'Reverence for the imperfect and the unfinished ' Ellen Hopkin
Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Welcome to the Creative Life Happier Life Blog, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Tell us about yourself...
Hi readers! My name is Ellen and about 6 months ago I had an idea. Well, another idea. I have at least 72 a day and they only come to fruition if I really feel that they are ones that are good enough or prompted by God to have a go at, or best of all - both.
This is one of those.
The Creative Life Happier Life blog popped into my brain as a way to encourage you and help you discover new ways to express your faith and communicate with God. This does NOT mean you have to be ‘a creative’. Actually, we are all creative! This is not limited to paint brushes or music. Although this space is for exploring these things, it's NOT exclusive. What i’m interested in as we read through the following interviews over the coming weeks, is how to find new ways to use artistic creativity to deepen our faith and strengthen our relationship with God. You will read about crafts such as bible journaling, glass work, music, drawing and photography. You may want to try one or two, you may not come across something you want to try. But could I encourage you to have a go? The purpose of this is to find more ways to connect with God and to keep your mental and spiritual health in check.
‘The creative impulse is fundamental to the experience of being human. This impulse may be expressed through art, craft, creative writing, dance, design, drama, film, music making or singing, by ourselves or with others, and we are making more creative use of digital media. We may access art by walking around our cities or heritage sites, visiting concert halls, galleries, museums, theatres or libraries. The act of creation, and our appreciation of it, provides an individual experience that can have positive effects on our physical and mental health and well-being.’
The NHS Confederation
Just looking at art and listening to music can help us feel good AND make that connection with a God who is there and waiting. So what if you can only draw a stick man? So what if you’ve only used a throw away camera at a wedding? So what if you don’t have grade 8 flute? Using creativity through my life has led to discovering a reverence for the unfinished. To appreciate the unfinished and the imperfect is to understand the heart of God. We are all unfinished, we are all imperfect, yet what we offer to him in worship with truth and love is all he
I live in Hampshire with my husband, three kids, loopy dog and 2 cats who split their time between here and our lovely neighbours (thanks to said loopy dog). I love coffee, books, Jesus, cheese, Star Trek, Shakespeare, sleep and making stuff (not necessarily in that order, but coffee first always helps).
Here at CLHL we believe that creativity comes in all forms, from accounting to crochet! How does your creative talent manifest itself?
I run a small business called ‘Faith In Fabric’ in which I work with fabric and other mediums to create original artwork, prints and cards of that artwork, embroidery hoops and other notions. It stemmed from a love of words mixed in with an obsession with fabric and a relationship with God. It came about as a business because I needed to find a flexible way of working in order to be at home more, for reasons I shall explain.
I particularly love working on commissions for people as they are so personal. They are special things that are always such an honour to make. It’s a trust thing I guess, they trust me to get it right and I have to believe in myself to do that!
How do you think using your creativity enhances your well being?
Sometimes my creativity goes walkabout. It just gets up, packs its little handmade bags and trots off for a while. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager and quite often this can lead to really barren creative lands. What I have learned is that (on days when I can) sticking on some worship music and just listening is a great place to begin. God uses music throughout the bible and I love how he has continued to gift people to give us ways to reach out to God through lyrics and melodies.
My creativity is an outlet, it’s a bit like a pressure valve and sometimes I have to let it out. I really love taking pictures and recreating them with thread, watercolours and ink. Focusing on a task can really help my brain not to wander off along with my creativity. Being creative for me means being disciplined!
How do you think using your craft helps you to connect with God?
Stitching bible verses certainly gets his word in my brain! I can’t help but be reminded and encouraged by what he has to say to us. Challenged too, when I’m struggling to separate my business head from some of my creative one, especially at busy times like Christmas. It's not just ‘make, sell, make, sell’. There’s more to my process than that but it can get a little lost from time to time. There are always ways to connect, I just have to remember they are there!
Recently, I've been working on a portrait of a Father and Son walking along a path towards some woodland. Each time I look at it and how the Father is holding his son as they walk together, i’m reminded that God is walking with me too. One of my favourite pieces of art is ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’ by Charlie Mackesy and more often than not I find myself taking in other people’s craft to connect with God. It’s like filling up my tank by dipping into other pieces that really speak to me. It's a gift to me from God, through them.
Do you think God works through your skill? How?
There have been a couple of occasions where I've experienced this. Quite often after bouts of imposter syndrome, God plonks something in front of me and says ‘See, I told you this is what you should be doing right now!’
A few weeks back I received this message:
‘Yesterday I placed an order for 3 of your prints including, ‘I see the moon’. This was the first song our youngest daughter sang when she was almost three. She was born with a large tumour, that meant she had a tracheostomy until she was five and a half. She used makaton to communicate, until one day she managed a whispering ‘m’ sound. Then one day whilst I was singing this she joined in when I sang ‘moon’. She went from ‘m’ to ‘moo’, to ‘moon’ in just a few months. When I saw your print I burst into tears! Your print will remind us of a very special memory and milestone’.
So on one level I feel God working through some of what I do. I also see him working through the fact that (although I care for all three) I'm specifically a carer for one of my children. God made me an ‘ideas woman’ for a reason and boy do i have to be resourceful! I also have to write plenty of lists to keep myself in check.
My creative nature is where my ideas tend to manifest and whether I’m dreaming up prints, singing along to worship music or sewing away it feels like it’s where he wants me to be.
Do you have any tips or golden nuggets of wisdom for any of our readers who may like to try accessing your creative skill?
Nuggets of wisdom? Who wrote these questions? Oh hang on...I did.
My ‘nugget’? It would be to try. Try and try and try different things. Try new ways of talking to God. Explore his word with a pen in your hand or go and listen to it on a walk and take note of what you see. Spend time looking at other pieces or listening to others work. Grab a colouring book and some colour pencils - just try!
Perfection is not the aim here, God is! In this day and age, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of not wanting to try things because ‘I can never do what she does’ or ‘his stuff is so good, i couldn’t ever show anyone what I’ve written’. Guess what? Those little squares of perfection (although great for my business) aren’t real life and certainly not eternal life. He loves us as we are and he is ready and waiting to hear from us.
Quick fire round!
Pen or computer?
Home or abroad?
Home. Cornwall every time!
On your bucket list?
To be in a play!
Who would play you in a movie?
Skill you’d like to learn?
I’d like to get better at playing guitar
Favourite bible verse?
Micah 7 v 7-8
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.
Chocolate or cheese?
All of the cheese. Yum. Especially that lush Cornish Cruncher M and S do at Christmas! (Other cheese providers are available).
You can find Ellen's work at www.faithinfabric.co.uk
and on Instagram (@faith_in_fabric)