Collar Piece: Nancy Nicholson

Nancy Nicholson 'Blue Bird'
Bold and colourful with engaging motifs of birds, cats and fluid forms, designer & artist Nancy Nicholson's work is highly illustrative and joyful.
Based in Kent, Nancy works predominantly in paper and textiles using her own designs to produce stitch kits, 3d 'interactive stationary' and one-off hand & machine stitched pieces.
Nancy comes from a dynasty of artists with a rich textile bent. In brief, her Father, Roger Nicholson, was a professor of fine art texiles at the Royal College of Art and her Mother, Joan Nicholson, was involved in the Needlework Development Scheme in the 1950's (you may even be familiar with Joan's work for Golden Hands magazine in the 1960s & 70s?). Both parents were involved with the 1951 Festival of Britain and between them produced a huge volume of work from paintings to wallpaper patterns. This body of work has been both influential and inspirational to Nancy's work, sharing a European folk art flavour to which Nancy adds her own twist. Through items such as her stitch kits, embroidery cards and online tutorials Nancy is continuing to inspire a new generation of people to discover the pleasure of using needle and thread creatively.
Nancy Nicholson: stitch kit example left, page from sketchbook right

Nancy Nicholson: 'Circles' left, '3D Flower' right
With these influences in mind, and like many of the other project participants, Nancy wouldn't normally veer towards using an overly laundered shirt collar as a creative starting point. Nancy's white collar was one of the more aged samples - bubbles were appearing where the cotton and interfacing were parting company. It was no longer looking smart. The collar's shabbiness turned out to be of little consequence as Nancy's attention turned towards shape & texture.

"Initially when faced with this utilitarian object, all crispness and white suggesting constraint and stiffness, all I could see was an animal, the two buttonholes facing each other like two slant eyed angry rabbits.
Then I looked at the folds and the pleasing stamped and faded lettering showing collar size, make and washing instructions, now almost washed away. It said “Do not starch, Iron flat, Fold by hand”.
"So as not to spoil this virginal whiteness, I cut out another collar in the total opposite kind of fabric, wool felt, using the original as a pattern, really more to familiarize myself with it’s shape and “learn it”, fold it and bend it, twist it and turn it to see what would occur to me to turn it into. At first I enjoyed the twisted shape it made and began to make an organic plant like shape, thinking I might create seeds and tendrils..."
"The idea of warring rabbits had not entirely been dropped either, so I made the collar in old grey silk velvet which felt luxurious and opulent and the polar opposite to the white business like original. After trying to construct long rabbit ears and failing as they were not floppy enough I began to embellish. So my collar became opulent, festive, un workaday. I am obsessive about Spider’s Web stitch currently and enjoyed dropping those into the velvet first." 
"Velvet is a favorite fabric of mine for machine stitching. I love the way the tight close stitches sink into the pile, the roadways lines stitching make, the sheen, and lustre of rayon thread against duller smokiness of velvet...Now I am getting very lyrical but I suppose these are the things which drive the textile lovers and stitchers among us. 
This collar evolved by itself quite naturally. I enjoyed just letting that happen intuitively. I wanted it to stand in a sculptural way rather than being worn, though a slender necked individual could wear it perhaps?" 



  1. I'd love a velvet colloar like this -I'm always getting a chilly neck, especially in restaurants. A new range of warm dressing-up collars for people like me to wear instead of necklaces?

    1. Quick, patent that idea Lois! An embroidered silk velvet range would be delicious indeed.


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