Finding creative inspiration through leaf art
Creative textile artist Ellie Beck finds natural inspiration in the rainforest surrounding her home in Northern New South Wales in Australia.
On days when I’m lacking inspiration and my mind is in a turmoil (often from the drama of children’s lives), I find that the best way to calm myself, settle my mind, and focus on my day’s projects is to immerse myself in nature.
I am lucky to live surrounded by rainforest, but you can find inspiration in the smallest details of a garden, leafy street or a park. Seeking mindful moments in nature brings inspiration in numerous ways.
As a creative artist I find I often refer back to the environment around me in both a literal way, as well as a spiritual sense.
Walking down my driveway – or you might find a beautiful leafy street – I slow down my breathing and meander about while gathering leaves.
Letting my mind focus on each leaf, seeing the unique beauty and appreciating the flaws in the leaves reminds me, as an artist, that it’s the imperfections in my art that bring me most joy.
The process of collecting and gathering leaves brings me back to the simple pleasure of actually seeing the world around me. Noticing colours, shapes, patterns of each leaf as I hold it in my hand before it slips into my gathering basket.
Of course the added benefit is my mind is focused on the small and simple moments in front of me, my breathing slows down and I am readying my ‘self’ for entering my studio and beginning my day’s creative practice.
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Removing myself from the noise and busy of family life, and taking even just five minutes of actively slowing my breathing, mind and soul seems to spark the creative force inside me; a great way to call the muse to play for the day.
How to make leaf art
Once inside my studio, before I turn to the jobs list, I really enjoy turning the pile of leaves out onto a white table (piece of fabric, backing board, cardboard or even piece of art paper) and having a play.
Even with a big list of things to do, this practice sets my day off on a mindful creative and focused path.
You can spend as little or long as you like playing with leaves – often called 'faffing' in Instagram land.
Faffing often uses flowers, but I find leaves are a great way to move past the ‘pretty’ and spend time with the unique, unusual, flawed, critter-bitten, colour-morphed – often a good representation of an art practice.
A leafy mandala, neatly arranged, colour coded… whatever evolves as you fall into the silence of leafy-faffing.
Don’t set yourself ideals or plans, just see what the leaves talk to you as you sit and play and create your own art with dried leaves.
Often, for me at least, my creativity in my arts practice comes not from over-thinking, but from going with the flow. By settling into a beautiful silence, an introspective mood I can call upon a more ‘me’ version of anything I make.
Once I start over-planning, forcing each move then I loose the freedom of anything I’m trying to work on.
This is as true for leafy meditation as for my loom weaving, natural dye or even slow stitching projects. And taking the essence of this feeling into my writing helps the words to write themselves, rather than struggling over a pen (or keyboard).
And yes, of course, I’d be holding back the truth if taking the photos at the end of the leaf faffing session wasn’t a lovely part of it too. Capturing the final image before I sweep it all away, returning the leaves back to the garden (or sometimes to my natural dye pots) feels part of the process.
Think about Tibetan Monks sweeping away their sand mandalas. But, I do want to stress that taking the photos, and sharing on Instagram, are a by-product and not the reason for the process. Leafy mindfulness is an act unto itself – to bring me slow, simple creative inspiration.
About Ellie Beck
Ellie Beck, better known as Petalplum, shares her slow simple and creative lifestyle on her popular Instagram account Petalplum and blog of the same name. Ellie is a creative artist working primarily with textiles, but is often called to play with paper, flowers, leaves.... and her mind explores the environment around her.
Ellie is a photographer, writer and wanna-be stylist. She teaches creative workshops in person and through her online school - sharing her down-to-Earth personality through hands-on video workshops.