by Rachael Chambers, craft&design Contemporary Craft Editor
Published: November 2013
Nick Ozanne is for many of you the name and face of our 2012 diary writer. He was also the craft&design Highly Commended Newcomer at the 2012 British Craft Trade Fair. During 2012 Nick shared with us the ups and downs of his life and remembers the year fondly.
“Writing the diary for craft&design during 2012 was a wonderful experience and something that I loved doing,” says Nick. “My life as a craftsman can be busy to the point where I lose sight of all I have managed to achieve over the course of a year, but for a 12 month period I actually had to focus on this and it was a very good year for me. I take my work to many of the design shows around the country and was surprised at how many people would come and see me at my stand and say they enjoyed my articles. I made the decision to write about the ups and downs of my year so people were treated to the embarrassing parts of my experiences as well as the triumphs, like being caught at a private view with only one shoe on. Apart from anything else I was really glad to be able to show people something of the world of weaving. To help them understand that for me it’s second nature. I weave every day, like people clean their teeth every day. It is habit now and a day without time at my loom is a strange one. That’s what I hoped people would understand from the articles, that this is not a job, not even a career, it is a compulsion, a calling. I exist in the certain and absolute knowledge that I am doing the right thing.”
However that has not always been the case. Nick specialised in weave at Winchester School of Art, leaving with a BA (Hons) degree in Fashion Textiles, but also the feeling that he had never quite achieved what he had wanted to do.
“The odd thing was that I didn't hit my stride with weaving in all the time I was at Winchester,” he explains. “It felt like I was constantly striving for something that was just out of reach. I left with an average degree, having never achieved what I wanted to do with the medium and famously said 'I'm never touching a loom again'.”
Obviously I wouldn’t be writing this text if Nick hadn’t returned to the loom, but the journey that got him to his light bulb moment is a poignant one, as Nick shared with me.
“After graduation I moved to London and worked in sales and marketing for a number of years before my father became ill and died when I was 28. This shook me, as I realised that life was short and I wasn't really happy doing what I was doing. I had no creative outlet and was working incredibly long days for someone else's company, helping to make their dream a reality. I started to try other things like writing and painting before finally waking up one morning and thinking that I might like to try weaving again.
"I got a boost from my mother who bought me a loom for my 30th birthday, which was small enough to fit into my London flat, and light enough that the sound of me working on it would not annoy the neighbours. For about 18 months I worked evenings and weekends at the loom, trying out different designs and combinations of yarns and produced some terrible work. The strange thing was I was happy doing this and, although I was not satisfied with the results, I was happy to keep on weaving.
"One morning, about 2am, I had finished threading up a new design on the loom and thought I would just weave a little before I went to bed to see what it looked like. After weaving about 2 inches everything clicked into place. I looked at the cloth and thought that was it. I had finally managed to weave what was in my head. That was in fact my Eureka moment and I knew that I could do this.“
Do this he certainly could, Nick’s work has been admired by many and won him numerous awards, from a Highly Commended Newcomer Award and a craft&design Selected Silver Award for Textiles, to a prestigious award at The British Craft Trade Fair from Selvedge magazine.
“It is lovely to win an award but always a little surprising,” comments Nick. “I can’t help but think back to when I was at University and my work was nothing exceptional. To be at the point now where my work is singled out for praise makes me remember how far I have come. Of course it is always good in terms of the increased awareness of your work, but on a personal level it just reminds me of what I have achieved. It is a lesson to people not to give up on what they want.”
Nick has been told that he has a discerning style, to me his work is understated while championing traditional skills and techniques. He accounts this to the simplicity of the machinery and therefore the need for good design.
“When at University, I was surrounded by this amazing equipment and an unending supply of every conceivable yarn, it was too easy to overload my work with too much. Too much colour, too much texture, too much design,” recalls Nick. “When I started weaving again on my own I had much less to work with so almost had to think harder and design more to end up with something that looked much more simple and pared down. Placement of colour became much more important and I developed a way of looking at colours, placing them next to each other so that they would almost sing to me, I get to a place in the design process where I just know it is right.
"My work may appear contemporary, but what I am actually striving for is just good design. A product that looks and feels equally beautiful, something that I myself would want to own. The skills and techniques I champion are those of quality, of the handmade. The skills of a craftsman who wants to make everything the absolute best that he can. Who does not need to use the mass produced methods of faceless mechanisation which leaves things limp and without value. When people buy a piece of work from me, they are buying that part of my life that it took to make it. My hands have touched every piece of the cloth, every thread is where I positioned it, every knot on the fringe has been made and placed by me. It is the absolute best I can do every time.”
Alongside the best of what Nick has to give there’s the best the materials can give and he doesn’t compromise here, the yarns are equally as important as the design.
“The quality of yarns is massively important as the finished product is as much about the feel of the cloth as the look of it. These are pieces of fabric that I want people to touch, engage with and have against their skin. There is nothing worse than feeling something, which should be luxurious, irritating or scratching against your neck. I only weave in natural fibres and at the moment work mostly in silk.
" I sometimes wonder why people feel the need to re-invent something that already works well. I used to cycle to work in London and bought a cycling jersey in this modern techno fabric that has to have been the single most uncomfortable article of clothing I had ever worn... it left me feeling like boil in the bag rice. A friend of mine suggested getting a different top, one that was made of ultra fine merino wool and I never looked back. It was comfortable, natural and absolutely fit for purpose. That’s the way I feel about natural fibres. Silk, linen and wool are what I love to use and this will never change. The silk that I use comes from China but is all dyed in the north of England. The quality of yarn is important as it is the bedrock of all the work I make... and so I use the best I can get.”
And I bet his socks are natural materials too. Why would I mention that? Well Nick’s feet and socks are very noticeable under his loom as he doesn’t wear shoes whilst weaving. On the day I saw him Nick had a fabulous pair of stripy socks on!
“I am like the Zola Budd of weaving,” jokes Nick. “At first this was because my original loom was worked with floor pedals and with shoes on it made my feet just slightly too big and I would hit the wrong pedals. Now it is habit and I like the way that I can feel the tension of the cloth that I am weaving with my feet as I work. Now it feels completely natural although a little cold to start with in the winter.”
We know what’s on your Christmas list this year Nick!
Leto & Ariadne
16A Stafford Mill