The fabric of an idea: An interview with Niki Cotton, multimedia artist

Born and bred in North Wales, multi media artist Niki Cotton studied art at college before setting up her current business Niki Cotton Art.

Inspired by the sea near her home, Niki’s fascinated by texture and shape and loves the process of re-creating an image between different mediums, watching  how it changes on the way.

“A lot of my artwork starts with a photograph or a drawing, then goes through various steps,” she explains. “At the moment, I’m working a lot with making prints, such as lino cuts where I’ll create a template from linoleum and use it to print an image.

I’ve also just started experimenting with gelatine plates, which makes a lovely soft print, a really nice effect. I learnt how to do the gelatine on a course, and I’ve just discovered that you can buy a readymade silicone plate which is going to make life a lot easier.”

Niki’s work with fabric.

Niki also sometimes backs her prints with fabric, so that she can stitch into the work. She sandwiches the card, paper or tissue with Bondaweb and then finishes it with fabric. Bondaweb is an iron-on glue mesh material which permanently adheres to the fabric and print when heated.

“Bondaweb is brilliant – it means I can run the card, paper or tissue through a printing process, then use the sewing machine or paint over it to get different effects, it means I can stitch into it without the card disintegrating into a perforated mess. It makes the paper act like a fabric,” says Niki. “It’s all about building up a really textural, three dimension piece of work.”

Part of the beach life series

Niki lives two minutes walk from the beach, and visits it twice a day with her dog, Nushka, a Malamut/Northern Inuit cross, or with her children, using mainly her iPhone as a sketchbook to try and capture the immediate change of the light, seascapes and skyscapes, the emotions and thought processes that are triggered by her environment.

Part of the ghost series.

“At the moment, I’m working on my ‘ghost’ series, which is a set of work with screen printed and photographed seed heads layered over other mediums and techniques,” she says. “After the death of my darling dad from motor neurone disease on New Year’s Day January 2013, I became fascinated with the whole circle of dying and life, . I have found myself captivated by the seed heads on grassy banks that edge the path next to the beach, in particular the struggle of these plants as they try to grow in a really inhospitable area, being soaked daily by the tide, trampled on by walking feet, scorched by the sun and drowned by the rain, the way that through all of this adversity these little plants flourish, pointing their sunny faces to the sky, and creating life with their seeds as they die. Things I notice around me tend to sit in my subconscious for a while before I’m ready to get the ink or paints out, while I decide how to treat them.”

“I’m the first to admit that one of the reasons I love to work with different media is a short attention span!” she laughs. “When I’ve got an idea buzzing around in my brain, I can’t wait to get it down somehow in case it evaporates. I like to use monoprinting, which is drawing on a piece of Perspex with ink, or the silicon Gelli Plate, as they give an instant results.  I paint mostly in acrylics, and use wax to create glazes and areas of transparency. I can even scratch into the paint to create more texture. I work quick to capture the energy and movement of the idea, and using acrylics means I can change something quickly if necessary as it dries speedily and if it isn’t drying quickly enough I have been known to get the hair dryer out and give it a quick blast!”

Multi media artist Niki in her studio.

“My whole life is lived by the sea, really. It informs me every day – whether I’m driving past it or walking on the beach. I love the colours of the sky against the water and the constant, ever-changing shifting of light that makes the same scene look different every time I see it. It gives me a real sense of freedom.”

At the moment, Niki’s artwork is available online and in local exhibitions, but she’d love to open a studio space for other artists to display their work as well.

A commissioned piece using circus-style lettering

“Working by yourself can be lonely,” she says. “If you’re struggling with something, it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off someone, and at the moment I’m getting that from an online community who are incredibly supportive.

I’d love to work in more of a cooperative, though, and have the opportunity to create bigger pieces, as at the moment I’m limited by the size of my studio. More space would mean I could create really energetic work, and capture movements with no restriction.”

Niki’s limited edition mounted signed prints start at £30, while original artwork starts at £75. For more information, please visit

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