Artisan Feature: Studio nom.
There is a distinct sense of exploration in fiber artist Nom's work—in understanding weaving and macrame techniques, as well as the collaboration of different patterns, colors, and textures. As the founder and maker for Studio nom., she loves to also reveal the design process behind her brilliant geo wall hangings, allowing customers to see the craftwork of each piece. It is all part of continually learning and experimenting, about finding beauty within the simplicity of just a few materials and patterns. We got the chance to (virtually) chat with Nom, discussing how her home in Alkmaar affects her work, her impressive attention to detail, and her doing-a-lot-with-a-little design ethos.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with Studio Nom?
My name is Nompumelelo, “Nom” for short. I was born in Swaziland. When I was three years old, my family moved to the Netherlands. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a fashion designer. After graduating as a textile designer from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, I started working as a designer at several fashion brands. But after many years, I realized that my dream job did not turn out as such, and I missed the making things by hand part. And I didn’t only want to be focused on clothing. I love learning new things, mostly that I don’t take the easy road, as I always jump right in and explore on my own terms. But this also allows me to play without restrictions and find my way. Studio nom. was created by me because I wanted to create a space for me to experiment.
You began your career as a fashion designer before embracing fiber art. How do you feel that fashion experience has influenced your textile designs, and does it still reveal itself in your work today?
I still have that forward-thinking mentality I learned working as a fashion designer and looking for the latest trends. But nowadays that is not my main focus anymore, but which doesn’t mean I am not influenced by them. I just now tend to focus much more on patterns that have always caught my eye. I always have been counting things in my surroundings, which may sound strange if I pass a big office building, but I just need to count all the windows and find a pattern in how they are organized. I take more time to explore, like when solving a puzzle. That’s what I do with my geo wall hangings as well—I count, organize, and create a pattern. I want you to see what is happening, whether all the ropes are in their place, and the path each rope is taking. Sometimes when a customer sends me a picture to show me how they placed one of my pieces in their home, I notice they have hung their piece with the backside to the front. Which made me realize there are two sides to every pattern, and you just need to pick your favorite version.
Also, fashion is fast-moving and ever-changing, I would like my designs to be able to stand the test of time.
As a creative who utilizes your Etsy shop, do you have a tip for someone wanting to open one of their own?
I would say to just go for it. Don’t overthink it too much. What I hear quite often from creatives (including myself!) is that they aren’t ready yet, it's still not good enough, that first, they need to make many more pieces, they need to rent a studio and photographer, etc. Everything needs to be more than perfect. Well, perfect can take a while. The best advice I ever got was from my husband, who mentioned, "I see you working really hard, making beautiful pieces, but nobody knows you are doing it, you have to put yourself out there." And so, that's what I did. I learned, and I'm still learning while I’m doing it. Etsy is a great way to open an online store and offer your products to a worldwide audience. Many things can be arranged easily via the platform. But you will have to make yourself visible between all those other shop owners, and there are a lot. I use my Instagram account to attract people to my online shop.
Shop Studio nom.
How would you describe your design ethos? Do you feel as though it is rooted in Dutch design?
Doing a lot with a little is definitely one of my strengths. That doesn’t necessarily mean a less-is-more approach, but I do love to make things less complicated. A strong combination of colors or an interesting pattern can be enough to make any design truly eye-catching. Dutch design is about simplicity and ingenuity, all of which I want my work to be as well.
What is it about living in the city of Alkmaar that inspires not only you but your designs?
I used to live in Amsterdam, which I loved and felt at home from the day I moved into my first place. A city bubbling with initiative and possibilities and places you just had to be at. So, moving to Alkmaar was a very big step. Everything seems to be moving at a much calmer pace, but it turned out to be just what I needed. I am less distracted and so much more focused. That's what I like to translate in my work, seeing the beauty within simplicity.
We love how you use the traditional techniques of weaving and macrame, turning them into distinctively modern wall art. Could you tell us about when you realized the two should go together?
Designing is a process. For me, it starts with familiarizing myself with a technique to the extent that I feel comfortable enough to let go of the rules, start leaving things out, or adding in another technique. Just between the crossover of these two techniques is where my geo wall hangings started to take shape.
I always loved how a woven piece looked when it was still on the loom, it gives you the perfect insight into how the patterns are created. Switching my soft weaving yarn for rougher cotton rope, as you would use in macrame, helped make the designs stand out even more. How I came to use a circular frame was a lucky find, as I stumbled on an embroidery hoop that I had lying around in my studio. So with a macrame knot, I secured my warp, and I was ready to go. It proved to be the perfect shape to soften the hard lines of the geometric shapes, and at the same time, it works like a magnifying glass, as it also draws your attention to its center.
As a Netherlands-based studio, how does it feel to see your work has traveled all across the world—especially given the pandemic?
I am absolutely overjoyed! I still have to pinch myself when I see where many of my pieces have found their new homes—from the US to Australia to so many countries in between.
My studio is the smallest room in our house, filled with cotton rope, wooden rings, projects, and great ideas ready to be explored. All pieces are made by hand by me here. It has been challenging as more orders and commissions came in, between being a mum, a teacher (homeschooling), and running a creative business in these uncertain and scary times, but we made it work. I'm thankful to my family and my customers both for their understanding and their patience.
What’s the best way for our customers to hang one (or multiple) of your pieces on the wall?
The best is to hang your new fiber art as soon as possible. When it arrives the fringes probably need a little love and care. You can untangle the long strings using your fingers, the strings will start to fall naturally after a short while, the fringes around the circle can be gently combed. I like to hang multiple pieces in a straight line next to each other, that way it almost looks like one large piece and turns it even more into a statement piece.
What’s next for you and Studio nom.?
Studio nom. grew pretty quickly last year which has been amazing, but also been a bit overwhelming. So on my wish list, for sure is a set of extra hands to help me out, and I will be looking out for a bigger workspace. But what I'm most looking forward to is launching a new line filled with unique, one-of-a-kind unique pieces. Last year I found myself having less and less time to explore and create new pieces, so I am excited to pick this up again and see which pieces come out.
Photography provided by Studio nom.