Hazel Nicholls came to London from Northern Ireland to study the arts – and, boy, are we glad she did. This talented lady has delighted our tea towels and picture frames with images and phrases that can only be described as uplifting. We caught up with Hazel – who, by the way, is super lovely – to find out more!
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I’m 31 and I live in Brockley, South East London with my fiancé, Lee and our two goldfish Vic & Bob. 12 years ago I moved from Northern Ireland to attend Camberwell College of Arts in London. I love real ale, tenpin bowling, the seaside and a good pun – of course. I learnt how to screenprint four years ago and I haven’t looked back since.
What’s your earliest craft memory?
My memory is pretty rubbish, but the first thing that comes to mind is my nanny and mum trying to teach me how to knit a purl stitch. I remember them chanting: ‘In through the bunny hole, round the big tree, and out through the bunny hole and off goes she’. Although the rhyme has stayed with me, sadly the ability to purl hasn’t.
You’ve revealed a few obsessions on your blog – what’s your latest addiction and where do you source these wonderful belongings?
Well, at the moment I’ve had a bit of a spending ban imposed because Lee and I are saving up to buy our own place. I did manage to talk him round to a beautiful Ercol couch and two rocking chairs, though. We got them from an auction house and I have become a little obsessed, looking at all their other lots ever since, but thankfully I’ve managed to restrain myself.
How would you describe your style and who would you say has influenced this the most?
That’s a tough one, I really don’t know as I just see it as my work. I suppose if I were to sum it up quite simply, I’d say, words of wisdom or love paired with hand-drawn imagery. My mum is a real whiz with a needle and thread: she’s especially good at needlepoint, so I grew up surrounded by beautifully detailed pictures, which featured reassuring messages. I think this has definitely had an effect on my own work.
Which comes first: line or design?
Sometimes the line and design will come at the same time, that’s what happened with my Russian Doll print: It’s What’s Inside That Counts. But most of the time I think about the line and try to feature it within an appropriate image. More recently, I’ve been experimenting with hand-drawn decorative type so the words become the image.
How do you begin a new project? Take us through your creative process
Step 1 is me having the idea. At times they seem to be very few and far between, then other times they’ll flood into my head one after the other. Step 2 is drawing – lots and lots of it! As soon as I begin to draw, what was initially in my head evolves into something quite different and hopefully a little more refined. Once I’m happy with it, I draw it in pen and then scan the drawing into my computer. Once scanned, I move on to step 3 when I fill in the artwork using Photoshop. This enables me to print out a film that can be used to make a screen for printing.
We imagine screenprinting to be a space-invading craft. Where do you work and how do organise your screens?
I’m really lucky and use a shared studio with some very talented and lovely people. Believe it or not, I only own four screens! As soon as I’ve printed an edition I strip the screen down again so it’s ready to host my next idea.
Which of your products is your favourite and why?
My moneybox (pictured above). Probably because it’s the most recent thing I’ve done. It’s also really personal as it’s inspired by my current situation. The idea behind it is pretty simple really – it’s for couples saving up for something special. Each time they spend a night in together they put money in the box. It’s about spending time instead of money.
In your opinion, what’s the best-kept screenprinting secret?
I use Dymo tape for registering my prints. It’s gotta be fluorescent so it’s easy to spot against the dark surface of the screen bed.
Which blogs do you read on a regular basis?
I’m rubbish at keeping up to date with anything online; the computer is a huge distraction for me so I try to steer clear of it. However, I recently discovered And Sew For Today by Emma Ruth Hughes – I love these sorts of projects. I also really love Social Nesting.
What’s your proudest moment?
Being selected for the Big Egg Hunt gave me an enormous confidence boost. I decorated a giant fibreglass egg with thousands upon thousands of coloured, sticky dots. Seeing my work reaching lots of people and – better still – being appreciated by them made me feel pretty, pretty, pretty good.
What’s next for you? Do you have any future projects planned?
I just want to make more and more work and hope that it’ll keep getting better and better. I feel so fortunate to be able to make money from something I thoroughly love and enjoy. I have a few new projects in the pipeline to keep me going; I’m currently talking with a fantastic, new card company – so watch this space!
What advice could you offer someone who is thinking about setting up an online shop?
Erm, I really don’t know… I honestly think I’m the one who needs advice on that one! Etsy is brilliant, but I really don’t sell an awful lot on there. I think you’ve really got to just go for it – get into the community. I also think good images and descriptions help. I’m currently trying to set up my own website and online shop, which is going a lot slower than I thought it would. I have to keep reminding myself that everything always takes a LOT longer than you think it will, ALWAYS!
About Hazel Nicholls
Hazel graduated from Camberwell College of Arts way back in 2006. Her work has been known to find its way onto ceramics, tape, textiles, packaging and even a giant fibreglass egg.