Tuesday, 18 September 2012

show & tell - leslie keating

I first came to Leslie Keating's work through her beautiful scrappy quilts a few years ago. She has a great eye for putting fabrics together and I love her often eclectic mixes and the random piecing style she uses. They are still some of my favourite quilts.

I started following her blog (formerly onegirl but now maze and vale) way back then and have followed it avidly ever since. Leslie loves fabric and it shows. Her creative experiments over that time have included many forms of printing, dying and sewing with fabrics. She is also well known for her beautiful soft toy designs, the much loved Oobees and Fleurs.

On top of that she's run two handprinted fabric swaps in the last year or so that have motivated loads of people to print their own fabric, inspiring them to try out techniques and designs on material and swap them with new friends around the world. I've joined up both times, and both times I've loved playing with a block printing technique that I might not have tried without her motivation. Her swaps gave me the incentive to put ink to fabric and have given me some favourite patterns, and I was gifted with many beautiful handmade fabrics in return.

Generous with her process, Leslie shares a lot about her experiments, her equipment which is often inexpensive and homemade, and her methods. Her blog and pinterest is full of handprinting inspiration and technique.

Leslie changed directions creatively a bit last year, her blog and business became Maze and Vale to reflect this new venture, screenprinting her own fabrics in small sruns. Since then she has been producing beautiful and distinctive prints in favourite colours in her small home studio.

Read on to find out what she's going to do next! Thank you Leslie for being part of Show & Tell today.

Leslie Keating
Melbourne, Australia

1. Can you give us a short description of your blog/style/work
I'll tackle my blog in the second question and focus on the style/work part here: I'm a graphic designer turned textile designer, avid sewer and mother of two little girls. I'm drawn to muted colours, interesting angles, asymmetry, disarray in patterns, simplifying the most compelling forms of nature and screen printing it all by hand in my wee tiny studio (ahem, the third bedroom).


2. Why blog? How did you start?
I started my blog when I first moved to Melbourne in 2005. It was great to let my family and friends back home in Canada know what I was up and turned out to be a brilliant way to meet people in a new city. I've gone through varying stages with it over the years, where my writing is more personal than others and lately it is mostly about my creative pursuits. There are oh-so many things I want to actually write about, I compose meaningful blog posts in my head daily but entertaining a 2 and 4 year old all day takes it toll on my brain power and usually by the time they go to bed, I can barely string a sentence together, let alone find the energy to type it out. I find the time to share what I'm designing and printing to help build my little hand printed fabric business, Maze & Vale, and just hope that some magical day I'll find the way to string all those other sentences together.

scrap quilt

3. Family taught/Self-taught/Trained?
My mom sewed a ton when I was young, making most of my clothes, halloween costumes, Christmas stockings, etc but I would say I'm basically self taught. I was too stubborn to learn from my mother and thought Home Ec was pretty boring in junior high. I used my mom's sewing machine a bit in my teens to hem jeans and turn pj bottoms into shorts (ah, the grunge years) but it wasn't until I moved to Melbourne and bought my own machine that I really started figuring it all out. As for printing, I studied Graphic Design & Illustration in college and did a short and very impractical screen printing course right after I graduated. It was fairly technical and didn't use any materials/equipment that you could easily use at home and so all these years later I taught myself how to do that, too. There are so many amazing books available and clear video tutorials online, I seriously believe you could teach yourself anything you could ever want to learn.

colour studies
4. Workspace - studio or kitchen table?
I use a spare bedroom as my studio and luckily have a carpenter husband who can outfit it to suit my needs. He's made me a huge tabletop for printing and a narrow desk for sewing (I can always move my sewing machine to my printing table when I need to do quilts or other large projects) and built an amazing amount of storage shelving into the closet.

5. Blog/Shop name, where does it come from?
Maze & Vale is my oldest daughter's nickname and my youngest daughter's middle name.

6. Favourite media to work in?
Can I just say fabric? I loooooooooove fabric. LOVE. Always have really. Sewing is the first craft (and I've done/tried pretty much all of them) that I've been inspired to keep learning and continue to be thrilled by, because it lets me work with fabric and create things that are both beautiful and useful. And now that I can design and print my own textiles, in whatever colours I want, I'm pretty much in heaven.

eucalyptus bark dye pot
7. Ambitions/future directions/future projects/medium you'd like to try?
I'd like to get back into making custom quilts, improvisational and unique, using mainly my own fabric. I have dreams about designing a commercial fabric line with Kokka, Yuwa or Cloud 9. I'd love to do some collaborations with quilters and designers that I admire and someday I'll dream up an idea for an exhibition and try to get that happening. For the next couple of years I'm going to stay small and enjoy hanging out with my two kids, printing when time allows and sewing in the evenings.

8. Are you neat and organised or, ahem, creatively messy?
Hmmm, maybe both? When I'm working to a deadline or on a large project, I am messy. I throw scraps of fabric and thread on the floor, make piles of stuff everywhere, shove things on shelves or into boxes, wherever they will fit. But I regularly tidy and organise my studio, especially if I'm about to start something new. I like to know where to find things and remind myself of supplies I'd forgotten I had, projects I'd forgotten I started. I get super inspired when my studio is neat and tidy, all set to get messy again.

new fleurs
9. Favourite handmade, handcrafted item you own not made by you.
Oh man, I have so many... I'll pick three that stand out: a small, dark grey rake vase, resembling a wasp's nest, that a dear friend brought me from Japan, an amazingly beautifully made doll from Sara of A Little Sprout that I purchased while pregnant with my first daughter and more recently, the stunning simplicity of the pod vase and mug from Melbourne local, Shiko.

sprig resin pendant

10. Favourite food/recipe?
It's a bit boring but truly, popcorn. Tried and true, I will choose homemade popcorn over almost anything. I make it on the stovetop with rice bran oil and cracked rock salt and it is AMAZING.

11. Favourite colour?
Grey has been a long time favourite but a muted, smokey teal would be a close second these days. A quick look at my colour board on Pinterest reveals many examples of each!

XOX quilt kit

12. Star sign?
Scorpio. Yep.

13. Favourite place, landscape (not necessarily Australian)?
I have a special connection with Vancouver and always feel immediately at home there. Something in the air, maybe. I enjoyed every minute of the two years I lived there, near Commercial Drive and then right in the West End with great restaurants and shopping, Granville Island, Stanley Park, the beach, the seawall and pretty much anything else you could ever wish for just a hop, skip and a jump away. The whole city, made up of all its varied neighbourhoods, is just amazing, I think plus I met my Aussie husband there so its got a million great memories tied to it.

stamp carving

14. Any tricks for juggling life/work/family with creative pursuits?
Having my own space is hugely important, I think. Being able to just shut the studio door and then go back to what I was working on, untouched, when I have the time. Right now I keep my Maze & Vale work pretty separate from its namesakes. Aside from trips to the post office and checking my email while they eat lunch, when I'm with my kids, I like to be focussed on them. As they get older I hope to involve them more in my creative life, if they're interested. I have daydreams of the girls hanging out in my future, larger, outside-of-the-house studio, doing their own printing or sewing or homework while I do my thing.

15. Favourite artists, artisans, crafters etc?
Again, there are so many... here are the ones that popped into my head first: Ink & Spindle, Skinny Laminx, Leah Duncan, Naomi Ito, Cloth.

dropcloth art cards

16. Your favourite thing you've made/written/done.
Probably the quilt we use in our living room. The front is pieced with different shades of grey, using cloth that I hand dyed, and it's really heavily quilted. I think the quilting alone took me about nine hours but the texture is so beautiful.

17. What do you like to do besides creating?
I'm a huge treasure hunter so I love op shops and those antique warehouse type of places but it also extends into nature. Be it the beach or a walk through the forest, I just can't help coming home with pockets of beauty - shells, feathers, stones, seedpods, leaves… Sometimes if I have my camera, it's enough to just capture the treasures that way instead. I've always loved photography and that has only expanded since having my kids, documenting them as they grow is so important to me.

citrus pram freeform


  1. Lovely interview! I'm a long-time admirer of Leslie's work too. We have a much-loved corduroy Oobee toy from Leslie in our house.

  2. What a great interview! I love Leslie's work so much - it is truly inspiring. Love reading her blog too although I cannot fathom how I've only just discovered it this year! :)
    Thanks for this Susie. Kx

  3. Great interview Susie. I love Leslie's blog and aesthetic.

  4. and Leslie is too polite to mention that she is amazingly generous as well and extremely supportive of other crafters...She also makes a mean quiche. Another great interview!

  5. Great interview, I don't think Leslie has made anything that I haven't loved - and she is a lovely lovely person.

  6. A great interview! Leslie is such a inspiring and creative soul! I just loved learning more about her world :)

  7. Wonderful! So much talent and such a beautiful aesthetic. :)

  8. Great interview and such a talented and inspiring designer, I love reading her blog and seeing her creative approach.


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