Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Meet… Kirsty Elson

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 4 minutes.


Kirsty Elson lives in Cornwall with her partner and two sons and admits they are all mad about the beach. This love inspired Kirsty to start her own business making sculpture, collage and textile decorations with a nautical feel. From lavender jelly fish to whale pin cushions, Kirsty’s work can’t fail to make you smile. Much to my pleasure, she’s taken time in between designing, making and beach combing to talk to me at Frankly. Jump on board, grab a seat and let me introduce you to lady behind Kirsty Elson Designs.

Hi Kirsty, first off, tell us about your work?

My work really falls into 3 categories: driftwood sculpture, paper collage and textile decorations.

Kirsty and the Whale

My favourite medium is the wood, because each piece is inevitably different. The collages are very time-consuming and are usually commissioned. The textile pieces are my bread and butter!

With such a broad collection of work, could you pick your favourite? 

Only the second question in and I want to cheat already – can I pick 2?

The first is a driftwood piece called Rough Sea. I like the simplicity and vivid colour. I love the sea part: the wood was found exactly like that…there is real movement in that water. It was one of those pieces you are kind of sad to sell in a way!

In contrast, my other favourite work is a collage I made of Polperro near here. I am usually quite prolific when it comes to work output, but this took me ages. The collage work is very therapeutic though.

You’re an established designer-maker now, where did it all begin for you?

I did an illustration/printmaking degree a long time ago, then life sort of took over before I knew it a decade had passed! Then a move to Cornwall coincided with the birth of my eldest son, and I started making driftwood cards for galleries. After my youngest son was born a few years later, I took part in some craft fairs, started a blog and crucially opened my Folksy shop!

With the recent boom in “handmade”, how do you keep your work unique?

As far as the driftwood stuff goes that is easy: no two finds are ever the same and I am guided by my materials. Similarly with the collages, there is no way I could replicate them as I use different bits of paper all the time. The textile pieces are different though: its a highly competitive market. I am constantly scribbling new designs, and using a variation of fabrics to make the items different.

We’re always keen to hear about the spaces artists work in. Tell us about yours?

My studio is only small, but it is lovely and light and I adore it! For years I worked from the dining table, but it makes so much difference having my own space. And I can shut the door on my mess!

Kirsty's studio

I think that’s the tidiest workspace we’ve seen so far. You must be very organised! Describe your day as a designer maker.

My youngest has just started school and I am loving the extra time that gives me! During busy periods it is common for me to work evenings and weekends, hopefully less so now!

I am extremely disciplined: I love my job and a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work.

Kirsty at work in her studio

If you REALLY had to, what three making tools could you not live without?

Oooh, hard one. My sewing machine, chisel and scissors!

Where do you go and what do you do if creativity is stifled?

Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often. I never seem to have enough time and ideas are always swimming around in my head. If I am stuck though, I may read a few blogs or magazines. Or better still, get myself to the beach. The sea always inspires me.

I can see you take a lot of inspiration from your surroundings, but are you also inspired by other artists?

Constantly. I love the work of Alfred Wallis and I am completely in awe of the exquisite creations by Tamar Mogendorrf

Alfred Wallis - Ship in Rough Sea
Tamar Mogendorff - Large Birdhouse

What’s do you love most about being a designer-maker?

Flexibility and just doing what I love doing every single day. I am so grateful for that. Plus there is a fantastic crafting community out there!

What would you say to any designer makers starting out?

Good photography and originality is key. If you can tick those boxes, then go for it!

If you love the look of Kirsty’s work, you might want to have a snoop around her Folksy shop Kirsty Elson Designs.