture, called The Oracle Bones. I find it easier to work if I name the work before I start. It helps the ideas to flow.
The idea for The Oracle Bones came from an article I read last year. Archaeologists in China have discovered artefacts called Oracle Bones. The bones were usually oxen scapula or tortoise shells that have been inscribed with ancient Chinese writing; they were used for divination.
The priests would write a question on the bones, and then hold a hot bronze pin over the bone. This would cause cracks to form, and the priest would read the answer to the question in the cracks. The writing is believed to be the oldest form of Chinese writing known. This series will be a tribute to my father and our Chinese ancestry.
Describe your recent exhibition entry at the Lillipilli Art Show.
I submitted two entries in this year’s exhibition. One, the POD, was entered into the sculpture section. This was the first of the hollow forms series I am now working on; it was traditionally felted and then shaped using needle sculpture methods. It now resides in a private collection.
And my second entry was a traditionally felted wall hanging. I used naturally coloured corriedale wool with a base of undyed mohair and hand dyed silk chiffon. This will be on display at the Sawtell Art Gallery at a date in the future.
Have you won any awards?
I created a life sized mermaid from recycled materials, handspun and hand dyed wool. She is completely hand felted using traditional felting techniques and needle sculpture methods. She is called Derketa, which is an ancient Babylonian name for a mermaid. I won an award at the Lillipilli Art Show, in the textile/fibre section, with this sculpture.
I have only recently started entering art shows, as I have been time poor. Now I plan on giving myself permission to concentrate on creating the work that I imagine and entering more often.
What is your involvement with the Sawtell Art Group?
I have been a member for a while, and this year have taken on the role of workshop/class convenor. This involves organising the various classes that run during the school terms and also running workshops during the holidays.
We have visiting guest artists and award winning local artists, such as Louise Corke and Helen Goldsmith, come to the Art Gallery and teach workshops. These are always popular with our members and with the wider community.
The Sawtell Art Group has been working very hard this year to obtain funding for further development, and we have been successful.
We have commenced extensions and are going to have a permanent display of artwork and more classes when this is finished. We are hoping to encourage the local community, especially younger people, to join and make use of the Gallery, as it belongs to us all.
You also hold workshops …
Yes, I hold workshops, where I teach traditional felting and sometimes needle sculpture. I also teach nuno felting, which is a technique that involves creating a new material through the use of silk and wool. This material is very suitable for the warm Coffs Coast climate and is another way of using natural fibres.
When I teach the workshops I like to limit the numbers, so I can give the students individual attention. Everyone goes home with a completed unique article, depending on the workshop they are attending. I sometimes hold classes to teach children the art of felting as well. Children love the feel of the wool and really enjoy the satisfaction of creating something themselves. I feel it is very important that we don’t lose the ability to do these traditional techniques..
Where can people view your work?
My label Pelage (the art to wear range) is stocked exclusively by the Greenroom Gallery at the Promenade in Coffs Harbour. I get a real feeling of satisfaction when I see clients wearing something I have made. My work looks amazing displayed alongside the brilliant artwork of Wayne French.
What does the future hold for you?
I am hopeful of a one woman exhibition in Melbourne and again on the Coffs Coast. The Pod series and the Oracle Bones will be need to be seen. I also enjoy pencil and botanical drawing, as well as acrylic painting and plan on furthering my skills in these areas as well.
Also the art for wear range, Pelage, needs work for the summer collection, and I am designing this next range based on colours from the Coffs region: ocean blues, rainforest greens, Lorikeet reds and brilliant sunset colours.
I am also a founding member, with Carole Beros, of our dream child, Eclectic collections – a vibrant collective of talented artists. We are in the beginning stages of planning the next exhibition and in the future will be looking for a suitable venue.