Listen to the full interview here
Welcome to Coffee with a Coastie. I sat down with Elizabeth Long, who at 82 is still creating textile art. Recently Elizabeth has been making beautiful items from her left–over fabrics. Making everything from masks, to quilts and tea cosies. Over the years Elizabeth has won prizes in The Quilter’s Guild of NSW for her textile art pieces, though now Elizabeth simply wants to inspire others to pick up whatever it is that interests them later in life and start doing it. So it is with great pleasure that I got to sit down and chat with Elizabeth to share her story.
I’ve read that you are a Dutch–born Australian. Do you mind sharing where you were born and how you came to settle on the Central Coast?
I was born in Amsterdam during the war. My family migrated to Australia in 1947, and I grew up in Bronte Beach. After marrying again, and after a visit to the Central Coast, moved here in the late ‘90s.
I understand you took up textile art in the 70s.
In the 70s, I was doing creative embroidery rather than the machining that I specialise in now. After being made redundant in the ‘80s, I joined TAFE to learn more. Inspired by Annemieke Mein’s work, I pursued three–dimensional soft sculpture.
What is it that inspired you to start using up your fabric stash a few years ago and how long had it been since you had created something before then?
While I was in Sydney, a lot of my work was exhibited in boutiques and art galleries. Then when Noel and I moved to the Central Coast, that all stopped. So I started making other things and realised people loved it because it was different to what other people were doing. But Noel was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and he died in 2014 and I really didn’t do anything creative since then, because I felt very flat. Then during the COVID lockdowns, I turned to my fabric stash. In the past few years, I’ve made countless pieces, possibly more than before. As the pieces haven’t been as time consuming as those that were exhibited.
What advice do you have for those seeking creative outlets?
I don’t think you’re ever too old to do something, though things might slow you down. For instance, I had a car accident three years ago, and it pinches my back nerves. I’ve also got carpal tunnel in my hands, so therefore I can’t knit, crochet or do things with my hands, which you would call handwork. But I’m bloody good on my sewing machine. It’s like an extension of my right arm. Nobody has said to me, you can’t do it. So I do.
What has been your most challenging textile project?
There has been many, though one is the outdoor installation of Annemieke Mein at The Peoplescape in Canberra in 2001.
What advice would you give to promote mental and emotional wellbeing, especially as we get older?
You need to mingle with and speak to other people. You don’t stop home and watch television and sit on your backside all day. You do things and it doesn’t really matter what. I love reading, but I couldn’t do it in the six years that Noel was sick. But I do it now. Though I won’t sit for more than one and a half hours. Because as we get older, we get too stiff, and we’re told don’t sit for a long time. So I try to do what I’m told.
Lastly, what would you say to someone who feels they may be too old to give something a go later in life.
Have a go. Really, have a go.
I’d like to thank Elizabeth for inviting me into her home to share her story and to help inspire others to pick up a needle, a brush or anything for that matter that they are interested in later in life. I look forward to continuing to see Elizabeth’s creations across the Central Coast.