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Kirsty Elson A little home by the Sea

March 12, 2018

Kirsty Elson lives and works in Cornwall, her inspiration comes from her surroundings and her materials are recycled treasures collected from the local shoreline. I find her work such a joy to look at and take in, I got in touch to discover a little more.

When did you first know that you were destined to be an artist and what training did you undertake on your path to where you are today ?

Art was always my favourite subject at school and after completing a foundation course I did a degree in illustration. Those really were the best years of my life, but it became clear that I was never going to pursue a career as an illustrator. In those days it would have meant living in London (and I’m a bit of a country girl!)  I went through a variety of pretty crummy jobs and before I knew it, a decade had passed. It was only after my eldest son was born and I was turned down for a job as a postman(!) that I started making cards (using tiny slivers of driftwood) to make a bit of money. For quite a few years it was very part-time, but as my children have got older, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to the business.

Can you describe a typical working day for you.

Mornings are quite manic here before 9am with my daily swim and school runs, so I have my breakfast and do a bit of admin or packing up any orders before going out to the garage and immersing myself in making. Mostly I have no idea what I’m going to create beforehand –  I have a rummage through my driftwood collection and wait for inspiration to strike! I’m a bit spoilt in that I have 2 workspaces: the garage for cutting, sanding etc and a room upstairs in the house for painting and all the nice fiddly bits! I down tools when my youngest gets home from school, then later on in the evening I’ll spend time on social media (though I dip in and out of it during the day as well.)

I love the fact that you utilise recycled objects in your work. How did the idea for your work first take shape ?

I’d been making a few things from driftwood (cards, 3D boats etc) but one day I chanced upon a block of wood on the beach which was house-shaped, with a sloping roof and everything. When I got home, my partner cut me a bit of reclaimed slate for the roof and I secured it with a couple of rusty nails which doubled up as chimneys. As time has gone on and my work has developed, I’ll use anything I find in the street or wherever. My little boy is always on the lookout for treasure for me!

Where do you see your work going and do you have any future plans for developing your work in a different way ?

At the moment I’m really happy doing what I’m doing. I do try and push the boundaries and try new things. But one day maybe I’ll have a lightbulb moment and my work will take me in a completely different direction. You just never know!

Talking of lightbulbs, check out these fabulous Lighthouses.


These harbour shots remind me of beach holidays and summertime coastal days out I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Your art pieces are very visually stimulating and when I look at them, I can almost start to build stories involving the scenes you’ve created. Have you ever thought of making a book or an animation using your work ?

It has been suggested several times and I would love to be involved in an animation especially, but there are no concrete plans yet!

I imagine being a sole maker that there are times when you simply sell out and have to restock your Etsy shop. Do you ever get bored with the making process or does that fact that each piece is different, keep it fresh and stimulating ?

The wonderful thing about working with driftwood is that each piece is unique so I never make exactly the same piece twice. I’m also incredibly fortunate in that people send me stuff too, and often it’s the kind of wood that I wouldn’t usually pick up, so it forces me to think outside of the box and that keeps my work fresh and me stimulated!

I love these little scene scenarios, they are like freeze-framed extracts from a children’s film or storybook.

What’s your favourite / least favourite part of the making process ?

My favourite part would have to be the beachcombing bit – especially if it’s a dry day and I come back with a good haul!
Least favourite part is being in my garage in subzero temperatures – I really need to get some kind of heating in there!

Here’s some of the other pieces that Kirsty creates. How great are these sea-creatures! !

Do people send you photos of their homes and ask you to make them a commission ?

They used to! But I decided quite a long time ago that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to be going in. It was too restrictive and I prefer to work from my imagination!

Do you sketch your ideas from your local travels or do the scenes suggest themselves as you are making ?

I’m ashamed to say I rarely draw anything anymore! All the pieces I make are generic, and while I draw inspiration from lots of different places and take lots of photos, the scenes derive from the materials I’m using – it’s much easier to work that way!

What’s the best part about working for yourself ?

I love the flexibility- it means I’m able to go and see my son’s assembly or take a bit of time off if I want to. I’d hate to have to go and work for someone else these days!

I fully understand Kirsty, working for yourself is sooo good for the mind and soul too. Thank you for sharing some of your valuable time and energy to answer my questions today. Keep up the inspiring and beautiful work and I hope someday to see it featured in an animation or children’s book.

These final pieces above are amongst my favourites. What do you think readers ?







16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2018 3:14 pm

    I loved the little houses and then I saw the sea creatures and loved them even more! Then, that tricycle and the ship on the wave! These are great, like a tiny world where she has control of what happens.

  2. Elaine permalink
    March 12, 2018 7:50 pm

    I’m a big fan of Kirsty’s work, although I don’t own a piece as yet. Came across them whilst in the West Country some time ago. I have a thing about little houses as it is (stems from childhood and The Borrowers I think!!), and her’s are exquisite. Her pieces make my mind wander off to some beautiful imaginary places. Loving her new objects too, hadn’t seen them before, it always amazes me how so many different disused items can create such wonderful pieces of art. Thank you Craig for yet another great write up.

  3. March 12, 2018 8:59 pm

    Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful maker/artist. Having grown up in the middle of a peninsula, I love the coastline and fishing cottages, harbours, and lighthouses. I am, therefore, drawn to the subject matter. I also love that each piece is unique and that is crafted from found objects. They also look wonderfully tactile.

  4. March 13, 2018 4:00 pm

    Ahh ok as I’m from the Wirral Peninsula, I almost wondered if we used to be childhood neighbours lol You are such a long way from home these days, hope you’re enjoying the change of scenery.

  5. Ashleigh permalink
    March 4, 2020 4:25 pm

    Hello Kirsty!
    I’ve just seen you on Escape to the Country and you do amazing work!
    A lady after my own true heart!
    If you are reading this please get in touch with me as I would love a few tips!!

  6. Veronica Jefferies permalink
    March 4, 2020 5:09 pm

    Love your work just seen it on a place in the country. Do you have a site and pics and prices and do u post to Scotland. Veronica Jefferies

    • March 7, 2020 9:05 am

      Hi Veronica, thanks for your message but you’ll have to contact Kirsty directly, I’m just the person who wrote about her work. Try here and I hope you find a piece of her lovely work for yourself soon. Thanks Craig

  7. Fran Liptrot permalink
    October 20, 2021 3:31 pm

    Lovely stuff! Just watching you on Escape to The Country! Do you sell your pieces in any of the tourist places. We are going down to Newquay and Polperro in a couple of weeks.

    • October 25, 2021 9:21 am

      Thanks Fran you will need to get in touch with Kirsty directly through her website. Check the link on my blog post for that.

  8. Trish MacLeod permalink
    February 8, 2022 7:39 am

    Feb 2022
    I live in New Zealand and two days ago became the proud owner of 3 of Kirsty’s precious little Cornish cottages, a gift for my birthday from my two daughters. They had found them online and had them sent to me. No driftwood because of our border rules but I can find driftwood within 10 minutes of our home. The gift is especially significant as my forebears are from Truro and also my husband and I two years ago travelled to Cornwall with one of our daughters and family. Love Cornwall, love the cottages! Thank you Kirsty.

  9. Dan permalink
    April 26, 2023 10:05 am

    Good morning to you Kirsty, I am a massive fan of yours and have already purchased two of your incredible seaside pieces. I would like another please if possible? Where do I look? Previously I’ve been directed to Etsy, however I’m not 100% sure that these are your originals. Please advise,

    Kind regards

    Dan Tustain (a relentless St.Ives holiday goer and fan)!

    • April 27, 2023 7:53 am

      Thanks Dan, I have passed your email onto Kirsty through Instagram. This is just a post written about her and not a guaranteed way to reach her. Cheers Craig

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