Holly Nowak first studied textile and surface design in Aberdeen at Gray’s School of Art where she specialised in print and mixed media textiles. Four years later in 2018 she completed an MA in Textile Innovation at Nottingham Trent University, specialising in sensory knitted textiles and the Hungry Ghost was born. Her extraordinary work attracted the attention of the judges who agreed she is one to watch with a unique multi-sensory and storytelling approach to colour.
At Gray’s School of Art my course tutors were Josie Steed and Charlie Hackett, and at Nottingham Trent they were Sean Prince, Debbie Gonet and Kandy Diamond.
Creative mission statement
The Hungry Ghost is aiming to translate narratives through sensory and sculptural knitted textiles. Blurring the line between conceptual art work displayed as an installation and functional items that could be placed in the home, with the purpose of creating feelings of joy and comfort.
How important is colour in your work?
Colour is incredibly important to me in all aspects of my life, it provides me with endless joy which is something I’d like to provide for other people. I try to convey my own interpretation of colour from ‘my own world’ through my textiles. Colour psychology and the human response to colour became an integral part of my research during my MA. I have always used vibrant colours; colours that make your mouth water, colours that each individual can relate to differently, and combinations of colour that clash beautifully. I don’t tend to limit myself to a number of colours, someone once described my palette as a rainbow on steroids…it seemed fitting!
Your creative process?
I guess it all starts with a feeling. I get a feeling of inspiration and excitement when focusing on colour, texture, pattern, and structure in my surrounding environments. To capture that, I take a photo. To date they have focused on urban environments and street cultures; the traditions, art, decoration, and the faces found in them. I spend a lot of time at the beginning analysing my photographs, translating the image through textiles, or using them to create a narrative to translate.
Creative journey or destination?
I’d have to say the journey and the experimentation that comes with it. The endless ideas stemming from endless inspiration, the great mistakes and the unexpected successes! I like to explore combining disciplines during the development process, including photography and film, trying to capture movement and life within the work, this has been really exciting and helped me to look at my work differently. Although with my more recent work I have found it hard to ever reach the destination, forever wanting to develop it further.
Creative high point?
I have recently had the pleasure of showing my MA work; The CactEye Forest Chair and The Carnival Lantern, in several interactive exhibitions. The MA was a huge personal achievement, it was a project that I got completely lost in, and one that I’m sure is far from finished. It was a wonderful experience to share those pieces with the public; seeing people feel connected, inspired, and excited is a feeling that never leaves you. Observing someone understanding your work and enjoying it makes me feel like there is bigger purpose for what I do.
Creative low point?
I think my lowest creative point was when I was wasn’t making any textile work. After completing my BA I spent several years travelling and working in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I continued to use my camera, building a collection of visual research from the places I experienced, but I wasn’t working with anything tactile. I began to feel lost and in many ways unfulfilled. It was, however, this journey that really inspired me to reconnect with my passion and creative ambitions. I very quickly realised that designing and making is a fundamental part of my life, and now I am embracing that, I hope it never changes.
Where do you want to be in 3 years’ time?
I would love to have my own studio, currently I have a studio set up at home, but I need more space to continue making larger pieces, let alone house my yarn collection! I hope to get involved with some collaborative projects including film, theatre and installation work, and really, I just hope to be creating and making full time. I am looking to apply for some creative programmes such as Hot House, run by the Craft Council, to gain some further exposure and guidance in the next year or so.
Is there one person during your studies/life who has really made a difference to you?
I am very lucky to have had constant support with my creative ambitions from my parents and family, I couldn’t have achieved what I have without that. I have some very creative and highly driven best friends who have always inspired and encouraged me. They are the people I turn to on a bad day, and they are the first people I come to with exciting news or a new idea. It’s wonderful having that safe space to explore ideas and feel supported.
During my studies I felt very inspired by three tutors in particular; Charlie Hackett, who always inspired me to be experimental and bold. Sean Prince, who encouraged me to work with scale and who gave me more faith within myself and my ideas. And Kandy Diamond, who introduced me to knitting, who is as mad about colour as I am, and who never made an idea feel like it didn’t have a place.
What is your favourite colour?
I couldn’t possibly choose, I guess if I had too, I’d say every single one.
Image credits: Rob Gibson @robgbsn, Holly Nowak