Olla Nua is...
A collection of handwoven woollen goods, made in Northern Ireland; created by designer and maker Nicola Gates.
From the Irish words for 'new wool' - using a natural, sustainable material in a modern, imaginative way.
Weaving contemporary cloth, on a traditional floor loom, powered entirely by hand and foot.
A story of provenance - using yarns spun by mills in Ireland and the UK. Inspired by the tradition of weaving in the rural west, many pieces incorporate authentic Donegal yarn, produced in Kilcar, with its distinctive fleck and homespun texture.
For the love of wool - its ability to insulate and to felt; to comfort and protect.
Attention to detail at every stage... after the meticulous setting up of the loom and weaving, the cloth is washed and often lightly felted to produce the desired softness and texture. Cutting and stitching follow, sometimes combining the handwoven cloth with Irish linen.
I grew up on a small farm in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, where I developed a love for nature and making things. I learned to weave at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and was instantly intrigued - the design possibilities seemed infinite, and the making process was structured and mechanical.
After graduating in 2005, I slowly set about gathering up weaving equipment and knowledge while working in retail and heritage. Through my museum work, I realised I wanted to create as well as curate... so I founded Olla Nua to combine my passions for sustainable contemporary design and the traditional craft of weaving.
I love working with wool and seek to enhance its natural qualities with each design. Weaving everything by hand means that I can produce short runs of cloth, so waste is minimal. I enjoy being hands-on with the materials, right through from initial design to finished cloth.
Weaving is a rhythmic craft...I love discovering the hidden patterns that emerge with each design, through the sequencing of the threading and weaving structures, and the repetitive movements as I work.
A big thank-you to all those who helped Olla Nua get started... particularly Craft NI and the Craft and Design Collective, who provided support for photography by Simon Mills and Sharon Duffin, along with the Crafts Council of Ireland and David Fitzgerald (Scapegoat Design), who provided invaluable mentoring on graphics and web design.