About Nicola

Inspired by the beauty of the rural Irish landscape I create sculptural felt and wearable art using wool, linen, silk and other natural fibres.

Workshop dates and upgrade at Clasheen (part 2)

As promised, I’m starting to add dates for upcoming workshops at Clasheen to my diary, it’s taking more time that I thought but at least I’ve finally started to get the ball rolling. To kick things off ‘Naturally Nuno‘ is happening on the weekend of 7th and 8th May, this intimate workshop experience will be restricted to just two participants! Day one of this workshop will concentrate on felting a beautifully soft nuno wrap using the tumble dryer method of felting and day two to the eco printing. No physical rubbing and rolling will be involved during the nuno felting so this is the perfect technique for those of you who find traditional nuno too strenuous on your bodies or possibly just too time consuming! The second workshop that I’ve blocked out in my diary is ‘Successful Eco Printing Basics‘. These May workshops are also the first time that I’ll be able to offer optional simple shared accommodation on site in the newly updated guest suite. 12990952_1085907604788984_9222543952602369241_n

This lodging option consists of one double bed and one single bed in a nice light filled bedroom, by all accounts both beds are very comfortable if the friends who’ve already stayed here are to be believed!

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Next door there’s an adjoining guest sitting room; tomorrow I finish painting the custom built shelving there so by the time of the workshop it should be filled with CDs, fiction and interesting reference books for visitors to browse through. Finally for guests there’s a connecting bathroom with a zacuzzi bath but no shower, those who know me well know my obsession with baths.

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Here’s one last picture taken in the guest bedroom, the sliding door that you can see here was one of the original doors from when I bought the house. I always wanted to reuse it during my upgrading endeavours as I’d removed the old door frames to open up the space during initial renovations. So when the built in wardrobe (closet) was created to store my completed felt and eco printed textiles Jonathan fitted it to a custom made track, I’m delighted!

From the personal work point of view I’ve been felting away where possible and printing when the time arises. As soon as the last bit of paint dries on the shelving and the books are brought up from downstairs I’ll be locking myself away in my studio and working on pieces for my exhibition in August! I’ll leave you today with this picture of a piece I felted last week incorporating a base of black merino and a collage of eco printed silk samples. I love how it looks totally at home against the background of the dry stone wall on the lane.

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Next post……… final images of the ongoing upgrades at Clasheen, new felt in progress and more dates for your diary.

 

 

 

Exciting upgrades at Clasheen (part 1) and updated workshop news

Where to start! Last summer when I made the decision to stick closer to home for 2016 and not teach in the USA or Canada the die was cast. I absolutely love travelling, teaching abroad and visiting good friends but knew that if I didn’t spend time at Clasheen in the immediate future my home environment was going to deteriorate and the surrounding vegetation grow totally out of control. Many of my workshop participants over the years expressed a wish to come to Ireland and out of these joint musings the germ of an idea took place. Why not host a luxury residential felting and eco printing workshop at a beautiful country house near here? Why not upgrade my own storage and accommodation facilities at Clasheen so that I could host small bespoke textile workshops from home? Why not choose to stay in Ireland during the main growing season and start to wrest the garden back under some sort of organised control? Why not make one super human effort to build up trade, exhibition and workshop business here and follow up all the leads I’ve not had time to work on before? Why not whip my house and garden into shape and really make an effort to keep it that way? Why not enjoy living life to the full in this beautiful part of Ireland? Why not indeed!!!

Roll on April 2016. Thanks to friend Jonathan I’ve now got a totally restructured storage system, a gorgeous built in wardrobe for completed felt and eco printing, a perfectly cleaned vintage gas cooker plus some small structural repairs done to the roof and the register plate under the archway in the kitchen.

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While the scaffolding for the roof was here I decided to ask Jonathan to help me with the much needed whitewashing of the walls and ceiling in the upstairs dining room (the ceiling goes up to the eaves) and he also tackled the wooden floor there and the stairs leading down into the kitchen. I whitewashed the kitchen, treated all the furniture and the newel post with woodworm stuff (just in case!) and finished under the stairs. With the help of buddy Annabel we then tackled the guest bedroom floor and walls. I also did a massive tidy out to the garden shed and Annabel and Carmen helped me find new homes for some of my hoarded furniture and supplies, it felt great to declutter! Here’s a picture of the finished kitchen the night before my family arrived and before I’d washed all the plates to replace on the dresser.

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The final part of this initial revamp was that I painted the guest sitting room walls and floor then the bathroom floor, all of this was finished just in time for my family to arrive for Easter Sunday lunch. The only downside has been that I now have totally strained muscles and my wrists are so sore that I can’t play golf or stretch and shape felt until the pain subsides. All the work has been worth it a thousand times though, it’s just fantastic to wake up in the morning and know that I’m ready for guests now!

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The other news for today is that sadly Karin, Eelco and I have decided not to go ahead with the planned residential workshop in Portugal this summer. Although I was really looking forward to another stay at beautiful Dominio Vale do Mondego Karin doesn’t have the confirmed bookings at this date to make booking my flights sensible. Instead, I’m now planning a series of residential and non-residential classes to host from Clasheen, another reason that I’m very glad to have upgraded the guest facilities!

In part 2 of this update at Clasheen I’ll have some dates for your diary, pictures of the guest bedroom and images of some current textile endeavours.

 

 

 

 

Australia, Hong Kong and back to Ireland, part 2!

At the end of three and a half magical weeks in Australia Suzanne and I spent one last memorable day in the Blue Mountains. We golfed, ate, cleaned our very comfortable ‘off the grid’ Airbnb accommodation and popped in briefly to say goodbye to Pam and John. The following morning we headed for Sydney Airport and headed onwards for the last leg of our trip.

What can I say about Hong Kong and the warmth of Terriea’s welcome? From the lovely and thoughtful gift of traditional sweets and maps waiting at our hotel to spending our days with Terriea friends and family, each day was filled with special sights, food, fun and laughter!!! We had a wonderful time. This first collage shares pictures from our first full day together, everywhere I looked there were spectacular views and inspiration for new work. We started the day with a walk at The Peak to view the iconic Hong Kong skyline, travelled down on the Victoria Tram then met up with Florence and Pauline to catch the ferry to scenic Lamma Island (Pok Liu Chau). This island is where Terriea spent some time as a child, it’s a very special place and I can quite see why she loves it!!! Before heading for a trek around the island we started out with a delicious feast at one of the fish restaurants overlooking the floating village. The food was so fresh and delicious, needless to say I was in culinary heaven!!!!! In the evening Terriea, Florence and I headed to visit the flower market in Kowloon and sample street food in the Ladies Market, the sweet bean filled dumplings were to die for!!!!!!! Here are a few images that capture our time together at The Peak and Lamma.

On the second day, Suzanne and I met up with Terriea and Todd again and Terriea’s son very kindly brought us for a drive up the mountains looking down on Kowloon. We then met up with her brother Cheung On and headed off to explore the New Territories. It was absolutely fascinating, beautiful scenery, great company and food (yet again!) plus the opportunity to take pictures right up at the Chinese border. One little surreal episode was meeting a saxophonist practicing his music right on the edge of the shore in the middle of nowhere, magical!!! I also particularly loved all the red kites caught up in trees and was delighted that the traditional Irish flat cap we brought Cheung On from Cushendale Woollen Mill fitted perfectly! In the late afternoon we headed with Terriea to the fabric district in Kowloon then finished the day having a delicious meal with Loretta back near our hotel in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong island. Thanks Loretta and Terriea for organising our hotel, wonderful comfort and luxury right in the middle of the action! Here’s a collage from day two.

On our final day Terriea and I headed to Stanley while Suzanne initially explored more of Causeway Bay. We checked out the beautiful beach, bustling market and old fishermen’s houses, I gathered some shells and wave washed ceramic pieces on the sand then was lucky enough to visit Terriea’s studio and see her wonderful working space filled with art and textiles. Although I’d already seen pictures of a little up-cycled chair covered with eco printed fabric online, in reality it was just so much more beautiful. Such a cool idea and absolutely perfect!!! If you’re not already following Terriea’s textile adventures online here’s a link to her Facebook page. Thank you for sharing your private space with me Terriea, I really appreciated it and now I can close my eyes and see you there!

The last afternoon holds one of my most precious memories, eating dim sum in a restaurant with hundreds of locals, if it hadn’t been for Terriea I’d never have managed to navigate the Chinese menu and coped with the system of ordering! The food was superb. In case you haven’t already guessed I was absolutely in my element with the freshness of ingredients, the contrast of texture and taste, the whole experience of eating local food in local settings!!! Hong Kong more than exceeded my expectations. The contrast of old versus new, east versus west and towering high rises versus prestige unspoilt landscape, catching up with old friends and making new ones. I’m totally captivated with the beauty and culture, I will return!

The final part of this post is my arrival home to Clasheen, to say the weather was a shock is definitely a bit of an understatement. Having spent approx 4 weeks in temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the early 40s snow at the airport and damp, freezing conditions made our first day back rather cold to say the least! The light over the Backstairs was absolutely gorgeous as I drove through Scullogue Gap and approached Clasheen, here’s one of the pics I stopped to snap.IMG_9718

Thank you so much to kind neighbours Joanne, Brian and James for thinking of lighting my boiler and leaving delicious fish, bread and milk in my larder. Thoughtful friends and a wonderful welcome home!!!

Next time I’ll post about felting and eco printing, Ireland and Portugal, workshop dates and some surprise pictures! Until then….. adieu.

 

 

Australia, Hong Kong and back to Ireland, part 1!

The time I spent abroad in Australia and Hong Kong with my sister Suzanne was truly fantastic, I’ve arrived home to Clasheen refreshed and raring to go. What made it even more special was catching up with family and friends along the way. A huge thank you goes out to my Aussie relatives and their in-laws, Pam and John de Groot, Terriea  and Todd Kwong, Cheung On, Florence, Loretta and Pauline, spending time with you all was the icing on the cake!!! Here are two collages from the Australian leg of the trip to share the memories, next time I’ll post some wonderful pictures from Hong Kong.

This first collage contains a couple of pictures of Jackie, the reason that we made the trip in the first place! Jackie (on the right in the top picture and at the head of the printing table) is our first cousin once removed (our father’s cousin) and was celebrating her 90th birthday with a wonderful evening meal and trip on the lake. Family and friends gathered together the following day and I shared some eco printing tips as we printed silk scarves and watercolour paper.

Our adventure continued on the west coast at Exmouth where we spent many hours snorkelling at the Ningaloo Reef. From there Suzanne and I headed for a couple of nights to beautiful Sydney before finally hiking and exploring part of the Blue Mountains. While there it was fantastic to catch up with Pam de Groot and see some of her amazing artwork in her beautiful home, thanks Pam and John for being so generous with your time!!!

So, that’s it for today. This is the first time that I’ve posted to the blog directly from the website, I hope everything uploads without any trouble! Next time, Hong Kong in pictures.

 

January update

I’m writing this blog post on a flight to Dubai, my final destination is Canberra where I’m looking forward to joining Australian family to help celebrate my great aunt’s 90th birthday. So many events and preparations happened during January that it’s difficult to believe that 2016 has only Just started. I’m going to share a few of the highlights from the past month here in images, next month I’ll be back to reality!


Beautiful photography from Patrick McHugh………….

Felted raw fleece wrap and onion skin printed felt skirt

Onion skin printed silk organza scarf with cotton dots

Showcase Ireland 2016

Custom built wall displays for Showcase made to my spec by Jonathan Dickson

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Debriefing in Borris Library with some of the ladies involved in our 2015 year of design project

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Felting and eco printing retreat in Ireland plus brief update

Woo Hoo, the ten day residential felting and eco printing retreat that I’m hosting in July is finally open for bookings! Please check out all the details and various price options here and email me if you’d like to grab a place or If you have any questions. I can’t wait to share this beautiful part of Ireland with you, it’s going to be fantastic fun and July is such a perfect time of year to visit Ireland!!! Non workshop participating partners are welcome too, Kilgraney Country House is a gorgeous spot to relax and unwind in and there are a host of activities to enjoy all right on the doorstep.

I’ve already hosted the first two eco printing workshops of 2016 and preparations are in the final stages for Creative Island at Showcase. I’ll be on stand C10 for those of you attending, more about this in the next post. For now I’ll leave you with a small selection of images taken over the last few days.

Eucalyptus leaf prints on lambswool

Bundles of yardage heading to the pot

Looking out the front door at Clasheen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Website and shop stocktaking update plus reminder of Irish workshop plans for 2016!

Tomorrow evening our group will be taking down the FORM exhibition in Blackrock and I’ll be bringing the rest of my current stock home. As a result, I’ve taken down the shop page of my website temporarily in order to assess what I have and what needs to be photographed. It’s really important that I get everything clear in my head and organised in advance of Showcase 2016, I need to know what I have and what I still need to make in addition to uploading new photos from the recent photo shoot with Patrick McHugh!

The last of the cotinus prints for 2015

I also need to finalise the cost and the dates for the residential workshop I’ll be hosting in Ireland during July. The dates will fall between 14th and 26th and the venue will be beautiful Kilgraney House which is less than ten minutes drive from Clasheen. Although the bulk of our workshops will take place at Kilgraney in the surrounds of its beautiful garden, we’ll also spend time at Clasheen in addition to visiting local places of interest including Cushendale Woollen Mill. Cushendale is where I get my wonderful lambswool woven to order, that’s another thing that will be taking place again before Showcase!

Finally for today, please contact me directly while the shop is offline if you need to order any last minute gifts.

 

 

 

November/December news to date……..

The end of November and all of December to date has been a tightly coreographed dance of preparation, packing, unpacking, stand set up and stand take down, in short a whirlwind of selling events. Currently my work is on display as part of the FORM exhibition at 57 Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. This last show of the season continues until 6pm on Sunday 20th December and has been a wonderful venue for sharing Carlow craft with a wider audience. Thanks Carlow LEO for your assistance with the venue and signage.

I was delighted to have one of my small lambswool cushions selected by the DCCoI (Design & Crafts Council of Ireland) for their curated area at the National Crafts & Design Fair at the RDS. Making a commitment to concentrate on printing luxury fabrics has been a good business decision, nerve wracking (because of the associated higher retail prices) but well worth the initial mental effort. Heavier fabrics such as lambswool and higher momme silk absorb the colour more intensely than lighter ones in my opinion and I'm finding it leaves me freer to concentrate on getting good placement of pattern.

Small lambswool cushion included in this display as background for a short tv recording

One of the most satisfying things (aside from sales of course!) at all these pre Christmas events was how many customers from last year returned to tell me that they were enjoying their previous purchases and how surprised they were that multiple washes hadn't affected the eco printed colour at all. It was really great to get this feedback, I know how well my own pieces wash but it's quite another thing when others have the same experience.

Anita wearing her eco printed wool jacket

I met really lovely people at all the events, the Glucksman Gallery, Marlay Park, the RDS and now Blackrock in addition to spending happy hours chatting and explaining a little about the eco printing process to those who were interested.
 
Finally for today, although I've not yet seen all the images from the recent photo shoot with Patrick McHugh I was thrilled to be able to use this first one for new signage just in time for the RDS! Ivey Sullivan from Morgan the Agency did a fantastic job with hair and make up while model Mya was amazing for this her first professional photo shoot, thanks so much everybody!!!

Felt wrap and eco printed silk dress

 
 

 

 

October and November update

It's been a manic (but exciting) period of production, stock taking and home improvement construction (shelving and large walk in wardrobe for product storage) since arriving home from Australia, now the seasonal retail fairs have started and I'm shocked to realise that I haven't managed to update here more frequently. I'm going to share a small selection of images today in place of text, if you'd like to follow what's happening on a more regular basis please follow my Facebook business page and I'll be back to normal here after Christmas!

Dramatic autumn colour from the cotinus

Cotinus prints on silk

New product shelving underway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onion skin printed silk dress and necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian and Australian adventure in pictures

Many apologies, I'm so late posting pictures from my recent Canadian and Australian workshops that I almost don't know where to begin, I had a fantastic time! Three wonderful eco print or felt classes in Canada then a week long residential felting workshop at Geelong Fibre Forum followed by ten days holiday with my sister. Each and every aspect of the trip was a delight and pleasure, internet connectivity was very sketchy though during these adventures hence the lack of blog posts. I met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends along the way, thanks 1000 times to each and every one of you and a massive shout out to all my wonderful hosts, workshop organisers and students!!!

Here's a tiny flavour of the trip in pictures, now I just need to beat the jet lag and resume felting and printing before the week is out. Fernie, Lethbridge, Calgary and Geelong……… I love you and will be back!