The pandemic that we are going through has awakened our desire for peace and simplicity. Natalie Ciccoricco was feeling the same things, but as she is an artist, she was able to express them through visual art. All here works are sold at the moment they are finished as they express so beautifully all our feelings and emotions of the last months. A beautiful encounter with a generous young woman…
Photos – © Natalie Ciccoricco (Mrs Ciccoricco) – photos are protected by copyright – thank you
Interview – Claire de Pourtalès
You were born in the Netherlands. City girl? Country girl? What effect had your childhood, the people you met or places you saw on your art?
My hometown Budel is in the south of The Netherlands, in a rural area. So, I guess that makes me a country girl. I had to bike 12 kilometers to my high school, through the woods. At the time I sometimes dreaded how long it took, but the ride itself was beautiful and it was fun to ride together with my friends.
My parents have a deep appreciation for nature, and I think I inherited that outlook a lot. They know a lot about local plants and bugs. I went to college in Utrecht and I lived there and in Amsterdam for a while, but now I’m older I keep longing to be in nature more than being in cities. I think that’s why I am so drawn to incorporate natural elements in my art at the moment. I now live in the hills and I love the peace and quiet.
You graduated in 2006 and your first exhibition was 10 years later. What happened during those years, art wise?
Art wise, not so much. I was crafting a lot though. Even though I studied arts in college, and I graduated as a Master in Arts, my education was never geared towards becoming an artist. I imagined myself working at a museum or gallery. It wasn’t until I worked as a freelance translator and spent a lot of time behind my computer, that I started longing for working with my hands to express myself. So, in those 10 years I did a lot of sewing, crochet and jewelry making. I was crafting mainly to stay sane and to have a creative outlet, but I never imagined myself becoming an artist.
How did embroidery come into your life?
As a kid I did some cross stitching, but I found a new appreciation for it after moving to the United States. While I was in college, my mom gave me and my sister a lot of embroidery threads which she bought along with a tin in a thrift store. I always hung onto it, thinking I would do something with it one day. After my husband and I bought our house and I actually had a physical space to be creative in, I started experimenting with embroidery on paper.
How is nature part of your creative process?
I hike in nature a lot. Especially after the Covid-19 outbreak, I started going more and more on walks in nature. Nature is my muse and it is such a big source of inspiration. The colors, the shapes, the sounds. There’s always something different and new. I have a favorite trail which I hike regularly, but it is always different. Just being surrounded by nature brings me so many new ideas. And I often bring home some sticks or stones to incorporate in new artworks.
How do you stitch? Workshop, special place, anywhere? With music, TV, silence?
I have a small desk, on a tiny landing above the kitchen, just outside of my son Lou’s bedroom. It’s super small, but just having a surface where I can leave my projects out helps to stay creative. Sometimes I watch a TV show on my phone in the background while I work, sometimes I listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music. It really depends on the mood. Often my son Lou is running around, so I have to keep an eye on him. When I really have to focus (which is usually in the design phase), I prefer silence or classical music.
I read you are a mother now – apart from the “nesting” series, what effect this important change made on your art?
Becoming a mother has been a spiritual awakening in a way. Your life changes so drastically and especially as a stay at home mom, all of a sudden, every part of your life looks different. It has made me realize that aside from being a mom, I love making art and that I don’t want to waste my time on activities which are not meaningful or don’t bring me much joy. I value my time more and want to devote the little time I have mainly to my art practice. I’m overthinking things less and am just going for it. I feel I’m exactly where I need to be.
Your art connected so will with people that all your pieces are sold out. What, in your point of view, made you so able to resonate with people? You wanted to help in a practical way but a friend of yours told you: “People need beauty especially now”. Do you feel better now, not helping in a direct way, but in a deeper one?
I think that Covid has really woken up a lot of people to what is truly important in their lives. People spent way more time at home and in nature over the past year and I think that’s why my Nesting series hit home with so many people. They get what it’s about: Love, nature, beauty, nesting. The small things in life. And yes, that’s what keeps me going. I don’t feel like my art is futile anymore. From the interactions with my collectors and followers, I know it is meaningful and powerful and touches people in a way only art can. So, I’m happy that I kept going. Any insecurities I’ve had about this are gone now, as I know now that being of service can look many different ways.
What do you wish to give us with your art?
Hope, joy and an appreciation for nature. I wish it makes us think about our role in the world and this universe. We are all very small parts of something big and I hope my art makes people think of how they can do better, by being more mindful and kinder to those around us and to Mother Nature.
Colours are very important to you – do you see your next piece through colours first? How is your “workshop corner”? Full a colours or white so you can create from a blank page?
My small studio is pretty messy to be honest. I’m dreaming of a big, bright studio where I can perfectly plan out my works. At the moment, I have a very intuitive approach. After selecting my materials and figuring out which composition will go well with my selected stick or stone, I usually open my three thread boxes, pick out a color I’m drawn to and then expand on that to create a palette. Other times I look at an image I like, for instance from an old magazine, and pick out some of the dominant colors in that picture. I try to not overthink anything and intuitively select shapes and colors which pair well with the natural materials before me. I like to see it as a meditative practice.
Quilting (an art you know through your mother) is arranging shapes together, is creating one whole piece with hundreds of small ones. It feels like your art has a lot to do with this, bringing things together that might not have been otherwise, creating links, adding threads… Do you agree?
Yes. I love creating patterns and giving materials new meaning, which is very similar to quilting. Lots of quilts also resemble memories. A quilt my Mom made for my husband and I as a wedding gift has scraps of old clothes in it. Little memories, which are stitched together into an abstraction. There are indeed lots of parallels between my art practice and the traditional craft of quilting.
You said you remember each stone, each twig you have incorporated in your Nesting pieces. Are they a bit like a journal to you? Did you feel you hit on a very special project when you started? Are you still finding new inspiration? Has its success changed something?
In the beginning, it did indeed feel a little bit like journaling. Now, after having made over one hundred Nesting artworks, they almost feel more like snapshots. With a journal, you keep your memories and thoughts close and private. With my art, I am now sharing these memories, making them public and part of someone else’s story. In the beginning that was hard, as each piece is deeply personal, but now it feels good to not keep my artworks so close. I’ve always had a bit of a hoarder mentality and when I first started making art, I sometimes created works which I didn’t want to sell. Now, it actually feels liberating to let go of an artwork. I dreamed it, I created it and then I let it go.
When I started this series, I had no idea it would be such a success. It honestly started as an experimental sketching series, just to keep me busy during the first lockdown I had no idea it would develop into something this big.
Yes, I am still finding new inspiration. I have so many ideas for new compositions and new materials. It’s exhilarating riding this creative wave.
The success of this series has changed the way I work. I used to create mainly artworks for art shows at galleries, but with my Nesting series I shifted more to direct sales to my collectors through my website. It has allowed me to really think outside the box when it comes to my art as a business. As there was a lot of demand, I’ve made it possible for people to order commissions directly through my website, which has been great. I’ve created many custom pieces, incorporating meaningful objects people sent me for instance. I like doing commissions and bringing someone’s vision to life.
Do you draw /sketch them before hand?
Yes, after I select an object to use, I usually sketch out the composition by hand.
I read that your art was used for movies. Can you tell us how this happened?
There’s an art agency I work with, which is specialized in licensing artworks for set decorators. It’s been super fun to see my art on screen.
What are the other arts that surround you?
I do consider myself a movie buff and I love to watch a good movie now and then. My favorite director is David Lynch, but I also love old Hollywood movies. My music taste is pretty broad, from classical to folk to rock and indie music. I currently listen a lot to Neil Young, Nina Simone, Fleetwood Mac and Massive Attack. My favorite painter is Caravaggio, but I also love discovering new artists through Instagram. There’s so much talent and the beauty of social media is that anyone can share their art easily. I used to be an avid reader, but after becoming a mom I’ve hardly read any paper books. Nowadays I listen to a lot of audio books though, both fiction and non-fiction. One of my favorite writers is Haruki Murakami.