Liz Ashurst – Inspiration from Eastern Europe

 Liz Ashurst –

Inspiration from Eastern Europe

0524 3 Red Star Odyssey

Elizabeth began her training in Colchester with two tutors who had trained at Goldsmiths College with Constance Howard. She taught embroidery and art to children at first but gradually moved on to teaching adults.

Her life changed in 1998 when the cellar in her house in Reigate flooded and she called in two plumbers from Poland who were working nearby. Elizabeth and the older plumber, Zbys, became friendly and he invited her to visit his house in the south of Poland near Sanok which is 50 kms from Ukraine in one direction and Slovakia in another.  Elizabeth soon realised that Zbys was a hunter when she saw antlers on the wall – he is also a builder and beekeeper. 

lockdown in Poland

Elizabeth was attracted to some of the Polish folk art; a paper cutting of a chicken inspired a red piece of embroidery, the many wood carving other pieces but it was the flora and fauna which really caught her interest. Zbys had bought a large piece of land and here he planted many trees and dug three lakes which were soon filled with fish. 


Elizabeth and Zbys split their time between England and Poland but decided to go to their country house for the Covid lockdown. They were there for eight months and Elizabeth made good use of the time and drew, painted and stitched the flowers and trees in the forests around their house, which led to a piece called “Escape to the Forest” which has a dyed sky, machine and hand embroidery, semi transparent fabrics and lace. Of course there is a downside to idyllic areas like this, bears, bison, wolves and wild boar roam around on the forest. A bear stole Zbys honey one time and on one of their many walk Elizabeth saw a bear track which was very concerning. 

Liz Ashurst 5

A cruise to St Petersburg made Elizabeth realise that President Putin had an enormous port at his disposal and the vulnerable position Sanok and indeed Poland is in. She made images of the cargoes dockyards and shipping in paint and collage on canvas. 

There are images from the Ethnographic museum in Krakov of local Polish costumes full of hand embroidery, sequins and amber necklaces and some photos of the shepherds bringing their sheep down from the Tetra mountains with their sheepskin waistcoats and embroidered  trousers. 


It was a very interesting talk, we learnt a lot about Poland, its history, folk art countryside, traditions and its important geographical position in Europe.

Write up thanks to Christine H

Photos thanks to Vernice


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