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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Help! Here Comes the List!

As I sat in a cafe yesterday like any respectable blogger- coffee, smartphone and a laptop- to start writing this weeks blog post - it hit me! I was an half and hour late collecting my hand felted coat from the Wilderness Exhibition.

Do I know what I am doing this year?
No, not really, but I have a lot of projects in the pipeline.  All still in the development stage...
The designer equivalent of jumping off a cliff and hoping that you had the rope on tight. Where would I find the resources to do them: time, money, collaborators... Proper muses and dragons to carry out the PR and marketing so each of these grows to something more...

When I start panicking I start making lists. It is my way of trying to make sense of things


Showcase 15 Niki Collier goes Milan
The Irish Creative Expo grows every year in numbers, impact and appeal. Although I still think of it as mainly a gift wear dominant trade event with the unfortunate necessity to include the made in china 'Irish'' souvenirs. It was a good one to me this year- expanded stockists and an international stockist in Milan! Milan!!!! Wooo hooo!!! Right?

February- all those applications were in...


Science Day Niki Collier teaches girls to adorn themselves smartly.
An interactive necklace that I designed as a learning tool for Computer Clubhouse was presented by the girls at the Science Day. The girls were a tough gig, but we made it happen. Tough is what we do. And I get to use the ultra cool neopixel rngs from Sparkfun


Wilderness Exhibition Niki Collier goes Fashion Wild.
When Eddie Shanahan selected my coat for his and Agata Stoinska's project it was one of those things. It would take a blog on its own. He saw it, he wanted it, it was in. Simple. Loved being part of it.


Smart Textiles as part of PhizzFest. I am doing three pieces- exhibition within the exhibition- all smart textiles all custom made for this.
Shake & Shout Scarf, Home & Away Steam Punk Hats, Football Pitch Wall Hanging

And there is a Fashion Show at St Anne Church with Design House. This is something that I am really looking forward to as it is going to be my first event with Design House.

There is also the photo shoot for H.... Models, locations make up, hair.... And all this done with a message and consistent visual expression. The day is always easy, but everything that leads up to the day and after it isn't.


The Shepherds Son's Corner
This is a furniture collaboration with Interioro at Design Week, Plovdiv 19-28 June. This would be my second participation at Design Week and I am really looking forward to an action packed event. I always go back to children's furniture. It is a wonderful way to explore felt as a medium to create one off furniture pieces. There would be lights, a bed, a chair and a puff.


Dublin Maker Fair- This is my place to meet people and show them my smart textile pieces.


H exhibition in conjunction with Beta the photographer that develops my exhibition H with me. This exhibition is developed with Feltmakers Ireland. It is in the Visitor's Centre in Pheonix Park.


Showcase of the H collection in Design House. And sending hats to Milan. So excited. Still.


Have to make pieces.


Hoping to be in a Fair in a cool city in Ireland.


RDS Craft and Design Fair. This is a very special event for me. I just loved it last year- the responce the feedback the leads every bit of it made me smile. I hope this year would be good to me !

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thank You, Moira Byron, I'll Take it From Here. Niki Collier

Who is/was Moira Byron?

Last week Sarah McKenna asked me who is Moira Byron?

I couldn't fit the answer in a sentence... I mean saying Moira Byron is who I could have presented myself as if my design life did not become reality. Come on! How pretentious does this sound?  I would have hated to hear something like this.

So I take the plunge- I am addmiting - Moira Byron was a figment of my imagination. I made her up! It was my way of  sharing what I wanted to be. Or become. A creative background, life embedded in the creative community, a grown up attitude to hard things and a relentless childish energy to everything else. That was Moira Byron.

Today I do not need Moira Byron. I squeezed my way into creating.  I make things that I love in a medium that is my religion, and many of the people I call my people  make beautiful and meaningful pieces in Ireland.

The irony is, I should have never worried to use my name. Since Social Media, we live with the illusion that everything is transparent nowadays... No such thing. Look at Laura Magahy, appointed as Chair of  DCCoI.  Last year she has set up a pottery business while still working as a chair of the board. Who knows she is to be fighting everybody's corner, not hers?

I am not starting a discussion about conflict of interest. Do you think there is a conflict of interest?  The reality is that most people do not know that Laura Magahy is the Chair of DCCoI. And even less know that she is behind (why the hide?) Aran St Pottery. Even with all publicity that she gets in both.

I like Moira Byron, I just do not need to hide behind her apron strings.

Still here is Moira Byron's story. And I used Hellena Boham Carter's image when thinking about her.

Moiré Byron

is a 37 year old writer of children books.  She has just published the fifth book from the ‘The Twinkle Town’’.The book is not only a success with kids but won the Little People Big Book Prize.  From the royalties on the book she has bought a mews that was re-possessed by the bank because the property investor could not finish it.  It is a beautiful shell on the outside and Moiré is lucky that she would be able to do it her own.  Moiré will live there with her three year old daughter Pearl.  Pearl is autistic.

Habits, hobbies  and hobbits : Moiré is absent minded disorganised and likes collecting people stories and objects that tell stories. 

Here are some of the objects that tell her stories: an old boot that she found on the river bench in of the Themes  when walking around celebrating getting pregnant;  a sari that a owner of an opium shop in Varanasi gave her as a present; a picture of her from her Russian lover in Prague, three bells that she bought while trekking in Nepal, sandals from Vietnam,  a big white mother of pearl shell from the time when she lived in Tunis and a blue masques that she stole from a girl that kissed her during the Venice festival.  Wherever she lives her house becomes a base for all her friends and there would be either a friend or a lover staying with her or babysitting for her.  She likes yoga but she hides it so that she would not look as one of those yuppie girls who think that doing yoga is going to make them a better person.

She goes to matinees, theatres, modern dances performances and book openings.  She loves her group in the Silk Quill Club in the Chester Beatty Library and thinks that they are one of her best and most valuable friends.

Moiré loves cooking and she is at the moment putting up a The Cook Who Travells: A Cookery Book for Those in the Know.  The book consists of all the small treats that she has encountered during her travels, all the recipes from small diners and old ladies that would willingly feed you, give you advice and mother you when you most needed. 

She is my nspiration for the Dragons & Divas Collection which was presented in Shanghai 2012 during Shanghai Fashion Week.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teaching and Other Remedies


The week after Easter seems to be a good week to do something different. With children holidays and generally more free time to us we look for things that we do when we have the indulgence of time to ourselves.  So it is a really busy time for me as other people's time usually translates into bookings for teaching textile making.

I thought three very different classes and took my girl to learn a new skill herself.

The Fibre Club- Teaching Craft as a Group Development Excersise

I did my usual Tuesday Felting class with starts around 19 and finishes between 21 and 22.30 depending on the project and time we need to catch up with each other. It is a small class of 2-4 people and I love teaching it because for me it is great way to share skills in a long stretch of time. I have found that talent and ambition are just one of the ingredients in our practices.  Perseverance, is just as important. Seeing a student of mine coming to my classes with many ideas, but not great passion to develop skills and seeing the progress in the last three years from holey shapes of uncertain bird nests to imaginative hats which consist of strong designs and balanced use of colours and fibres is a thrill. Look for yourselves:

It is a different dynamic when the size or the complexity of the project is not an issue. It allows for quality and expression that gives great results. It also allows to achieve results much closer to your vision as the level of trust on both sides allows for a jumping start.

The Fun Activity -Doing Craft as a Team Experience

The thrill of teaching people that have never seen or done what you are showing them is different. It allows you to revisit everything that you have felt at the beginning when you started discovering the medium- wonder, possibilities inspiration and loads of fun. Loads of fun!

So it was great to get a 'thank you' letter from my team building group that I taught in The Constant Knitter. I love showing beginners how to cover bad stuff with handmade wool. 

So my favourite class to teach for beginners is a solid felted ball. 
1. You just take an orphan sock, scarps of yarn and remnants of fibre. 
2. Put the scaps in the centre, colver them with laid wool fibres
3. Dunk them in soapy water.
4. Now start felting them. Just massage the wet tangle in your hands till t transforms from hairy wet mess to smooth felted ball. Sometimes you need to add more fibres at the end stage if you do not want your ball to have a face on it, but sometimes it turns out perfectly smooth from the start. 
5. The great thing about this project is that you could embellish it at any stage, by adding beading, embroidery or taking away some of the fibres.

Showing it to people always feel more offering a therapeutic strategy rather than teaching craft....

The Master Class- Training Advanced Craft Lovers

This the one that comes great rewards. It aslo comes with great challenges as a teacher. There is a lot of problem solving and often significant amount of soul searching before and sometimes after the event- would I mange to achieve the vision of the person, would I be able to maintain the level of quality that we are all aiming at in a new project that would offer me unexpected challenges? 

I have to admit that some projects end up further south than is healthy for relentless optimism.. I am currently on sample 5th of the Shouting and Shaking scarf that I described in the previous blog.  And although being through this process more than once I know some tricks- 1)I have asked for help from experienced maker, 2)I have got some learning sources to find out more about the technique I am still not sure how it is going to go...

But when you are teaching others you need to be able for all these pitfalls. Learning through others mistakes is dangerous game.

So I am delighted that Ruth, who came to make a top with me ended up with a great top. She was not mad about the project that I had in mind (oops!) so she suggested a tunic which we designed on the spot, then using a pattern that she had I devised a felting pattern- most areas increased by 30% apart from neck- no increase and sleeves just 15% increase. It was very exciting that Ruth loved the Blue Faced Leicester and mixed it with superfine Merino.  Believe me I know how nerdy this sounds, but cannot help it- Blue Faced Leicester is not celebrated as much as it deserves. I was really interested to see also her account on the experience in a wet felting group. It is interesting to see the day through her eyes.

This week my daughter had her first lesson in knitting and it was very emotional experience for me. I hope she gets to love making things just like me. It is a great way of discovering.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter and other passions

Fever Pitch in Smart Textile

When you grew up in communism. like me, religious celebrations have been beaten into you in their pagan form. So when we celebrated Easter it was a lot about coming of spring and the craft of colouring eggs and Not at all about Christ.

Funny that today the discussion about how little Easter is about Christ and more about chocolate eggs seems a bit dramatic to me.... I have been there before. As a child...

The thing is  for me celebrations are very much about us- people. And they reflect the art of us being able to share common passions and rituals. Rituals that regardless of how mystic or simple they look to others make us human.

So this Easter I would share with you my new Smart Textile project. It starts with a ball, a football ball for that matter.

The project 

It is about fever pitch rituals and how they are embodied in our senses through the objects that we associate with the game.

It addresses football game as a community experience. Myself and a wonderful textile designer Paula Byrne would look into memorabilia from the Bohemians FC and create six pieces using smart textile technology. It is part of Phizzfest and they have awarded us a grant for our proposal. It aims to send a message about the all-encompassing rich sensory experience which is an essential ingredient in our human connection with our football club. The memorabilia is a way to reflect on design and political status quo, but also to show what we choose to materialise our feelings into- a scarf, a picture, a photo?  It would also look retrospectively into the scarves, the photos or the boots but addressing them as not just things in a box, but a treasure-trove of objects that are viewed by the fans and players as heirlooms. We use these objects to comment on historical characteristics associated with form, function and material choices.

It is going to run as an exhibition with an exhibition- the football club would curate an exhibition based on fans memorabilia- photos, jerseys, hats, footballs, boots. Paula and I have picked a few of these to develop a smart technology piece. There would be 6 pieces in total.

It seems a good thing to do in Year of Irish Design 2015.


 Nick Hornby's book is an influence  and it would come across in the story. I could see the football pitch through the eyes of a 11 year old and feel the hand of his dad in his hand. Because watching a game at the stadium is about sharing your passion with others. And in a way the pieces that myself and Paula are developing would allow an 11 old to ''see'' the past as well as the future of the club. It would be less obvious to see Marina Shkolnik's influence on the project, unless you are into felt or or you are mad about handmade scarves. But she would be my inspiration behind creating one of the pieces that I am creating; the Shaking and Shouting Scarf. Very rock and roll, right?

The Shaking and Shouting Scarf

It would use alternation of black and red superfine merino and silk fibres, the football club colours and it would replicate football balls in three sizes.

It would also use Arduino Flora, accelerometer, and speakers to cheer up with you every time when your team scores a goal. So even if you are not at the football pitch you could wrap your self up in the scarf and it would transport you into a dimension in which you would be one with the whole stadium.

You might wonder why I am not showing you the scarf, well, in its fifth iteration it still looks a bit dishevelled I have to admit. But you know it is just a stage. This is the good thing when this is not your first project- you know that each failure is there to be turned into your vision.

Here let the experimentation begin. All the fun is ahead.... 

This is my Easter- new collaborative project in smart textiles telling the story of 125 old Dublin football club. We have submitted the pieces to Dublin Maker 2015. Such a great month April.