Leah Nikolaou, a Textile Designer from the UK, creates hand-embroidered, pressed flower art and embroidery kits using mixed media.
Her inspiration comes from nature and her garden. She carefully selects the seeds she plants in her garden, favoring those that produce lots of blooms and materials for her flower press. Flowers she presses herself, combining them with paper and stitches to tell her creative story.
Leah's love affair with embroidery began in her teenage years; she loved cross stitch and remembered embroidering a t-shirt with the image of a leopard and text that read, 'animals matter.' She also had fond memories of flower pressing when she was younger, using her sister's flower press without her knowing.
As the little hand-written memoir below describes, Leah started experimenting with embroidery again after having her curiously creative daughter. Having left her full-time job, they spent a summer together collecting flowers, filling her toy flower press to the brim. At the same time, Leah had picked up embroidery again in her evenings, and the fusion of the two unlikely materials of flower pressing and hand embroidery was born. Having an idea of the path she wanted to take, Leah's design research informed her ideas further.
Embroidery is a craft where you traditionally use fabric and thread. Still, the hand-embellished artwork of Susanna Bauer, who embroidered into leaves, opened her mind to contemporary embroidery uses.
Leah loves chunky wool and has a background in hand knitting for Vogue Knitting and Rowan yarns, plus an MA in Constructed Textiles from The Royal College Of Art, London. She knew it would make her happy to use chunky wool in her design. She then experimented with stitching paper stickers onto huge rubbery brown leaves, but it felt too similar to other artists' work and didn't use wool.
The following essential inspiration that developed her style was the herbarium collections of early 17th Century botanists. Notably, the botanist George Clifford presented his pressed flowers, specimens from his travels, in little 2D paper urns and vases. This method of displaying botanical pressings archived by the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London, is a resource Leah loves for inspiration!
As the mix of her two hobbies has continued, her style has evolved into the work you see today. Leah designs from her home in the rural setting of Frome in Somerset, where she also uses her little garden to grow many flowers that she dries in her flower press. Just like an artist might use a paintbrush, Leah uses page upon page of flowers to add colour to her world.