Niki Collier is a visual artist, maker and DCCI member who works from her studio in the creative courtyard in Marlay Park, Dublin.
As an award-winning material artist, Niki has been telling stories with wool for the past 10 years. Her personal work on microorganisms has materialised in a very sustainable story about sculpting viruses, including the CoronaVirus.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
I start my day with a tidy up. I put the timer up, tune into a podcast on political satire and work away till the alarm goes off after about 20 minutes or so. I then set up the current project I am working on and start working away on it. I do all of my making in the studio, all my materials and tools are there. The studio is small, so my workbench transforms seamlessly from a worktable to a streaming studio, to a vibrant workshop space or retail experience imbued with the drama of storytelling.
What do you like most about your work?
I love my work. The process and the people are great craic. I am obsessed with how felt is made – it gives you these quiet moments of intimate self-discovery in the solitude of my studio followed by vibrant gatherings of individuals at fairs and exhibitions. What is there not to love?
Conjuring up an idea out of wool is simultaneously humbling and healing, and it always grounds me – even when everything around me is crumbling I could hold on to felt. Still, this is just a small part of it. I love our community – a bunch of problem solvers who are well aware we cannot solve it all. I do tend to mesh mostly with those who have a great sense of humour and who I could call at midnight to discuss earnestly how wool felts, clay dries and soap carves. You know, those who do not take themselves seriously, but are ready to go through ice and fire for their craft, and there is more to craft than that – there’s the adventure. It gives me joy knowing that my pieces travel the globe and have become lifelong companions to people from all walks of life. I am a blow-in in Ireland, raised in the back and beyond of Popovo, Bulgaria, and work with limited use of my right hand, yet somehow I have sold my work through the British museum, have had exhibitions from Shanghai to Finland and this is because wool found me here in Ireland. How peculiar is that?
What advice would you give someone who is considering this craft career?
Oh my advice would be very predictable!
Work. Dream. Work
Where possible spice up your dreams with common sense. So if you want to make good work then work. Some of the success comes from hours and hours of making, shortcuts come to a selected few and always come to bite them in the back eventually. Just give it time, make every day for at least a few hours. I am not trying to make it sound easy, it is hard and it is trying – it has been for me. However, there are always enough people to support you and enough opportunities to have a go at things. There may be moments when you are lost. So what! At least you can hold on to something – I hold on to wool.
Learn. Try. Understand.
Sign up for DCCI podcasts, LEO training, Arts Office Information Sessions, workshops, seminars. Ask questions, listen and share fearlessly. You are in the business of making – this means learning all the time. Dedicate a day a week to learn.
Create. Connect. Communicate.
New ideas are hard to make, problems are difficult to solve, processes always demand us to be better – so just accept it. Know who you are and give it your best. When I make something, I give it time to settle – I make a sample and then it sits somewhere in the studio so I can find out what it is and then I re-make it. This one is hard – check yourself out through what clients and stakeholders are telling you. But always remember that you know best how to be your best. So give things a go!