Meet the Maker: Nicola Brown, textile maker developing a sustainable textile practice
Nicola Brown is a textile maker and DCCI member who works from her studio at Clasheen on the Carlow / Kilkenny / Wexford border in Ballybrack, in the shadow of the Blackstairs Mountains. Nicola is developing a sustainable textile practice, her current work explores the use of eco printing to impart colour directly from organic materials onto silk, wool, handmade felt and vintage linen. As well as creating exhibition pieces and work for sale Nicola facilitates regular felting and eco printing workshops online. She also uploads weekly tips, mini tutorials and/or updates from Clasheen to her YouTube channel. nicolabrown.ie.
What's a typical day in the studio like for you?
I'm really interested in the sustainability of my practice. I grow my own natural dye plants and trees to colour my textiles. A typical day could start with tending the dye borders or a walk with the dog around the property to check the trees - I've planted over 13,500 trees. Each day I'll answer questions from online workshop students. Depending on the day, I could be laying out a new piece of felt or starting an eco printing project.
What do you like most about your work?
I have three words that describe my practice; simple, natural and crafted. I work in an environmentally conscious way. I love being outside, and I really love that I can see the circular process of my work - from planting new dye borders, harvesting vegetation to seeing the final textiles I've created, it's a holistic practice.
I love seeing the seasons change and the seeing the change of the seasons reflected in what I'm amking. I grow my own vegetation, so there's seasonality to my work. At different times of year, I have access to different vegetation and different plants. I use leaves in my work and, if there's been heavy rain, the leaves release a different dye than when there's been a dry spell. I create 99% of my work without using traditional mordants (to fix the dye), and so I work with limited vegetation at different times of the year. I find that contrary to what you would expect, older and tougher plants and leaves are better to work with.
I like every aspect of my work, I don't ever wake up and don't want to get out of bed!
What do you like least about your work?
Nothing, I like everything about my work! I suppose what I like least is that there aren't more hours in the day, I'd like to have more time to keep things tidy.
What advice would you give someone who is considering this craft career?
The advice I would give someone is to work hard, if you don't put the time in you won't see results - you reap what you sow. It's important to knuckle down and fine tune what you do.
Find something you love and work hard at it, if you're not passionate about what you do then there's no point in doing it.