Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meet Ellen of Shadow Feet

I have a new friend! We met over two intensive days of rehearsing for a big extravaganza fashion-y theatre-y thing, and my job was kinda to make her laugh because the director said she hired her for her smile! I have to agree, Ellen Sørensen lights up the room when she smiles.
see what I mean!

Now, Ellen does something stunning. She cuts paper very intricately. She makes layers! She lights her pictures from behind, sometimes they are in a box with a peep hole! All this is exciting enough! Then Ellen tells me she loves telling stories in this way and, well...we got on a roll about storytelling...more on that later!
image courtesy of Ellen's website
It kinda began for her in her second year in Art school back in her hometown of Auckland. But not really! You see, Ellen grew up with her mum and dad, big sister and grandfather all encouraging her to tell stories! And they told her their made up ones. Her grandfather (Danish born) and her mother would spend their time embroidering, and this instilled in young Ellen a sense of beauty and taking time to make something, the handmade, and how normal and very human it is to tell stories. Team that with living in some very beautiful seaside, forest-y places near Auckland (did you know there are NO SNAKES in New Zealand;  not one ), which Ellen wandered through, and you have the makings of a richly imaginative child with a deep connection to nature.
I think now is a good time to show you what Ellen has been up to!! (it's 8 minutes)

Let The Light In m4v from ELLEN SORENSEN on Vimeo.

 Now as you can see, Ellen is also a musician! That's really a bit unfair, I hear you say, for one person to have such a concentration of talent.  Ellen started tinkering freely on the piano when she was 6 years old, and began lessons at 7, doing piano exams, becoming quite accomplished by the sounds of it. She went to art school when she finished school, moving into urban Auckland to live an old dentist surgery.
Last year (2013) Ellen moved to Melbourne, looking to connect with other artists and to feel less isolated. She's already had a solo exhibition of her paper cuts entitled ""A Place To Call One's Own" at the Melbourne City Library. The works were placed in little nooks and backlit with little lamps. Damn! I missed it!
Only yesterday I heard Ellen's song, "Big Bear" played on 3PBS on the show Homebrew.
I tell Ellen she really has landed on her feet,  as we sit in a cute Thornbury backstreet cafe.
Have a listen!
Ellen explains she now belongs to a collective of musicians called Air Punch Collective , who have a novel  song club idea going and are who are putting on a show soon. The show concept is interesting: it's called "mixed doubles" and everyone pairs up and collaborates on each other's songs. She gave me a listen on her phone of a recording she'd made at the rehearsal with her "doubles" partner David Carlin . It sounds sweet! In fact, Ellen's harmonies are very striking on her song Big Bear. I asked her did she sing all the harmonies? Yes. They sound free, and intuitive, and in fact, the recording sounds like a big party! Just loose enough to have energy, intimate enough to draw you in. And the story: Ellen's own grim fairytale. I ask her which fairytales she loved as a kid: Hansel and Gretel and she had a Danish copy of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. Unsanitised. The mermaid has to cut her own tail off. We start ranting about how great real fairytales are! How children need the dark, they need those archetypes intact. If we make fairytales nice and polite and safe we are robbing children of the images we as humans need in life to access our own stories and our own shadow self.
photo courtesy of Ellen's website

And telling her stories through fairytale imagery and leaving space for others to relate with their own stories is what Ellen likes.
photo pinched from Ellen's facebook page

I ask Ellen about her moniker "Shadow Feet".
"It has to do with the retrospective way I write my music: I had this image of a character wandering back through time being followed by it's shadow and  memories of places and experiences that I've had forming my present, and that's how I felt about my self when I wrote them,  being informed by my shadows." I love that!

Thank you Ellen for a lovely chat!

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