If you grew up in the UK during the noughties, the cultural artefacts displayed on Robyn Nichol’s textiles are sure to evoke some very nostalgic throwbacks. Amidst a hot pink wall hanging, she curates a spread of pre-teen heaven, harking back to the golden age of Groovy Chick, JoJo’s debut album Leave (Get Out), iPod minis, MSN and Motorola Razrs.
For the self-taught textiles artist, her work is not just about remembering the good old days of pre-adolescent innocence. Her practice focuses on heritage, locality and industry, with a particular emphasis on the artist’s own lineage. Exploring Northern identity through the historic trade of her birthplace in west Yorkshire, Robyn captures the heirlooms of popular culture through textiles. Yorkshire’s world-renowned textiles industry acts as Robyn’s predominant mode of inspiration and “through my textile pieces, I question the relevance of the industry in contemporary society today,” she tells It’s Nice That.
Celebrating the joy of everyday objects, Robyn elevates the things around her into meticulously crafted embroideries, wall hangings and even clothes. She documents those objects that have come to shape her, both in an aesthetic, and in a cultural way. From a silk dress adorned with Gregg’s pasties and logos, to bold hand embroideries illustrating JD sports bags, Space Raiders, a tin of mushy peas and an iconic Paul’s Boutique handbag, Robyn’s textiles speak out loud and clear to a generation of Brits who grew up around the same time as the artist.
Initially dawn to the labour intensive side to textiles, “I really like the idea of pouring a lot of my time and energy into each piece that I make,” Robyn tells It’s Nice That, It takes her around a month to finish a piece and she very rarely uses a sewing machine to aid her production methods. Constantly on alert to the things around her, she picks up small indications of Northern identity, then distils, refines and translates them into a cultural replica. Additionally citing the likes of Jeremy Deller and Ed Hall in influencing her practice, for Robyn, anything from a food packaging label to a snippet of Northern dialect can make its way into her work.
Looking to the future, the artist is planning to study a master’s in textiles to further her knowledge of computerised machine embroidery. In the process of going freelance, she’s currently implementing an online shop through her website to sell a range of goods celebrating Northern culture and dialect. So keep an eye out if you know you can’t go without one of these charming objects!
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.