We sat down for a chat about Nicola's experiences working as a socially engaged textile practitioner and her role as a Director of our collective. Read on to find out more.
Along side her work with Thread Republic, Nicola is a creative practitioner with strong focus on working in the heart of communities, supporting a bottom-up approach to place-based cultural development strategy.
How would you describe your creative practice, Nicola?
I’m always on the lookout for ways of integrating my practice as a textile artist with ways of connecting communities and people. You might find me running workshops, organising community arts exhibitions, and producing my own textile art – whatever it is, I try to help people discover their own creative power and to connect with the people around them.
What does community engagement mean to you?
Throughout my work in the arts I’ve often been frustrated with how large organisations try and often fail to make a difference in communities. How can an external organisation suddenly appear in an area and expect to get it right? I truly believe that communities know what’s best for them – they just need a little support to set them on their way and trust to put them in charge. Then they’re unstoppable. So, that’s why I always approach new projects from a bottom-up perspective, using evidence-based approaches that put the people involved at the heart of decision making. I experienced this first-hand when working for Big Local in Selby – I brought people together and gave them the power of decision-making to design their own community hub to meet their own needs. It was both thrilling and terrifying!
Seeing this sparked something in me. I dug deeper and I ended up researching for my masters degree how people used everyday creativity in their homes to overcome the challenges of lockdown. With no support from the outside, just a place to be and share, people made truly wonderful creations that brought their homes, their streets, their communities to life. I firmly believe that creativity is a tool for wellbeing and an integral part of everyday life. It’s what holds communities together.
All the while, I’ve been stitching away developing my practice as a textile artist. Now I’m developing new ways of using hand stitch and creative approaches to textile art combining the delivery of community workshops and projects.
What was your personal motivation behind starting up Thread Republic?
Having the opportunity to create Thread Republic with three fantastic and talented people has been such a positive experience for me. I have been working independently for a few years as a freelancer and becoming more and more focused on communities and how to meet their needs. This collective is allowing me to explore this work further in a really supportive environment whilst offering a platform to other residents of Kirklees to be creative and develop relationships around sustainable textile practices! It's a win, win!