Three words describe Nicola Brown’s textile practice, simple, natural and crafted.
In 2007 Nicola was introduced to felting then seven years ago discovered eco printing as a technique. Since then she has concentrated on developing a rounded and focused environmentally conscious textile practice.
Nicola uses home grown leaves, bark, seed pods, flowers and onion skins to create lasting pattern and colour on luxury fabrics. The high end fabrics that she uses include locally woven lambswool, locally woven Irish linen, handmade felt, vintage Japanese kimono silk, vintage French linen and organic hemp. It’s very important for Nicola to support other local businesses whenever possible and to know the provenance and sustainability of the fabric that she uses. In addition to yardage she is always on the look out for cashmere, wool, silk, linen and hemp clothing to up-cycle. Continuing with the environmentally conscious nature of her practice she substitutes found rusty metal for powered mordants, the metal salts used traditionally to fix colour.
In the winter of 2018 Nicola added a simple wool insulated garden studio behind her old renovated farmhouse and in July 2019 designed and planted a selection of herbaceous borders leading up to this wooden building. These borders are filled with plants chosen for their ability to provide leaves and vegetation for the dye and printing pots; they are a wonderful compliment to the 13500 trees that were planted on the property in 2009. The flowering borders and trees are a joy to Nicola and visiting students, Irish and international. They support a diverse selection of butterflies, insects, birds and mammals and help convey the wider ecological aspects of her practice. Over time the sustainability of Nicolaâ€™s work and teaching has deepened leading to new connections with likeminded individuals.
Four years ago Nicola launched her textile workshops online and since travel became difficult early in 2020 these have played an ever increasing part of her business. Online learning opens up new opportunities for workshop participants who may not otherwise be able to visit Clasheen.
In the dyeing and printing processes Nicola tries to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible. She has substituted waxed paper for plastic and reuses the ‘dirty’ vegetation filled liquid in her printing pots for months on end. Most of her pots are antiques and have been happy finds at flea markets or donated by friends! The string that Nicola ties her eco bundles with is used until it disintegrates and She only process bundles when there are enough prepared to justify filling the pot. Best of all, a more mindful way of working rewards her with beautiful textiles, deeper connection with others and is a means to live well within the natural environment of rural Ireland.
During the winter of 2020 and spring of 2021 another series of dye borders will be laid out at Clasheen and new wooden sheds installed to extend the teaching and storage space. More and more of Nicola’s clients are finding her textile practice from the environmental and sustainability aspect and this is something that she will continue to develop.