Conversation with Belinda Evans from Alchemy Store

Many people seem think that being sustainably minded with a reverence for nature means running off to live in an isolated forest where they must let all bodily hair outlets go free whilst writing some kind of complex and profoundly insightful novel on the nature of society…A description that hugely contrasts the reality of existing in an overly stimulating city situation. However, the ethos of multidisciplinary Australian artist and maker Belinda Evans prompts us to think a little differently. Belinda lives out a stunning life of simplicity and thoughtfulness from inner city Melbourne, whilst effortlessly encompassing all the admirable values you would find of a life in the wops wops.
Aesthetically balanced, delicate and humble, her artfully crafted work is proof that we cannot surpass the natural world when it comes to creative source and innovation; a concept that she admittedly relishes with each new outdoor endeavour she finds herself on. Pair all of the above with an absolute attitude of brilliant awareness and appreciation for her place in the world and you've got yourself one heck of a lady.

Image + Top image: Alchemy + Pierre Curry

If you had to give a summary of yourself and what you do to someone who had never heard of it before, what would you say?
I'm in love with being alive, spontaneous, passionate and love to laugh often and loudly.
I always have lots of projects on the go, and I love them all. All of them are focused on facilitating connecting people with themselves, each other, and the rest of the natural world.
I work as a curator and placemaker for South Melbourne Market, on sustainable living communications and events for local government, and I have my own business (Alchemy) through which I create art, wearables, homewares and whatever else takes my fancy using foraged and found natural materials. I also write for, teach creative workshops, and whatever comes my way that feels right.
What do you love about what you do?
I can honestly say that I love almost everything about all the things that I do. A combination of being ridiculously optimistic and choosing carefully what I invest my time and energy in means that I get a lot of pleasure from my work. All of my work is incredibly meaningful and satisfying. Some of what I do is very messy and hands on, some has me up to my neck in spreadsheets, other times I'm in long, strategic meetings, then the next day I'm collecting eucalyptus leaves. I love the big things and the small ones, and I love the changes from day to day. I enjoy the people I get to work with, and I love the challenges that my work brings.

Images: Alchemy

What were the motivations behind creating your brand and what did your world look like before its conception?
Alchemy came about quite organically as a way of sharing the things I was making with other people. After I discovered how healing and enjoyable making was for me, I became quite a prolific maker! I realised that, although I loved the things I was making, it was the making process that was most important to me, so I would just try new mediums and techniques with the natural materials that I was finding as often as I could. As you can imagine, my home (and later, my studio) became quite full! So I opened my little online store and started selling the things I was making there and through shops that share my values. Before Alchemy I was working as a sustainability educator, and my main creative outlet was writing. I didn't always spend a lot of time creating with my hands, although I've always had a strong appreciation for the creative work of others, especially slow crafts. I have always felt very connected with and inspired by the natural world, and this has expressed itself in different ways across my life.

What themes, items or spaces do you love to work with most and why?
I love working with found natural materials like clay, wood and flora, anything that I can discover while exploring and experience with all of my senses. I easily become immersed in whatever I'm doing so I can work almost anywhere, but I prefer to be outdoors, in the sunshine and close to the sea.

Who or what do you think is the embodiment of simple and thoughtful living?
For me, the Japanese principle of wabi sabi offers a good explanation of what it means to live simply and thoughtfully. Applied to everyday living, it's an appreciation of simple rituals, modest living and accepting things just as they are - imperfect and constantly changing. It's having a favourite pair of jeans that you chose carefully for their quality and continued usefulness over time when you bought them, wear every day, continue to repair over and over as they age, and grow to love them even more over time as they soften and yield to your unique body and patterns of living. It's the opposite of mindless consumption and a disposable lifestyle.

Images: Pinterest (left) & Alchemy

How do you endeavour to embrace simplicity in your life?
I'm on a journey to learn how to make and do everything I need from scratch as part of my endeavour to embrace simplicity. I find a great deal of satisfaction in simple, everyday tasks. At the moment I'm working on mastering wheel throwing pottery, hand quilting, making kimchi the traditional way, and using food as medicine.
I've also become really good at saying no, which is one of the biggest steps I've taken toward embracing simplicity in my life. It has also freed up more time for developing those life skills I mentioned above, which is great for the soul.

Do you have any daily rituals? What do they mean to you?
I start each day with a sleep in (whenever I wake naturally, that's the time that I get up), yoga and a pot of herbal tea. I'm not really a morning person, so I like to move slowly, listen to my body, and ease into the day.

How do you create thoughtful and inspiring spaces to live and work in? What are your essentials?
Having a calm and inspiring space in which to spend my days is very important to me. I feel that my physical environment has a great influence on my quality of life. I create this calm and inspiring space using airy, open rooms, soft, neutral tones, natural materials, incense and essential oils, and lots of plants.

What is your most treasured possession?
I do love my collection of foraged Australian native plants. It brings me a lot of pleasure.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Say no when you mean no, and yes when you mean yes. It took me years to truly understand and act upon that piece of advice, but once I did, everything started to feel good and fall into place.

Who or what is your creative muse or iconic visionary?
At the risk of sounding like a stereotype, my main muse is the natural world with as little manipulation as possible. I don't tend to fixate on humans as muses, although there are a few creatives whom I'm finding particularly inspiring right now.
Milena Silvano is a UK-based clothing designer who uses natural fibres, reclaimed sheepskin and natural dyes to create beautiful wearables and accessories. Her clothing is the kind that you'll keep and treasure forever and pass on to your children.
Angus McDiarmid of Pan Pottery works with local clays, a kick wheel and traditional wood during to create beautiful, functional ceramics.
Oriel Glennen uses stones, shells and other natural objects found near her seaside home along with intricate crochet work to create the most exquisite jewellery.
Images: Alchemy  

What are you currently:

Listening to: Wildflowers by The Avalanches
Watching: Sunsets on the beach
Reading: Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Learning: Wheel throwing pottery

What are you looking forward to?

Right now I'm looking forward to spending summer evenings by the sea.

Interview by Rosie Fea

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