Friday, 28 June 2013

Paperfolk meets... Nicola Mascall

Nicola Mascall is a British artist who specialises in miniature needlework. The skill and patience required to produce such detailed work on a very small scale (a cushion is 3cm x 3cm!) is absolutely incredible. Nicola has been kind enough to answer some questions about her practice and give us a hint of the process behind her works and business.

Nicola working in her studio

How did you get into needlecraft?

I have always had a passion for arts and crafts and spent my early working years in art, design and illustration having gained a higher diploma at art school. My love of needlework came from my mother who was an exceptional needlewoman. She encouraged me to sew and knit from a really early age.

My love for 'petit point' grew steadily after discovering the wonderful world of dolls house miniatures back in 1992. I found it a joy to create designs inspired by historic needlework. I particularly enjoyed the challenge of producing items to scale. I work on a marvellous fabric called 'silk gauze'. This is a fine mesh with varying degrees of hole size. Many of my designs are stitched on 40 count gauze (40 stitches per inch) with one strand of cotton. I also work on finer counts with pure silk thread. My finest designs are worked on 72 count. This is very challenging and a good magnifier is very important.

Parrot Cushion

What inspires you in your artworks?

In the past two years my interest has mainly been in miniature rugs and carpets. I adore the intricate designs of Oriental rugs which lend themselves so well to the medium in which I work. I am currently working on a 'William Morris' carpet which I saw at Tate Britain last year.

When I have time, I love to visit Historic houses, Museums and Galleries. The sumptuous upholstery, wallhangings, cushions, carpets etc found in such places are always inspirational to me. The V&A Museum in London has been a constant source of inspiration. I am also an avid viewer of historical dramas and documentaries.

Juliette Rug

Can you give us an insight into your process of creating your products from start to finish?

Some of my designs come purely from my imagination. As in painting, I just start from a blank canvas with maybe a vague idea in my mind. I have a wonderful cross stitch design programme on my PC which enables me to play around with ideas from a wide pallete of colours. Many of my designs are scaled down imitations of actual designs. Here I often begin by scanning a photo into my PC to give me a vague idea of the scaled down pattern. This then has to be modified and simplified over and over until I am happy with the general pattern (or chart). This can sometimes take a week or more. I begin stitching but inevitably have to make alterations as I go.  For this, the cross stitch program is invaluable to me.

Scallop Footstool

How do you keep yourself organised?

I rarely run out of ideas as one design usually leads to another. I try to organize my time so that I don't spend all day (and I mean ALL day) sewing. I have to keep on top of my stock of kits as these are my bread and butter.  I sell finished items regularly to collectors but it is very hard to charge a realistic hourly rate. I often receive commissions and usually rise to the challenge. If I am not inspired by the request I will not accept the commission.

Floral/Ribbon Rug

I am not a particularly organised person and once every so often I have to take a step back and assess what I am currently doing. I get so immersed in a project (particularly a carpet or a rug) that its easy to get blinkered. The only time I really manage to organise myself is when a dolls house  fair is looming. Each year I attend 5 or 6 fairs. About 4 weeks prior to the fair I set up my stand in my studio to see what needs doing. I prioritise and make numerous lists. It's always essential that I have kits available for all the items I display unless they are 'one-offs'.

Strawberry Thief Cushion

More info about Nicola can be found on her website by clicking on the link above or going to

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