Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

What a year 2020 has been, and it certainly doesn’t seem as if it’s ending quietly – in the UK at least.  For now I have spent the last week in quarantine in a portacabin in a muddy field on my sister’s farm in Ireland.  I am doing this so that I can spend Christmas with my family here, who I haven’t seen in more than a year.  And I have to say that having views over green fields and grazing sheep has been such a wonderful breath of fresh air after London.

One of the things I have really missed this year are the art and craft shows.  These shows are my happy place – giving me inspiration as I marvel at the creativity on display.  I have found myself seeking out artists on Instagram, many of whom post videos of them creating their work, which I find totally mesmerising!  So I thought I’d share with you my ‘advent calendar of artists’ (click on the images to go to their Instagram feeds)…

1 – Natasha Kumar – a UK based British-Indian artist who explores her heritage in her work.  I adore India, and I love the way that Natasha captures its vibrancy and spirituality through her art. I have one of Natasha’s pieces in my bedroom and it has such a calm vibe to it.

2 – Johnson Mugabe – I came across Johnson’s work on a visit to Zimbabwe a couple of years ago, and I was instantly captivated.  His work is mostly paper and fabric collage. His work is available through Nhaka Designs in the UK, and I have a couple of his pieces in my collection.

3 – Jazzy Westinghouse – it was Jazzy’s colourful horses that first captured my attention, but it’s by no means all she does.  She has a way with birds and ceramic pots too!

4 – Jack Penny – there is something about Jack’s quirky paintings, mostly of waiters or swimmers, that I look forward to seeing on my feed.

5 – Carla Kranendonk – Dutch-born Carla’s works are informed by her travels to West Africa and combine vivid brushwork with hand-embroidered paper collage, as well as photographic elements. I love the way she layering her patterns. She is represented by Rebecca Hossack Gallery in the UK.

6 – Holly Frean – if you’re a dog-lover then Holly is the artist for you.  I love the humour in her paintings. 

7 – Molly Lemon – a UK-based printmaker specialising in wood engraving.  Molly’s videos on her feed make it all look so easy! One of Molly’s pieces ended up in my collection this year.

8 – Diane Hill – Diane’s feed is filled with her creating her Chinoiserie watercolour and silk pieces.

9 – Natascha Maksimovic – she creates beautiful marble prints using the Japanese Art of Suminagashi ‘floating ink’ – celebrating and keeping an ancient craft alive.

10 – Ange Mullen-Bryan – Ange paints beautiful acrylic on aluminium landscapes.

11 – James Lai – this Sydney-based artist definitely has a unique perspective on his landscapes.

12 – Nadia Attura – Nadia’s work is a mix of photography and paint.  Most of her work is gently coloured, but this cactus print just hits you between the eyes with its vivacity! This piece has found its way into my Christmas stocking!

13 – Eileen van der Merwe – this South African artist has a way with a palette knife, creating works full of texture.

14 – Kate Mayes – Australian-based Kate is not shy when it comes to colour, and her pieces are definitely eye-catching in interior spaces.

15 – Claire Brewster – Claire’s work is a mix between intricate hand-cut pieces of flowers or birds, to ethereal paintings of women. One of her roses ended up in my collection this year.

16 – Sonal Nathwani – this image is of Sonal’s sketchbook. Oh, if only I could paint like that!!

17 – Jenny K of Living Pattern – this USA-based artist produces beautiful black-and-white and colour images of leaves mostly. I bought a couple of her small prints earlier this year, and she wasn’t shipping to the UK then, but she does appear to be now.

18 – Samantha Dennison – there is just something about this Australian still life painter that I find mesmerising. I love the simplicity, yet her attention to detail is amazing.

19 – Elizabeth Barnett – another Australian-based still life painter, but her work couldn’t be more different – full of bright colour and humour.

20 – Emma Studd – Emma creates original one-off screen prints of art. Using the screen as a drawing tool she explores the relationship between colour, shape and pattern. Another recent addition to my collection.

21 – Adam Robinson – my engineering background has instilled in me a fascination in the way items are laid out, which is what I love about Adam’s work – with stamps but more especially with vintage French seed packets.

22 – Natasha Mann – I was completely bowled over by Natasha’s work which is inspired by Moroccan patterns. She paints on wood using natural pigments and egg tempera.

23 – Isabel of Copperlight Studio – London-based Isabel uses a combination of embroidery and beadwork in her pieces, and I love art that is different, and uses different techniques.

24 – Roanna Wells – I love Roanna’s use of colour in her watercolour brushmark patterns.

And because I really struggled to whittle the list of artists down to just 24, there is one extra!

25 – Karina Petersen – Danish artist Karina uses ink and water to create her unique pieces. I love watching how the inks run into each other in her videos on Instagram.

Hmmm, it seems that quite a few pieces have slipped into my collection this year – I blame it on the Artists Support Pledge, set up in March to help out artists who were no longer able to sell their work at art exhibitions.

My husband, glancing through these images, said that there’s a clear theme of colour here.  Art is always such an easy way of introducing colour into your spaces.  And once you have that shot of colour, you can then pick out the colours to use elsewhere in your space to pull it all together into a cohesive whole. 

So there is my advent calendar of art for you to enjoy over Christmas.  May I wish you all a safe Christmas above everything else.  And I’ll be back next year with more interiors advice.



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I know, I know, it is a VERY long time since my last blog post. Let’s just say that 2017 was not my best year ever, and leave it at that. Because 2018 is here, and even though we’re fast approaching half way through this year, it is proving to be a good year – especially now that the UK seems to have finally shaken off winter, and the days are warming.

I had such fun yesterday visiting the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead. I was there with clients, but I always come away from art exhibitions feeling so inspired by all of the creativity I see at these shows! I dream of turning my home into an art gallery, and surrounding myself with beautiful pieces! Sadly, my budget doesn’t quite stretch to that currently!! So instead I satisfy myself with looking…

So without further ado, here are my fifteen favourite pieces from the day:

Did you visit the show? What was your favourite piece?

“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”
Claude Monet

Africa plays a large part in my identity, and I am very proud of my Zimbabwean heritage and upbringing.

I have recently been nominated for a Zimbabwe Achievers Award in the Female Entrepreneur category for my work. Sadly I didn’t win, but it is still such an honour to have been nominated! Outside of my business I am a volunteer trustee for Makomborero, a UK registered charity that is making a significant difference in Zimbabwe’s children’s lives.

So you can imagine how sad I have been recently to hear of the increase in xenophobic attacks on my fellow Zimbabweans in South Africa.

Design Indaba is a great source of design inspiration from South Africa, and they recently launched a campaign to #makechange. They called for local illustrators to design posters speaking out against the xenophobic attacks that were taking place. Here is a selection of the posters that struck a chord with me.

Sindiso NyoniSindiso Nyoni

Christoph NiemannChristoph Niemann

Wynadd BothaWynadd Botha

Rikus FerreiraRikus Ferreira

Chaz Maviyane-DaviesChaz Maviyane-Davies

Please share this post and help to rid our world of these sorts of attacks.

“Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as sub-human, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods.”
Nelson Mandela

Image credits from respective companies.

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  • Posted in #NoToXenophobia, Art | Comments Off on Using Design to Help Change the World – Say #NoToXenophobia