Artist Profile: Leanne Nickon

Have you noticed how scarves are now worn at any time of year? And certainly in New England, gorgeous silk scarves can be sported right through the spring and summer months. (Brrrr. . . it will be summer soon, won’t it?) We are thrilled to have Leanne Nickon return this year to reprise her popular Paint Your Own Silk Scarf class on Sunday, September 11 from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Leanne has been drawing since childhood. Her thoughts and ideas flow onto her silk canvases the same way the water surrounds the island she lives on. One piece of advise she always gives students: “Do not be so intimidated by the idea of silk as an expensive and fancy fabric that you are afraid to play, experiment, and make mistakes. You will make mistakes, and part of the fun is figuring out how to incorporate them into your design.” Leanne’s creations are breathtaking and her students produce lovely pieces of their own design at their very first attempt. Let’s meet Leanne and then you can go learn more about her class and enroll here.

Leanne models one of her hand-painted silk scarves.

Leanne models one of her hand-painted silk scarves.

As we celebrate the tenth year of our Fiber College community, tell us about how community plays a part in your life as a fiber artist.

I have two friends nearby who also do surface design on fabric, and we get together to try out new techniques and materials in the studio, or to exhibit of our work together locally. We learn from, inspire and support one another. I’ve taught silk painting to adults at adult ed at the high school, and younger kids during “Arts Week” at a local grade school, and love seeing people surprise themselves with what they can create on silk. And I donate painted silk pieces to fundraisers I support – last year the causes ranged from the local YWCA to a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Elephants on silk scarf

Elephants on silk scarf

What keeps you coming back to Fiber College? How is FC different from other teaching venues? What’s your favorite thing about Fiber College?

This is my second year teaching at Fiber College, after coming to classes as a student for several years. It was fun to be a part of the whole festive atmosphere there: the wide range of classes in so many media, experts and beginners rubbing elbows, the vendors, demos, food, music, the beautiful setting, all combining into a vortex of positive creative energy. Last year I taught and did a demo one day and took classes another day, and this year I plan to take part in the maker’s market too. It’s great to be able to be a student, teacher and vendor in one place.

Leanne prepares silk for painting

Resist is used on the silk in preparation for painting

How do you keep your creativity fresh and new?  What have you experimented with in the fiber arts in the past year?

I am constantly jotting down little notes or sketches when I am going about my daily life and notice something that strikes my fancy – a color combination I hadn’t thought would go together, a contrast in textures, a pattern made by shadows, an intriguing shape. The notes aren’t in one place, so I come across them randomly sometimes on scraps of paper, or in the margins of notebooks, and I’m sure some of them are never seen again. But many of them go on to inspire new designs.

A beautiful graphic design

A beautiful graphic design

You’ve hit a roadblock and need to get back into your creative groove. How would you do that?

If I hit a roadblock it’s often helpful to do something creative that’s entirely unrelated to silk painting. Any class I’ve taken, especially in media new to me (tin can art, wire sculpture, basketmaking, woodworking, welding) has stretched my brain a bit and given me more artistic confidence. Doing something new that I don’t expect to be good at takes the pressure off and lets me create just to have fun, and that’s the attitude I try to recapture in my own work.

Two silk scarves

Two silk scarves

What does your studio space look like now? What change would you make if you could?

After many years of working in cramped spare bedrooms, I now have a studio in a cozy new building in the woods beyond my house. It has lots of windows, a woodstove, and plenty of space. It doesn’t have plumbing yet, so for now I haul water for painting in jugs, and do my washing back at the house.

Sun and star motifs on silk

Sun and star motifs on silk

Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had as a result of your students’ efforts.

At a craft fair I did last year, I was admiring a woman’s silk scarf, and she said her son had painted it at school. We figured out he had taken a workshop I’d taught at the school the year before, and as I looked at it I remembered the design and the boy who painted it. She loved it and said she wore it all the time, and it made me happy to hear that.

Animal motifs are often created by Leanne’s students

How do you imagine your work might change in the next three to five years?

I would like to learn more about printing techniques on fabric, and using natural dyes and resists. I want to experiment with appliqué, quilting, fabric collage, and maybe some kind of three-dimensional work with painted fabric. And I fantasize about designing my own fabric line.

Fish swimming on silk

Fish swimming on silk

If you could go back in time, what might you change about your fiber journey?

I would take more painting classes in college, learn to sew really well, and make myself draw something every day.

Leanne encourages her students to create their own designs

You can go learn more about Leanne’s class and sign up here.

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