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Meeting on Monday 10th June 2024

Karen Nicol - Couture Creatures


It was a great pleasure to welcome embroidery and mixed media artist Karen Nicol back to talk to CETG members and friends about the development of, and ongoing journey with her Couture Creatures.


Karen has had an impressive career in embroidery for fifty years, applying her creativity and skills to the fashion industry, including accessories, interiors, as well as work for galleries and private commissions.  She established her London-based design and production studio over twenty-five years ago, specialising in machine embroidery, beading and hand stitching. 


Karen told us about her childhood in a creative family environment and the influence of her mother who was a milliner and upholsterer.  Karen made her own clothes from the age of 13 years old, going on to study for a BA in Embroidery at Manchester Art College.  Further study at the Royal College of Art in weaving, knitting and embroidery led to Karen’s appointment at the RCA as Senior Lecturer in embroidery and mixed media. 


Karen has always loved experimenting with materials in her work, many of which she buys from car boot sales, flea markets and charity shops.  Karen collects supermarket packaging and other materials, supporting her ethos of re-use and recycling.  Her inspiration for new work may come from looking at flowers and animals, a study of pottery, architecture and/or the materials she uses.  Karen’s subject matter affects her choice of materials, for example, using transparent threads and materials for work inspired by the sea.  Her starting point for the development of work is through sketches on tracing paper and the collection of images and sampling to create wonderful pages in her lovely sketchbooks.  Karen uses a range of machines in her work; a domestic Bernina, a Princess pleater, an Embellisher, and an Irish machine, in addition to pyrography tools such as a heat press.


Karen brought sketchbooks, materials and finished pieces of her Couture Creatures to show us, and was generous in her sharing of ideas and techniques, answering a range of questions from CETG members and visitors to the meeting.  It was lovely to be able to get “up close and personal” to her work, as well as seeing it on screen.  Karen also brought with her several copies of her book “Embellished; New Vintage” which has recently been published as a paperback edition.


Look HERE for a film recording of Karen speaking at the Talking Textiles Conference in 2021; a must-watch to enjoy at leisure!

Words © Sue Robinson/CETG 2024

Photos © Karen Nicol/Sue Robinson CETG 2024

K Nicol Monkey sm.jpg
K Nicol Bear sm.jpg
K Nicol Fox sm.jpg
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