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An Interview with Nicole Nikolich

I came across Nicole Nikolich's art when a friend shared a photo of a framed, crocheted fried egg on Instagram. The humor of elevating such an ordinary object to the status of a framed piece of art really struck me. When I visited Nicole's Instagram page (@lace_in_the_moon) I was greeted with even more images of framed crochet food-- carrots, strawberries, shrimp, avocados, French toast-- you name it, she's crocheted it. It was funny and whimsical, but it also really stirred something inside of me. We so seldom honor the allure and the importance of the ordinary, and I was really gratified to see such a creative and entertaining way to appreciate the ordinary.

Food isn't the only thing Nicole crochets though. She also makes elaborate crochet installations of flowers, rainbows, cartoon characters, ice skaters, and more. Inspired by street art and installation art alike, Nicole is determined to give back. She firmly believes in the healing properties of crocheting, and she wants to spread that message, breaking down gender roles along the way. I was so happy I got the chance to talk to her about what has influenced her work, the beginnings of her art career, and what's next for Lace in the Moon.

Who are your inspirations?

Right now, I have two big inspirations in terms of art. One is Lucy Sparrow. She is this felt maker, and she goes into old convenience stores and old grocery stores and recreates every little thing in felt. You can actually go in and shop. There's like boxes of tampons, beers, everything-- all made out of felt. I also recently discovered this artist who I've been super inspired by, Liza Lou. She made this entire life-sized replica of a kitchen, and every single thing is beaded. I'm very inspired by repetition of small things. I love doing something of the same pattern to make something huge. I'm inspired by installation art and artists in general. Yayoi Kusama is incredible. When I went to her pop-up exhibit in D.C., I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it.

What work are you most proud of?

I have two pieces that I'm most proud of. I have something up in the Philadelphia airport, and it's this girl with her eyes closed and her hair is kind of exploding out of the frame, and it says "Watch me grow." I was proud of that piece because I had decided to quit my 9-5 job to pursue art full-time. The day that I did that I got the email from the airport. It felt very serendipitous. And then, I did some set design for a show on AMC and that was really cool. I got to make like a wonderland background inside a building.

What would you say has been the most transformative experience of your life?

In January or February of 2017, I was admitted to the hospital for anxiety and depression after having a really bad trip on acid. It was a really scary time. I've always struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. After that, I went home and tried to think of how I could manage this in a more healthy way. So, I was on YouTube and decided to teach myself how to crochet. It not only completely changed my life, but it also greatly improved my mental health. It was like this form of meditation, because you have to use both hands, you have to be in the moment, especially when you're first learning. It's all about counting, repetition, and being super, super focused. From there, I just ran with it, and it really opened up new doors for me.

What's the story behind the name Lace in the Moon?

I came up with that name before I even knew how to crochet. I always loved art but I never had one specific medium until now. At the time I was really just playing with different things. I did a lot of collages, weavings, stuff with fabric. I love things, just like 3D collaging basically. I was using a lot of lace and I was making all my creations super late at night. Lace in the Moon came from that, and while it doesn't really represent what I'm doing now, I think it does represent my journey getting here. It's very aesthetically pleasing too.

What's the biggest challenge that you've faced in your career?

I would say the biggest challenge is just motivating myself. I often work with clients and friends, but in general, I'm the boss. I'm the one who has to get up early or whatever. It's hard for me to set a schedule. I was really hard on myself for a while because I would often sleep in or I would have lazier days where I wouldn't get much done. I would beat myself up about it. I still do that for sure. I'm not really a Type A person. I'm a Type B in a good way and also in a bad way. What I've realized is that I have a certain schedule that works for me. Like, I don't do better if I get up early. So it's a lot of telling myself that it's ok if I sleep in until 10am and don't start working until 11 sometimes. Different things work for different people. I guess I would say I'm my own worst enemy.

I notice that you often choose food as your subject matter. Why is that?

The food stuff I've only started doing this past year. I worked part-time at a cafe as a side hustle, and the past couple months, I was slowly working there less. Getting there felt really monotonous, because it's been like three years. So I was thinking of creative ways to make the days where I'm at the cafe more exciting. I started to crochet recreations of the plates of food we sell at the cafe, and I brought them in to take pictures or prank the customers and staff just for fun. Also, I started using a small hook so I was practicing a new skill. Then everyone was saying that they were obsessed with these food creations. I didn't realize that the love for miniature things was so big. I love tiny things but I didn't know that everyone did! Something that's really important for me in my street art is that it should either send an impactful message or it's funny and makes you smile. I think the food motifs do that. Also, people were always asking if they could buy these food creations, so I started putting all this food in these vintage frames as a way to supplement my income. That's been great-- it's pushing me to finally be an artist a hundred percent of the time and leave the cafe. It's kind of funny that I was recreating the food of the cafe, and now I'm able to leave because of that. I'm definitely not going to be doing food forever, but it feels like my food phase right now, and it's just fun.

What do you hope to create in the future?

My goal as an artist is to teach people the power of crochet for your mental health. What it's done for me and for the people I teach is amazing. When I teach children and teens, and I ask a class "Who has crocheted?" they respond with "My mom" or "My grandma." But it's never "My father" or "My grandfather." Yet when the boys pick it up, they're often way better than some of the girls and I'm just shocked. That's a messed up gender roles thing. Anyway, my goal is to share my knowledge of crocheting and mental health. My ultimate dream that I've been working on for 8 months now is to get an RV, cover it completely in crochet inside and out, and take it around to every state and different communities and teach people how to crochet. I love to travel, I love to crochet, I love to teach, so it's really taking all these things and creating something that's perfect for me, that also allows me to give back. I've planned it out with some friends and right now I'm in the money raising phase. Hopefully I'll be able to purchase it in the spring, but after that the timeline is pretty open. But it's in full spring! I'm excited.


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