Crafter Ali Phillips Invites us Inside her Workspace
The chemistry’s just got to be right when sorting out the perfect studio space. Ali Phillips, science-student-turned-crafter, experimented with design and practicalities until she concocted the perfect formula. By Susan Hurley.
There’s real science behind Ali Phillips’ stitching and studio space. Why is it so? Because she exchanged periodic tables for work tables and chemical compounds for a crafting compound of her own. And she’s never looked back. “When I was 18, I decided to turn my love of sewing into a dressmaking business and dropped out of my uni chemistry course. I still love chemistry and science but now have much more satisfaction seeing my designs come to life out of my head.”
And as an unexpected bonus – as if confirmation that her university dropout choice was the right one – Ali Phillips can now dovetail family and her stitching career, through her Arabesque Scissors business. She home-schools her three youngest children, working their schedules around her professional stitching demands and their educational needs – all from one appealing blue-and-white space in her South Australian home. “The kids work alongside me in the mornings during their schoolwork, and I work in whatever other time I can fit around that. I’m also fortunate that I can take my crochet and hand sewing along with me to music lessons etc – and actually get a fair bit done.”
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But when that local orchestra tunes down and sounds its final bars for the day, Ali can return home to her studio – a rumpus room that runs off the dining area of their home in a picturesque town 20 minutes from Adelaide. The workroom is full of natural light and furnished with a mixture of modern white pieces and her precious thrifting finds. Sitting and sewing in these surroundings is ultra-conducive to her creativity, albeit with the romantic distraction of grazing cows and horses to be seen through her studio windows.
It’s probably a good thing that the rustic tranquillity is there outside the window to buffer the activity that is demanded of this square metreage. This one studio space is called upon for crafting, to act as a classroom and, some days, as convert to an office for another son’s graphic-design business. Being all things to many people has its charms, though, bringing the room to life and contributing to a flow of ideas.
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“Thankfully, it’s a large room, and we’ve given everyone their own space, although mine is continually encroaching on everyone else’s! Usually, we are all in there together. We put music on and work away at what we are doing, be it schoolwork or sewing,” says Ali. “I do enjoy having some time to myself, and certainly get more done when I am alone, but our catchphrase is ‘Together is our favourite place to be’, and I know that time is marching by very quickly, and soon I will be on my own more than I would like to be.”
It’s the natural order of things in Ali Phillips’ world to have natural order in things! She loves an uncluttered, clean workroom, with organisation being the No 1 priority. “I need to be able to find everything quickly, so I love everything having a place. And when I’m finished a project, I try to put everything back again. It doesn’t always happen when I have lots of work on, but eventually everything just has to stop while I tidy everything back to perfection,” she admits with a look of spontaneous relief crossing her face.
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It follows, then, that storage is important in the scheme of things, and the majority of the storage heavy-lifting in this room is done by Ikea furnishings, which Ali loves because of their simple aesthetic and versatility. “Our latest project was the large central work station,” she says. “We used two Ikea Kallax bookcases and two Ikea wooden benchtops and joined them with brackets. Since I am now also making quilts, we added some shelving in the middle, which is perfect for storing long bolts of fabric, rolls of batting and other less-pretty items, like camera tripods. The castor wheels make it portable, so it can move out of the way when we need more floor space. And the height saves me hunching, helping my neck and shoulders.”
Ali describes herself as a “perpetual homebody”, being happiest with bursts of nesting and decorating or curled up creating with her hook or whirring away on the sewing machine. So it’s more important for her than for most to have studio surroundings that beckon and invite, that keep her cosy, content and creative. And it looks like that will continue for some time to come: “This large room will be perfect for the future, because as more of my birds fly the coup, I will simply be able to take over the extra space. I know this will be happy and sad …” Ying and yang. Positive ions and negative ions. Science and stitching!
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