I would like to introduce to you Lizi Klavins, from Elk & Tom. She does the most beautiful, delicate embroidery work I have ever seen and I envy her patience to be able to complete something so time consuming and intricate.
Where did you grow up? I was born in Parkes NSW and moved to Bathurst when I was about 6 years old. Every school holidays my sister and I would travel back to Parkes to spend the two weeks with my grandparents who owned a farm. My cousins also lived in Parkes, so while I’ve lived in Bathurst for majority of my life, I feel I sort of grew up in two places at once. A lot of my work has stemmed from those memories of my grandparent’s rural property and from all around the central west.
Were you creative when you were younger? I’ve always had a love for everything creative, whether it was drawing or making odd objects out of anything I could get my hands on. I remember when I would head off to my grandparents during the school holidays I would always pack bags upon bags of my favourite art supplies and sketch books. I’d then sit sprawled out at their kitchen table doing little water colours for everyone. My grandparents also kept what they called a “Useful box” which was filled with a random assortment of bits and pieces my Gran would keep for us to make things out of. You could guarantee I always had my head buried in there when I visited.
My love for creating at a young age was always encouraged. Which when I look back now, realise how lucky I was to have people around who shared that creativity.
Is your family creative? If you ask any member of my family if they’re creative, I can guarantee they will each shake their head and say no. My mum and dad often say, “Well your creativity didn’t come from us!”
Funnily enough though, my dad is amazing with woodwork and DIY, you can go to him with an idea and he’ll spend a weekend happily tucked away in the shed making it come to life.
My mum is insanely good at knitting, crocheting, sewing and beading. She’ll always send me emails filled with things that are currently inspiring her and I often find myself bouncing ideas off her for my own work.
My sister Alex is an incredible makeup artist who has her own business doing bridal makeup. The way she knows how to add dimension and colour to different facial features is amazing.
When you put it all together, they are all really creative! They just won’t admit it!
What is your creative thing now? Elk & Tom came from a love of creating and a gentle push from my husband, Trent. Over the years I had been stock piling all these little creations I had made, which had come from my obsession with trying to master any craft that I came across. I’d put a photo up on my personal Facebook of what I’d made and would get comments from people asking if I was selling them? So it began! After talking with Trent, who is really my biggest fan, I decided to start making pieces that people would be able to buy, rather than sit in my wardrobe where no one could see them.
Elk & Tom really evolved when I discovered my love for needle and wet felting. I loved the textural feel of the wool and how anything created from it was very comforting and inviting.
Is it for fun or is it work? It started out as some fun and has become work to an extent. I have a three-year-old, Hugh who I’m home with two, sometimes three, times a week. The other days he goes off to day-care and it’s those days I get to create things for Elk & Tom. So, while it’s not a full-time business, I’m really lucky that it enables me to spend time at home with my family while I am creating.
Tell me about your creative process. A lot of my work is inspired by the countryside so most of my ideas tend to emerge when I’m travelling in the car, more so when I’m the passenger than driving myself. We live in such a beautiful country, it’s hard not to be inspired when you start exploring it. My poor husband often becomes my notebook as I’ve never been really good at writing things down. When I really get inspired I’ll start babbling to Trent about colours, shapes and ideas involving this and that and if you look through his phone, sometimes you can find a page of notes he’s jotted down for me. Once an idea has really stuck with me I’ll move to a sketchbook and draw a few variations of what I have in mind, before trying it out with fibre. I’m still trying to master sketchbooks, they sort of terrify me! There’s something about wanting it to look perfect that turns me off so I’m more of a jump in and try it, sort of girl, rather than planning. I’m getting better at them though!
What are you working on at the moment? Aside from my felted pouches and hanging decorations, I’m working on creating some wall pieces with my Australiana designs on them. I bought these beautiful Oak framed embroidery hoops from America which I’m really excited to fill! Prior to this a lot of my work has been jewellery and accessory based, so I’m buzzing with ideas on pieces that people can have in their home all year round.
Has your style changed over time? It’s definitely evolved over a few years and I think now I am in a place where I am really content with what I am creating. There used to be a lot of self-doubt about my work in the beginning which hindered my style quite a bit. I was too focused on making everything perfect, so I’d spend hours and hours on a piece and not be completely happy with it.
It’s taken me quite a while to loosen up in my work, to let go of things being precise and just enjoy what I’m creating. Now I find myself getting lost for hours simply because I’m enjoying the process.
What did you know about being creative before you started? I’m a sucker for learning and tinkering so I’m self-taught in a lot of what I do creatively, mostly through books, online tutorials or figuring it out myself. In 2010/2011 I completed a Diploma Of Fine Arts through TAFE, where I honed a lot of my skills in drawing and painting. Before I started Elk & Tom a lot of my work was actually portraiture and I still use a lot of it when sketching out my reference pieces now. It was an amazing experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
You use social media a lot to showcase your work, how did this begin for you? Social media has been a huge outlet for my work. Again, it came from the idea that I had so much work hidden away, that I needed a place I could showcase it. Instagram was the first platform I had really put my pieces out on exclusively, which was immensely terrifying for me to begin with! It still is I guess because I still get those same butterflies before I post a new piece.
The sense of community you get through social media such as Instagram is inspiring. There are so many talented artists out there that I feel without social media, I may not have discovered. This also works vice versa, it’s been such a great way to get discovered yourself, in fact most of my commission work has come through social media.
With anything, the more exposure you get, the more you are likely to get feedback, both good and bad. Luckily, I haven’t had any negative comments on any of my accounts, so I haven’t had to find a way to handle them. I think the best thing to remember when it comes to feedback on your work is that you’re not always going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay.
What inspires you? I find inspiration in so many things. It could be a smell, a combination of colours, a sound, or a certain kind of light. My main source of inspiration is Australia in general. We have such a unique landscape as well as amazing flora and fauna that I’ve fallen completely head over heels in love with. Little bits and pieces of this get scattered through my work and plays a huge part in how I create. I’m a sucker for detail, so I’ll get caught up in discovering little worlds that people may not necessarily look at. My piece “Leaf Litter” which shows a gecko surrounded by little pieces of a forest floor is a good example of that.
Who inspires you? This is a really hard question! There are so many amazing artists that I love following and it’s really hard to pick a few! I really love Casey Manson from Grotti Lotti, her huge brush strokes and use of colour is lovely. I also really love Katie Rodgers (Paperfashion), I follow her in Instagram and watching her work is really mesmerizing!
It sounds really corny, but my son Hugh plays a huge roll in my inspiration. He loves watching me work and comes up with cute little stories that I love to add into my pieces. My Felted magpie Christmas decoration being one, it’s based on two characters, Samson and Terry, who are lovely magpies that visit our front garden often to talk to Hugh.
If you could talk to your 18 year-old-self when leaving to study or work in the big wide world, what would you say? “You are enough”. When it comes to being a creative, we can be our own worst critics. We need to be a little more gentle with ourselves and know that we are enough.
What do you do when you're not being creative? I don’t think I’m ever not being creative, if I’m not working on something for Elk & Tom, I’m probably working on something for family and friends, or something for the house! I do love gardening when I get the chance. I’ve really loved working on our big veggie garden with Hugh and Trent and while I have been a bit slack with our winter vegetables, I can’t wait for spring to get back into it
How can people see your creativity? The Journey Person Pop Ups have been an amazing experience and I’m so lucky to be included in such a lovely and talented bunch of people! It’s a really supportive community and it’s great to be surrounded with like-minded artists who have a passion for handmade.
They have been super successful, I often find my work is selling out in the first couple of days which is great and still blows me away! It’s a great way to meet and get to know customers as well. We have a lot of people who come in and are interested in meeting the artists behind the work for sale. It creates a lovely warm and friendly atmosphere that’s really nice to be a part of.
Whilst an online store is still in the works, any pieces that I have for sale will be put on either of those accounts. I do also put details to any Journey Person pop ups during the year I attend, as well as any markets.
To find out more about Lizi Klavins, Elk & Tom:
Visit her at the next The Journey Person Pop-Up on August 3rd – 5th at The Corner Store Gallery (382 Summer Street, Orange NSW).