Karen Nicol’s embroideries are messy, sparkly, and all-around-wonderful. An embroiderer and mixed media textile artist, she specializes in Irish, Cornelly, Multihead, beading, and hand embroidery; working from her studio based in London for over twenty-five years now.
Her clients include giants from the fashion world and otherwise, like Alexander McQueen, Anthropologie, Marc Jacobs, and even The King of Qatar and the Pope (!), making her kind of a big deal.
“When I was starting out I wanted to be a fine artist, my mother and sister were embroiderers and I wanted to do something with a bit more street cred,” she admitted in an interview with Upcyclist, “but when I began art college I realized I was instinctively better at textiles and hugely drawn to the massive potential and diversity of embroidery.”
With a BA in embroidery from the Manchester Metropolitan University and a Master’s Degree in textiles from the Royal College of Art in London, there was no stopping Nicol. “For my work in fashion I collaborate with fashion designers and create samples of embroidery designs, often inspired by some given theme,” she says, explaining her work process. “I work in a completely ‘what if’ scenario, trying out things that may look new and fresh. We then develop these samples to work on garments and I do the first pieces for the shows. In interiors, it’s quite similar but different scales and practicalities.”
For the art pieces, on the other hand, she sketches first, drawing mostly animals and enlarging them to the correct size. “I then sample and experiment and start to embroider the piece,” she says. “Each one is so different. So, in all cases whatever I do it’s a process of rough drawing, sampling and developing in general.”
Whatever she does, the end result is rather striking: