Artist Profile: Leanne Nickon

One of the best parts of Fiber College is seeing the beautiful creations that result from dozens of amazing classes throughout the week and weekend. The painted silk scarves made in Leanne Nickon’s class last year were among the most beautiful! We’re thrilled to have Leanne back this year; she’ll be teaching Paint Your Own Silk Scarf on Friday, September 8th from 9 AM to 1 PM. Let’s see what Leanne’s been up to this past year and then you can sign up for her amazing class here and make your own gorgeous hand-painted silk scarf!

An amazing scarf!

Fiber College’s 2017 theme is Re-use, Re-design, Re-create. How do you incorporate any part of this theme into an important part of your life?

One thing I like about living in Maine is that the habit of reusing things seems deeply ingrained here. My life is full of second-hand treasures we have brought home from the local dump, where people put things aside instead of tossing them into the bin: books, vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, tools, toys, windows, dishes, furniture, and more. A nearby town has a solid waste pickup for large items periodically, and people from near and far ride around helping themselves to things that have been put out by the road, which is where the sink, cabinets, and doors for my studio came from, not to mention several ironing boards.  I still drive the 1994 station wagon my father was getting rid of 12 years ago, and much of my wardrobe comes from Goodwill or yard sales. I get a bigger kick out of giving these things a new life than I would buying them new. Even my cat is second hand!

Pieces of dyed and painted silk waiting to be turned into something

What is your favorite thing about Fiber College?

My favorite thing about Fiber College is the generous and welcoming atmosphere, which always seems simultaneously relaxed and low-key, but crackling with creative energy.

Detail of a collage made from dyed silk, painted paper, and old maps

What materials have you reused as an artist?

I save every scrap of painted silk, cotton, or paper, and even the tiniest amounts of leftover paint or dye. I even save the bits of cloth that I use to test colors, or to wipe the paint or dye out of a palette. My favorite way to use these bits and pieces is in collages, and I find it really satisfying to turn these scraps that would otherwise be thrown out into new works of art.

After taking a class with the Gee’s Bend ladies at Fiber College a few years ago, I tried sewing a few patchwork pieces out of silk scraps, which was very fun and gave me a whole new reason (as if I needed one) to never throw a scrap of painted fabric away.

Patchwork pieces of dyed silk scraps inspired by a Gee’s Bend quilting class

What is the best advice a mentor gave you?

I love reading quotes by famous creative people, and I get encouragement and inspiration from them. Some of my favorites:

If you hear a voice within you that says “you cannot paint”, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent van Gogh

An artist’s job is to surprise himself.”  Robert Henri

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

Painted silk strips — what will they become?

If you could redesign your life as a fiber artist, what would that look like?

In my fantasy life, I would be paid to fly all over the world to teach silk painting classes.

A fabulous assortment of Leanne’s painted silk scarves

Who or what has had the greatest impact on your work as an artist?

I would have to say my husband, who has always supported my creative endeavors. He is very patient when I take over the house with projects or keep crazy hours making things on deadlines before craft shows. He built me a beautiful studio, often helps me set up and break down at craft fairs, and has even been pressed into service manning my booth on occasion (where he proved to be a much better at selling than I am – I wish I could get him to come along and do it every time!).

A Christmas card made from painted silk strips

How does your art recreate you?

Doing art forces me to slow down, open my eyes, and focus my attention on the choices in front of me. Making decisions about color, line, shape, texture, and pattern can sometimes feel daunting, or tedious, or even frivolous – who cares about this silly decorative item that serves no real purpose? But I find once I get past the initial resistance, and get going on a project, there is nothing more exhilarating than bringing something to life out of my own imagination. Even if I don’t love the final result, there is an immense satisfaction in looking at an object and thinking “I created that.”

Leanne models a painted silk scarf.

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

I learned basic sewing and knitting skills from my mother, and was introduced to spinning and weaving in a junior high school workshop. I did all these things enthusiastically for a while, then let the weaving go, then the spinning, and though I still occasionally knit and sew, my skills in both remain limited. If I’d kept up with all those things, I’d be really proficient by now! I still have the beautiful old second hand spinning wheel I got back then, though it needs some repairs. Someday I’ll get it fixed and start spinning again.

Just imagine what YOU could create in Leanne’s class on Friday, September 8th from 9-1. Go sign up for her class now — here!

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