Fiber artist Elizabeth DeCroos didn’t plan to focus on pojagi patchwork, but her desire to learn local textile traditions during the time she lived in South Korea opened a new creative world for her. She immersed herself in mastering a technique that was brand new to her but steeped in history. Having found her passion, Elizabeth wanted to bring pojagi home to share with others, so she developed her own techniques to practice the craft with materials that were easier to obtain when she returned to Canada.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
My name is Elizabeth DeCroos and I do all types of quilting, embroidery and sewing from my home studio in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
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What inspires you to create?
I get inspiration everywhere, but especially geometric shapes. I always notice patterns. My family thinks it’s weird, but they know I will take pictures of floors, walls and sidewalks.
How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?
I always enjoy learning new techniques, but in 2009 there was a massive shift. I travelled to South Korea with my family of young kids. We lived there for two years. While there, I had the opportunity to learn pojagi – a traditional Korean textile technique. I learned all the hand stitching techniques and made many things with new-to-me materials like silk and ramie.
When I returned to Canada, I found it difficult to find the Korean materials, so I developed a technique to do a similar patchwork technique with fabric more readily available. After much experimentation, my favourite fabric for this is batik.
I now design and teach a reversible patchwork technique that makes beautiful window hangings. These pieces have only one layer of fabric, but there are no raw edges. The seams are finished on both sides so it is totally reversible.
I also do traditional quilting and hand embroidery, but the pojagi window hangings are my unique signature style.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am definitely a planner. Usually I begin with sketches. I am old-school and use graph paper and coloured pencils. Once I have planned out a design, I rarely change it as I am making it.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
I like to watch videos on Youtube and take classes, but the only way to get better is to actually practice. I have to give myself permission to be bad at something before I can be good at it.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I am fortunate to have a great home studio. It is right off the kitchen in the heart of my home so I can keep an eye on things as I am working. My four kids are now teenagers and young adults, so they are in and out all the time.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think people are creative in different ways. Some people make things with their hands, and others create with words. Some people naturally make their surroundings beautiful with decorating or gardening. And some people create with makeup, hairstyles and fashion, while others create complex organizational structures.
Everyone is creative in at least one area, and the trick is to find what you are good at. You can always learn and improve in other areas, but finding your natural bent is what will bring joy to your heart.
The two enemies of creativity are thinking that “being creative” is only one thing and comparing yourself to others. There are a lot of spaces in our lives for achievement and success, but it’s important to have a creative outlet that is not measured that way. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s sewing, baking, running or writing, even if you’re not “good” at it.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
Try different things.
Remember that learning takes practice. When a baby falls down, you don’t say “You’re horrible at walking, so give up.”
Give yourself permission to abandon projects that are adding more stress to your life. If you bought clay to try sculpting and end up hating it, just move on.
Is there a part of your process you enjoy most? Why?
My favourite part of the process is coming up with ideas and working out original designs. Unfortunately, I have more ideas than I can possibly make in my lifetime!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is www.epidastudio.com. “Epida” is a made-up word that kind of sounds like the Korean word for beautiful. It is my tribute to the influence of Korean culture in my work.
At the site, you will find lots of tutorials for quilting, pojagi and embroidery. There are both project tutorials and technique tutorials. Learn more about the history of pojagi and see some of the unique projects I made when I lived in Korea. You can also find patterns and courses available to purchase.
If we were to visit your studio today, what would we find you working on?
Like most makers, I always have a lot of projects on the go. Professionally, I am recording classes for my pojagi window hanging patterns. Some people learn best with video, especially since pojagi is so different from regular quilting.
In 2021, I am an ambassador for the Island Batik fabric company, so I am committed to making one project a month for them. Currently I am working on a quilt and a bag.
Personally, I am working on a couple of scrap quilts and trying to reduce my scrap bin.
Interview posted July, 2021
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