Nigel Cheney Interview: Bombarded with distractions

Nigel Cheney Interview: Bombarded with distractions

In part one of our in-depth interview with Nigel Cheney we learnt about his early influences and what inspires him today. In the second part, we delve deeper into how he has evolved as a figurative textile artist with advances in technology, his recent preference for hand-stitch and the growth in the complexity of his work, as well as learning more about the environment he likes to work in and how art fuels his life.

Telling Stories – 2010

‘Telling Stories’, Patchwork and appliqué with centre panel of digital print juniper linen. Hand and Machine embroidered, 2010

Development: depth and vitality How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Nigel Cheney: My practice used to have a lot more machine stitch. Lately I’ve wanted to include more hand with the machine. The machine is often a tool to construct, build, lay the foundations whilst the hand becomes a flourish that adds a touch more depth and vitality. I’ve become very reliant on digital print to create grounds… I’m really not sure if I’m happy with that. I am more confident with colour, I know a lot more about technology and am able to use digital print and computer driven machines. I think my work is more honest and perhaps even more confusing for the viewer. The narratives are more complex but the answer to that is really with the viewer.

Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?

I’m a fulltime lecturer. I rarely give workshops but I am doing a weekend with the Northern Ireland embroiderers guild in February. I hope they aren’t disappointed I’ve been working hard on plans for them. It’s a chance to show the approaches I have developed for the A&C Black book ‘Textile Surfaces and Manipulations’ that I have just finished writing with my best pal and boss Dr. Helen McAllister.

How do you go about choosing where to show your work?

It’s not that I’m easy but basically I will go anywhere someone asks me or a friend suggests I apply for.

Telling Stories – 2010

‘Telling Stories’, detail, Hand and Machine embroidered, 2010

Little point in anything else

Why are you an artist?

I earn my living by working as a lecturer. I make work because when I don’t there seems little point in anything else?

Did your family nurture your creativity?

My family have supported me in everything and anything I have ever wanted to do. It’s a world beyond anything they know and I think most of the time it bemuses them, but they are my fiercest advocates.

What inspires you?

Everything. Colour, texture, imagery… my students (on good days), my friends (always), music more than anything else.

Do you ever suffer from Artists’ block?

There is never a shortage of ideas, there is sometimes a paralysis from being overwhelmed by so much to do, where to start? How to prioritise.

Silence is my biggest fear

Do you use a sketchbook?

Yes and no. I have a mass of them. They relate to different times and projects. Currently there are piles of visual references and folders on the laptop full of starting points. I prefer to draw looseleaf… always have. The goldilocks project was the last time I really made myself document the ideas in a notebook. The last 2 years have been obsessed with this blessed book. Now its finished I’m just not sure exactly where to start!

Do you work in silence or with music?

NEVER EVER SILENCE. Silence is my biggest fear. Music or dvd boxsets…. Have to be surrounded by and bombarded with distractions. I can only find the work amidst that chaos…. I have always been able to filter out what’s around me. My parents shocked the form teacher at school when they told him I would lay in front of the TV doing my homework.


‘2 < 3 4ever’, digital print, 2011

No regrets

What are your other interests besides art?

Food, well cooking and eating, but eating has its own issues so now I have to swim….

Who would you love to collaborate with (living or dead)?

I’d love to have done an album cover for Joni Mitchell in 1968…

My collaboration with my friends Helen McAllister and Alex Scott last year was so rewarding I would love to do that again. I think Karen Nicol is the goddess of stitch and I marvel at her genius everyday, but I would be too terrified/insecure to be in collaboration.

What is the best decision you have ever made?

What a question? That’s surely something you ask on a first date that isn’t going well? LOL. I don’t believe in regrets. I don’t know I have ever consciously made a decision. Stuff just happens. If there is an answer its probably ‘not to have eaten the last chocolate eclair’ but I don’t remember ever having done that.

What is your favourite place to get away from it all?

Italy, anywhere in Italy, or a Greek island, or Paris… or actually just back with my family in Market Harborough. I’m happy being anywhere, it’s the travelling I detest.

Not for the faint-hearted

What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?

A career in Textiles is not for the feint hearted. Only you can make it happen and if you have to ask if its for you, then you don’t want it badly enough, and you really should go and do something else. If you know it’s the only path you want to take then believe in yourself, accept that it will never be good enough and you will always want to make the next thing in the hope its better.

Read Part 1 of our interview with Nigel Cheney: Manipulate, construct and embellish.

For more information please visit:

Let us know if you’ve enjoyed this interview by leaving a comment below.

Monday 27th, March 2023 / 02:01

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe



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5 comments on “Nigel Cheney Interview: Bombarded with distractions”

  1. Sandra says:

    Your Part One on Nigel needs some serious editing. Fascinating story.

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