Leah Nikolaou is a British Textile Designer creating timeless embroidered paper art, kits and curios which fuse the two vintage past times, hand embroidery and flower pressing.
Looking closer into the world of botanists and pressed flower collections I discovered the 17th century botanist George Clifford who became a source of much inspiration. George Clifford unlike the majority of his counterparts displayed his pressed flowers in little 2D paper urns and vases. I loved this concept and developed my own collection of original botanical pressings which I display in hand embroidered paper vases, planters and urns. I decided to juxtapose the two crafts of flower pressing and hand embroidery, the delicate florals and chunky wool vessels. The chunky wool leaning towards the more contemporary phenomenon of bringing hygge meaning cosiness and wellness into the home as well as transporting you back to a time when artisan crafts were treasured.
My background is in textiles having trained first at Winchester School of Art and later The Royal College of Art graduating with an MA in Constructed Textiles. My early career revolved around hand knitting which saw me designing for Patachou and Gharani Strok as well as publishing numerous knitting patterns for Rowan Yarns and Vogue Knitting. My life then changed path and I spent 12 years working in property media. Then as the quote above describes, I found myself rediscovering my love of crafts after having my daughter.
Crafting by hand were skills rooted in my youth, particularly inspirational were my two grandmothers and my mom. Nan could knit in her sleep and made a lot of the knitwear I wore as a child. My other Italian grandmother ‘ Nonna’ and her sister Evelyn branched out into so many different textile crafts it’s hard to put a number on it. Tatting, beadwork, crochet, tapestry, cross stitch and knitting. Then mom sewed most of our clothes, I remember the delight at having an Easter dress bought from an actual shop because back then it was a novelty. All of their creativity was endless and a source of much pride and joy.
Another passion which influences my work is vintage ceramics. Vintage McCoy vases are my absolute favourites! I love their shapes and the detail that is carved out and all glazed using a single colour. Recreating this retro detail in my embroidery is an absolute joy and quite a free hand process that starts with a basic outline.