Spotlight: Natalya Khorover Aikens, Fiber Artist
Natalya Khorover Aikens creates art with a big city vibe. Her work is filled with architectural imagery and stitched on repurposed single-use plastic bags, turning trash to treasure.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
In hindsight, I was always on the artist path, just didn’t always think of it as such. Let’s just say that the path evolved over time.
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Having always drawn as a child and keen on fashion, I went to High School of Art and Design in NYC to study Fashion Illustration, then to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for Fashion Design. That evolved into costume design and costuming for film and TV, then into making art from fabric remnants and now to stitching my art from repurposed plastics. So, yes, an evolving artistic path….
What prompted the shift from fashion design to the kind of work you do now?
Having children usually provides a shift in life. For me that also coincided with 9/11. I had been working in film and all work stopped at the time in NY, and a year later I didn’t see how I could continue working in film while caring for a baby.
While my babies were little I started making art by stitching fabrics, and for reasons unknown started collecting plastic shopping bags for all the pretty colors. I was always an avid recycler and repurposer, then one day I figured out that I can stitch the plastic just like fabric and things escalated from there.
What inspires you to use repurposed materials in your art? Did you experience an epiphany or more of an evolution?
An evolution again I think. (Seems to be a theme here.) Having done part of my growing up in Soviet Union, I was raised on recycling and repurposing, not for reasons of keeping the planet clean, but for general thriftiness and survival.
How do you source your materials? Do you find everything on your own? Do friends bring you stuff?
A little bit of both! I collect things as I go, even if I don’t know I will use something at the time. Friends gift me items which make them think of me and my art, and sometimes even complete strangers send packages.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I start with a plan/image in mind and then I improvise my way there. Usually the plan gets altered by the materials found.
Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
I do work in a series. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one series ends and another begins as I am mostly in the architectural image realm. But usually I make a plan to make three or more pieces in the same feeling or similar imagery and same materials. And then depending on how those go, I choose to make more in the same vein, exploring further.
How do you manage your creative time? Is there a time when you are most productive?
Since my daughters were tiny I learned to work in short time increments. I seem to still work that way, though I do have a luxury of working in stretches of several hours at a time these days. For now I am most productive during the school day as I know things get wacky in the afternoon. And I do usually get to do an hour or more of handwork in the evenings when things settle down again.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
LOL I’m not sure that it does! I do let things get rather messy while working on a project and I do try to organize before beginning a new one. But sometimes time is not on my side….
If a storm is coming and you have time to grab just 5 items from your studio, what do you take with you and why?
It would have to be a bunch of hand sewing needles, scissors, thimble and thread. Because I’ll always be able to find something to stitch on!
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I do indeed think it’s part of human nature. But I think that every human has a different way of expressing it and it definitely needs to be nurtured. I don’t think it needs to be learned as it’s already inside you, but by learning you are nurturing it. I always encourage people to investigate that which draws them in, because you never know what will spark your creativity!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I certainly do! There are descriptions of my workshops on my website and I am always happy to tailor a workshop to someone’s needs. I also teach workshops at schools, as I love to work with kids of all ages and encourage their creativity while educating them about the perils of single-use plastic and climate change.
Where can people see your work?
On my website, of course, and there you can find links to the most current workshops and exhibits.
Interview posted March 2020
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