TAPESTRY GIRL by Niki McDonald

 Niki shares her love of tapestry with Fifty Five Plus.  Her work is inspirational and not at all what I envisage when the word tapestry comes into my mind.  A successful artist with many exhibitions both in Australia and overseas you can check her website and full compliment of works using the addresses listed below.  This is a wonderful art form for all ages which requires imagination and dedication and is truly suited to readers of Fifty Five Plus.

Niki Tapestry 2
Niki with a work in progress

My love of textiles and tapestry started when my mum bought me a small weaving loom for my 7th birthday. I practiced with weaving all sorts of wool and created continuous patterns but then I moved onto needlepoint tapestry because I love creating images. Needlepoint tapestry feels like painting with wool and it captures the landscapes and people that I wish to convey.

I studied textiles as part of my Bachelor of Creative arts degree at Wollongong University. I was challenged and inspired to investigate a wide range of textile mediums but continued to return to my love of tapestry.

Having children changes everything, after my babies I put my art practise on hold, there was so much to do and very little time left over. When the youngest turned 3, I needed to start making art again as my life lacked magic. I tried to paint and draw but my children wanted to help and I lost focus. Frustrated, I got out my old tapestry needles and wool and drew up some images, it was the perfect solution. The kids weren’t interested in it, my tapestry rolled up and didn’t require a studio, it wasn’t messy and it was portable. Long hours of watching my kids at swimming classes, martial arts, and soccer practice all turned into perfect opportunities for me to create art. Since then I have been breathless with excitement about my art practice, it drives me and keeps the cogs turning in my life.

Niki Tapestry 12My tapestry work took a new direction during a trip to Melbourne in 2007. The experience was a visual feast. Every alleyway and side street was layered with intense offerings of art, where there had been a blank wall someone had filled it, others had added to it, creating an unpredictable collaborative piece of art at its rawest and most public. After a week of absorbing the urban landscape; the tagging and graffiti, the walls, the people and their clothing I drew a series of drawings on tapestry canvas and began stitching. What caught my attention was how beautifully the people had adapted to their urban environment. Were the people reflecting their environment or was the environment reflecting them? I couldn’t help believe that the urban environment proves to be a catalyst for inspired, instinctual, sassy, strong women.

The repetition of the stitches echoes the pixels of digital work and the spray paint used on the streets. The stitches are meditative, deliberate and the work proceeds at a slow pace which contrasts to the urban walls that are executed under the cover of darkness and with the smell of adrenaline.

To date my work has been about capturing the ephemeral, tagged and ripped urban landscape and those who live in it. I make it permanent with tapestry wool and mixed media. My stitches have grown from 8ply wool to 20ply, now I feel like I’m exaggerating, maximising and celebrating the medium.

Niki Tapestry 5