Tassels are so Downton Abbey…..

Ok I’m going to start by outing myself as a Downton Abbey tragic. Just last night I was screaming at the television “What do you mean it’s not on tonight!!!!!” All I could say was thank god ‘Vikings’ was playing otherwise there would have a been a prize winning tantrum.

Ceramic ornament by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic Ornament

I enjoy Downton for so many reasons other than the storyline. Actually, there are only two other reasons – the clothes and the house. I spend the good part of an hour sighing at the beautiful garments the women wear and the grandeur of the manor. Now whilst I would not be pleased to live in a time where women were seen as light-headed ornaments; the ornaments within the house have my blessing.

So I pondered to myself, “How can I bring a slice of Downton into the 21st Century? This line of thought ended up with a small production of ceramic ornaments. They are perfect for draping over a lamp or hanging on the sideboard.

Ceramic ornaments designed by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic ornament on my lamp

The balls have been hand-rolled from coloured clay and some have been glazed to add a little sparkle. They are the modern equivalent of the tassel, a very popular embellishment during various times last century.

Ladies and Gents, I’ve just added them to my store if you fancy adding a piece of modern Downton to your home.

PS: Small confession: I’d love a lady’s maid – someone who would put away my clothes at the end of the day and go to the village to buy me prophylactics for a forbidden tryst. Aah the ‘good old days’.

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Man bag ? I think not….

Eco-Dyed Purse

Eco-Dyed Purse

The other day I was listening to a radio program which was devoting an hour to discussing gender neutrality. What it means and where it’s at in the 21st Century. Various people rang in mainly discussing their children; little boys who wanted to wear dresses and tiaras and girls who played pirates and zombie ninjas. One of the conclusions was that children didn’t see a gender divide until it was pointed out to them by family, friends and that anonymous but pervasive beast, Society.

Fast forward to a few days later and I saw a client who had just purchased 2 purse from my store. “Guess what Elisa?” she exclaimed. “I gave one of those purses to a male friend as a gift and he loved it.” “Looks like my pieces are gender neutral.” I quipped.

It’s an exciting time to be alive when both men and women are breaking out of tight prescribed gender confines and collecting aspects of both gender which fits them mentally and physically. More so I’m pleased that there’s a guy out there enjoying one of my creations and using it on daily basis.

Now I realise that the topic of gender encompasses a broader range of issues both physical, mental and phycological  and has more nuances that I have discussed. However, it’s funky seeing it play out in such a small but, I believe, significant way. As with anything, ie gender, which has become ingrained over millennia it will take time to break down barriers and configure new definitions. A bloke with a purse is a great start.

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Feeding the beast…

Elisa Bartels visits the studio of a metal artist

Ironmonger’s Studio

When you are an artist running a creative business you wear many hats. Some of them exciting – making floating mosaics and blackfired vessels and other onerous but necessary. One of those task is feeding the beast that is social media. This year I included Instagram into my creative life and I am pleasantly surprise by how much I enjoy feeding this little beastie.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

ceramic tools

Tool of the trade

It’s quick and easy and  I enjoy using my phone to capture certain times of my day to share with you. I never feel alone and love being able to share surprising moments, crazy situations and unexpected beauty.

There is a wonkiness to my images and pardon me if they are not slick but I see Instagram as a means to share my day with you and most times I take an image quickly between jobs and can’t always make them pretty. I want you to feel as if you’re beside as the action is unfolding. Having said that, I have included a few images in this post which I’ve tried valiantly to pose and primp.

Come follow me @elisabartelsdesigns

Elisa Bartels blackfired bowl and plate

Blackfired Bowl and Plate

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Eco-Dyed Purses and Pouches

Elisa Bartels Designs - eco dyed cotton purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

Reach into your bag and find your cotton purse which is imbued with nature. Your fingers gently caress the maple leaves which are printed on its surface and you smell the faint scent of Lilly Pilly and Eucalyptus.

As you hold this purse you begin to breathe deeply and gently even if you find yourself on a bustling city street. For a moment you have been transported to the country.

Elisa Bartels Designs Eco Dyed Cotton Purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

You smile knowing that each time you hold your eco dyed purse you will to experience those sensations.

(To find my eco dyed purses and pouches go here.)

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Elisa Bartels ceramics kiln

Promises. Some people make lists to keep them on track. They write down each item on a ‘to do’ list and meticulously tick them off upon completion. I am one of those people right up to the point where I reach a task I realllllllly don’t want to do. Now, I have cleverly put that job close to the bottom of my list so I feel as if I’m on the path and achieving my goals. It feels great putting a line through all my ‘to dones’

Then I reach that one thing I really don’t want ‘to do’ on my ‘to do’.

After much soul searching and mediation I have come to the conclusion that the best (and only) way to beat the petulant toddler that resides within me is to make a promise. Not just a promise to myself by a public promise and what more public a forum can there be but the world wide web. I give you MYOP (Mind Your Own Promise).

I’m invoking MYOP when it comes to my kiln. I bought this kiln a few years ago when I didn’t have a studio. So it sat there and I said to myself ,”When I have a studio I will connect it and use it.” Easy to say a little harder to do. You see good readers I get nervous when it comes to firing. I’d like to believe that I’m quite fearless in many aspects of my art practice but just looking at this kiln gives me the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Today I gave myself a pep talk in the mirror. Don’t snicker, I know there are others who practise this form of tough love. “Wake up to yourself Elisa. It’s time to take charge and show that kiln who’s boss.” I said with gusto.

So folks this is my solemn MYOP to myself and you.

I Elisa Bartels will commence making items to fire in my kiln. The first firing will be done before the middle of the year.

PS: Feel free to keep reminding me of my MYOP. I’m counting on you to give me a pep talk to keep my MYOP

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Elisa Bartels instagramming at #clayeverywednesday


Since I started down this muddy road I am always being asked questions about my work and the processes involved in creating my pieces. So I’ve decided to start instagramming at #clayeverywednesday. I think the title is quite self explanatory. Every Wednesday you’ll get a snapshot of my studio day. From making through to firing you’ll be privy to a snapshot of the experimentation, tribulations, catastrophes, triumphs and general hard toil that is ceramics.

Please drop in and say ‘like’.

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There will be no pictures of feet (since when does this denote a new year), no lengthy lists of last year’s achievements or this year’s resolutions, hopes, dreams, goals. It’s a new year and I have no bloody idea what’s going to happen. I know what I’d like to have happen; but ‘who the hell knows’ if it will happen, even if you work really, really, really hard to make it happen.

This is not a post of despair or despondency; just a ‘cheerio’ from me to you and to tell you that I will return. After a short break away from the daily grind, because it can become a grind even if you love what you’re doing. After a few weeks of sitting in a car, sitting in cafes with my family, sitting by a river, sitting near a pool I will be back.

Back to tidy my studio, pay my Etsy fees, back to submitting for exhibitions and talking to interior designers and other creatives about my floating mosaics and the reasons why every interior/exterior should have one in a place of pride and high visibility.

So please stay tuned for whatever is going to happen in 2015. I have no idea but when it happens you will be among the first to know.

Community Service Announcement: Apologies if this post read like a stream of consciousness. My only excuse is that I have been reading way too many blogs which feature photos of feet, long lists of goals and achievements and a girl can only take so much. I must stop now before I continue to ramble and then I will have to make another community service announcement about my previous community service announcement. Okay, stopping now.


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