Inky Interview: Elizabeth Pawle, Artist and Illustrator

Elizabeth Pawle - Inky Collective Blog


I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth’s work, and love to watch her pieces take shape as she shares works in progress over Instagram.

We talk finding materials, finding time to create, and finding a career as an artist.


You changed careers from magazine journalist, to full time artist. What brought about the change and was it a difficult decision?

Before I had my children I was an interiors magazine journalist, a job which I loved. Art has always been a part of my life – I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw or sew or paint – and in 2010, on a whim, I entered a piece of work into the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was accepted, and hung, and it sold, and I was amazed!

At the exact same time I discovered I was expecting my first baby. I gave up my magazine job and when my son was eight weeks old I began drawing again. I had been running a shop on Etsy for a while, selling screen prints and illustrations on a very small scale, and I began to build this up again. For the next couple of years I sold illustrations, prints and small pieces of illustrated jewellery and I found the same customers returning again and again. I dropped the jewellery and focused on selling only originals – mostly small pieces, around 7×5″, and I worked in gouache, charcoal, pencil and watercolour.


Elizabeth Pawle - Returning Home original illustration - Inky Collective Blog


After my second baby was born in 2013 I found the time I had available to paint was becoming limited, so I began to work with textiles, which I could pick up and put down as and when I had time. My mum taught me to embroider when I was very small, and I returned to this, working sometimes on linen but mainly on hessian – a material which I love for its absolute rawness. Hessian is difficult to manipulate, and awkward to handle, but for my mark-making style, its loose weave suits me perfectly, allowing me to work with all sorts of yarns, wools and threads in whatever way I choose. 

Elizabeth Pawle - Winter Light embroidered wall hanging - Inky Collective Blog

How did you start selling your work, and approaching stockists?

The career change for me was an easy one as I had the freedom to allow my new direction to evolve – there was no jump from magazines to art, no hurry to make a living. I was lucky enough to never need to approach stockists – they found me, one way or another – but I always preferred to sell my work myself. I like to know who my customers are, and to be able to talk with them about the piece they were buying.

This is especially important to me now that I sell the majority of my pieces privately. I want my customers to know that they are investing in a unique piece, which has been sewn or drawn or painted by me over many hours, and for them to know its history and its personality.

 Elizabeth Pawle - Afternoon Wanderings original illustration - Inky Collective Blog

You have worked with paint, wood, embroidery, and even porcelain in collaboration with Little Birdy! Are there other mediums you hope/plan to work with?

Over the last few years I’ve worked across many mediums, but I have emerged with firm favourites. I love to draw in soft charcoal and occasionally pencil (always 8B). I paint in gouache and sometimes watercolours, and very occasionally I paint in acrylics. I almost exclusively work on paper, and I always choose the thickest weight watercolour paper I can get my hands on! Sometimes I use hot pressed paper but most often I use rough.

Currently I’m working on my Scatterings collection: a series of textile wall hangings, all abstract mark-makings in bright colours on natural hessian.

Elizabeth Pawle - Scatterings Six embroidered wall hanging - Inky Collective Blog 

Can you talk us through your creative process? Do you decide on the medium, or does an idea for a picture come first?

When I work, I never start with an idea, although I usually have a colour or a combination or colours in mind. If I’m painting, I mix maybe three colours and put them together on the paper, adding marks and details as I go.

My embroidery is completely freeform – I work from a bag of mixed yarns and threads, which I keep neat but in no order whatsoever, and I add colours and marks to the fabric in whatever order I feel like. When working on a large Scatterings piece I’ve noticed that I always start with the corners and I always give each stitch a companion as soon as I can.


Elizabeth Pawle - Scatterings WIP embroidered wall hanging - Inky Collective Blog


What advice would you give someone looking to follow their passion full time?

I’m so lucky in that my career has evolved over several years to the point at which I find it now, where I’m making a good living from it and my work has become collectible. I think a move into an artistic career is always going to be an excellent decision, if that is where your heart lies.

With any kind of career change it’s always important to figure out the logistics before taking the plunge – your financial situation, the lifestyle implications – but if you have all that in hand then just do it!


Elizabeth Pawle - One Cloud Over The Glacier embroidered wall hanging - Inky Collective Blog


Elizabeth recommends…

Social Network – Instagram

I use Instagram as a daily source of inspiration – I love to see what others are creating, and it has become such a supportive community for makers and artists.

Blog – Design Sponge

Blog – A Beautiful Mess

Supplier – Sara’s Texture Crafts

I pick up my supplies all over the place – I use ebay, Etsy, local art and textile shops – but I always buy my roving from Sara’s Texture Crafts as her colours and quality are amazing.


Thank you Elizabeth! Isn’t her work beautiful?

You can follow Elizabeth’s work and even buy a piece for yourself in the following places:

Twitter – @ElizabethPawle

Instagram – @ElizabethPawle

Etsy – ElizabethPawle

Jen Wright

Jen Wright

Letterpress printer, maker and freelance writer. I blog about the people and things that inspire me, in the hope that I will inspire you.
Jen Wright

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So, what do you think?