In Conversation With…Nicola Miles

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This photograph is of Nicola Miles outside the Fashion and Textile Museum, her favourite museum in Bermondsey.

The publicity around Instagram, recently, hasn’t always been good; Instagram is referred to as being used to influence young people in terms of self harm and suicide.  I find this hard to ‘get my head around’.  When I opened my Instagram Account, two years ago, I vowed that I would only post pictures of tea towels and I can pose a tea towel in a huge variety of settings.  This limited use of Instagram means that it is a very particular group of people that follow me, mainly tea towel designers, sellers, artists and the National Trust.  Instagram, for me, is not a scary place and I have met some amazingly talented artists.  One of those is Nicola Miles.

Nicola was exhibiting her work, during the summer, at the University of Brighton from an MA project.  Not only was it brilliant but it included tea towels, among other things.  “The set of designs that were included (in the exhibition) were five tea towels, an apron, plates and a tapestry, developed as part of an MA project at the University of Brighton.  The intention of the Project was to voice the unspoken issues, affecting women, by using domestic textiles and homewares in an attempt to move these issues from an area that is considered to be taboo to one that is ordinary, everyday and acceptable.  The Graduate Show was held at the University then moved on to Hove Museum of Art, for a month.

The process of making the tea towels involved research into women’s experiences, rather than using my own, initial sketches and a combination of digital and screen printing”

This was someone who certainly should be part of http://www.virtualteatowelmuseum.com.

I am always interested in the way tea towel designers see themselves:

“I prefer to see myself as an illustrator and textile designer as my work begins with a drawing.  I love the creative spark when you are on a roll with that.  There is nothing quite like it”

I wondered how Nicola organises her work and where her inspiration comes from:

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“I work freelance and have most experience in designing children’s wear.  I prefer to work on a commissioned or licensing basis.   I have strong memories from childhood of my Mum and Grandmother knitting and my Mum using Laura Ashley and Liberty fabrics and cloth kits and our shopping expeditions to buy fabrics.  As a child of the ’60s I rebelled against domestic crafts so have come to it later in life but with this rich heritage.”

I will always want to know if someone has a favourite tea towel!

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“My favourite tea towel is probably ‘As a Stepmother I often feel like an Imposter’ because there are so many references to it, one main one being the Suffragette poster, designed by Duncan Grant (‘Handicapped’, see the Radical Tea Towel Company).  However, there are also references to Ophelia and the Lady of Shallot and fairy tales.  The quote from the journalist Leslie Jamieson is also very moving and has proved to be something a lot of people can relate to”

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It is a joy to look at.  Thanks to Nicola for spending some time answering my questions.  I am so grateful that Instagram was able to introduce me to Nicola’s work.  A tea towel is a blank canvas to get a message across, especially political messages; it is a talent to be able to design a tea towel that really stops you and makes you think.

If you want to see more of Nicola’s work, go to Instagram nicolamilesdesigns where you will find 721 posts, the more recent ones celebrating #folk lore.

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