N I C O L A   H E N L E Y

Textile Artist



Photo by: Charley McGeever

History, Inspiration and Aims

After completing a degree in Fine Art/Textiles at Goldsmith's college, London in 1984, Nicola Henley has worked as an artist, exhibiting widely in The U.K. and abroad. Born in Bristol, England she moved to Co. Clare in Ireland in 1991 to set up a studio and continue working on large scale artworks, based on her interest in nature, wildlife and in particular birds. She is inspired by birds and their movement within the landscape and coastal regions. In recent years her work has developed the theme of birds in motion and their relationship to sea and sky, in particular how this motion interacts with the energy of waves and air currents which she observes and draws off the west Clare coast. She aims to draw our attention to the delicate balance of nature and the inter-dependence and connections between ourselves and our environment. Living in close connection with the natural habitat of rural Ireland she wishes to remind us to respect and conserve its diversity and beauty.

The textile pieces are made by a combination of dying, painting, and screen-printing cotton calico and texturing the surface with various materials such as hand made Japanese paper and silk stitched onto the surface of the cloth. The change of scale from bold printing and painting to the intimacy of close stitching helps to convey the concept of near detail with open space of a landscape or seascape. By watching and drawing bird motion she aims to capture a sense of scale and movement within space. The work links the abstract sensations of what she feels with hints of the figurative reality in a particular place. Each piece of work is also an expression of her inner state, emotions and reflections on life which are both personal to her but also apply universally.

Her interest in birds was sparked by a chance visit to Cape Clear Island whilst on holiday in Ireland as a student. Stranded at an ornithological centre due to stormy weather, she started drawing Peregrine Falcons moving across the landscape and was captivated by: "That small jewel like being with all that space around it". She still draws avidly from life, this being the starting point for all her work. In her sketches she wants to capture the: "Essence of the bird and its movement, a moment in time, a memory of passing movement". These instant sketched records are the beginning of an idea which when back in the studio develop over weeks into large-scale artworks in which she aims to create the spontaneity and freedom of the original drawings.

Exhibited regularly from 1984 to 2015 at:

Collections and Commissions:

Grants and Awards:



The piece starts with dyeing large pieces of calico and transferring drawn and painted images onto silk-screens by use of a photographic process. The screens and parts of screens are then used to build up layers of images through repeatedly printing and painting the surface of the dyed calico. Sometimes working from both sides of the cloth, subtle textures and colours are built up to create a surface of sequential marks, describing movement and a sense of three dimensional space across the picture plain. In contrast to the large scale work of screen print and painting, parts of the surface are then collaged with a mixture of Japanese hand-made paper, fine muslin and dense stitch in specific areas. The contrast of large open areas and small scale detail reflects that of birds in their natural environment: "I want to capture the contrast between intricate ornithological detail and vast expanses of space. Birds are a way of exploring my need to be free, both spiritually and physically, that's why I live in this environment. Birds are not bound by man-made structures, they fly with complete freedom".

Published Profiles


N I C O L A   H E N L E Y

Textile Artist

Co.Clare, Ireland
Telephone: +353 (0)86 3465684