Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life

Now for something completely different!
Meet Elspeth Jackson from Ragged Life, self confess fabric hoarder, colour lover and expert rag rugger.
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
A few weeks ago at the CHSI stitches show I had the pleasure of meeting Elspeth, the talented rag rug making teacher, designer and founder of Ragged Life. I've asked Elspeth to share a little more about her creative journey and plans for world rag rug making domination. (ok - I added that bit, but wouldn't that be fun, a rag rug in every home on the planet!)
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
How did you first get into rag rug making?
Every year my school used to put on a “Recycled Fashion Show” where the students had to make costumes out of recycled materials. My mum had been making beautiful rag rugs out of old clothing for years and I thought it would be a great medium for my outfit. My masterpiece took hours to make, weighed a tonne and was baking hot under the catwalk spotlights but won me a prize. By then I had caught the rag rug bug! Afterwards I began making rag rugs for myself and eventually for other people. My core rag rug pieces are for sale on my website (www.raggedlife.com) but I also undertake commissions for custom-made pieces. My mother is the original rag rug guru. I’ve learned new techniques, tips and tricks over the years but without my mum’s patience when I was learning as a youngster, Ragged Life would not exist today.

What made you decide to start Ragged life?
I decided to launch Ragged Life after noticing how many people were interested in learning how to rag rug. There were very few rag rug “experts” out there to teach and lots of crafty people looking to learn. I’d been looking for a creative outlet for a while so it was the perfect opportunity and timing.
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
What is your background? What did you do before starting Ragged Life?
Although I’ve always made rag rugs, it wasn’t until 2014 that I took the leap of faith to make my passion, my work. In fact, most people are very surprised when they learn that I did Geography at university, not an art or textile degree. After university, I went straight to work for Unilever in London. I worked in Marketing for three years, working on incredible brands, including Persil, Flora and Lynx. Although I don’t regret working for a big company, I knew deep down that working for a company that large just wasn’t for me.

Are there any other crafts you enjoy?
Like most crafty people, I just love making things. I flit from one craft to another and have tried everything from modern calligraphy and pottery to cross stitch and lampshade making over the years. Aside from rag rugging, I love to crochet - I'm not the most competent at it but I do love hoarding wool and making snoods. 

What's your favourite thing about what you do now?
I love meeting so many happy, creative people. The craft world is such a nice industry to be in - people are friendly, inspiring and never fail to surprise me. 
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
Where do you get your design inspiration from? 
Inspiration can come from anywhere so getting out there and seeing different things is key. Last year, while on holiday, I went to the Spello Infiorati (Spello Flower Festival) which was incredible for design and colour inspiration. Closer to home, exhibitions such as the “Henri Matisse - The Cut-Outs” show at the Tate Modern or the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibition at the V&A were great for helping me to think outside the box. Of course, there’s also Pinterest which is the place for inspiration. I have plenty of boards chock-full of ideas here.
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
What are you most proud of in your rag rug journey so far?
In October, 2016 I had my first ever book, "Rag Rugs, Pillows & More", published globally. I'd never even imagined that I would become a published author so I couldn't believe it when CICO Books hunted me down. There are few things more satisfying than that moment when you receive the first copy of the book you've slaved over for months. 

Do you have a favourite piece that you've made?
I don't necessarily have a favourite piece but I do really love the boucherouite-inspired stool I upholstered in rag rug. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. 
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
What does the future hold for Ragged life?
At the moment, I'm working on quite an ambitious project to create a rag rug piece to submit to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition next year. I'm incorporating ragged clothing from 1900-2000 which has been a lot of fun to track down. My ultimate aim is get as many people interested in rag rugging as possible so keep your eyes peeled for Ragged Life popping up in shops over the next few years. 
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
Where do you suggest a beginner should start if they are interested in rag rug making? 
One of the most daunting thoughts for a rag rug beginner is the thought that they've got to make an actual rug when they first start out but actually rag rugging can be applied to so many small projects. I would recommend starting with something like a shopping bag or cushion to get used to the techniques then work your way up to an actual rug.
Meet Elspeth from Ragged Life
My second piece of advice would be to do a simple design to start with. Even basic patterns like stripes, spots and check look extremely effective when rag rugged because of the texture. As long as you're happy with the colour scheme, you can't really go wrong. 

What social media are you on?
www.youtube.com/ragged

A massive thank you to Elspeth for sharing her rag rugging story so far, I don't know about you but I'm itching to have a go now. I've been watching Elspeth's brilliant You Tube tutorial on how to make a rag rugged letter.

Making a rag rug has been on my "to do" list for years, I've had a pinterest board where I've collected a variety of tutorials but I've never actually taken the plunge. But it turns out there must have been rag rugs around in my grandparent's house because look what I found in the depths of my sewing box.
rag rug making tools
These were my nan's, and although they are a little bit marked they seem in good working order. Maybe subliminally that's why I like rag rugs so much, that and the fact they are a great recycling/upcycling project. I'm going to take Elspeth's advice and start small. I'm thinking a cushion or bag, or maybe coasters if that's not too small, using my nan's old tools. I think she would have liked that.
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Julie Nyanyo
Julie Nyanyo

Hello, I'm Julie. I love making things and this is where I share my enthusiasm.

15 comments:

  1. How wonderful that you have your grandmother's old tools, definitely motivation to have a go! Elspeth is so talented, I love the idea of starting with a cushion xx

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    1. It's funny because those tools were just hanging about in my sewing box and I'd never really thought about what they were for. I think a cushion is where I'm going to begin, it's just my super long 'to do' list that means I've not started already!

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  2. I love the modern twist and colors on an age old craft. Thanks for sharing with #CCBG

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    1. I agree, it's nice to hold on to things from the past, this kind of recycling and reusing idea is very relevant today too isn't it?

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  3. I didn't realize there were so many possibilities with rag quilts (although I can't imagine wearing one as an outfit). These are all beautiful and so many different styles. It was fun to get to know the artist.

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    1. Yes I think the wearable art is maybe something we'll all give a miss! Elspeth is very inspiring isn't she?

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  4. How wonderful to have your Nan's rag rug tools.

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    1. Isn't it, i feel I have no excuse now. As I keep them all these years it would be rude not to try them out!

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  5. Oh wow, these rugs look great. So many different styles too :) Thanks for shopping by Creative Mondays and linking up.

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    1. They are fab aren't they? So inspiring.

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  6. I think there is a reason you held on to those rag rug tools of your Grandmothers. I look forward to seeing your first project.

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    1. I think there must be too! Im a bit snowed under with other half finished things at the moment, but I am already thinking about what rag rug project I might try and I'm noting some design ideas. (using Elspeth's advice of course!)

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  7. I love rag rugs and I love this story :) Your Nana's hooks are gorgeous

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    1. It's so interesting isn't it, to hear about people's journeys to what they are supposed to be doing. I'm looking forward to giving these hooks a work out at some point, they've had years of rest!

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  8. Julie thanks for sharing Elspeth's journey. Those rugs are very pretty and so eco friendly. It is a very inspiring story!

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