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Off Grid Textile Workshops in Portugal

This is a guest blog post by my super talented friend and colleague:

Nicola Orpen M.A  at Texatelier  

Hello I’m Nikola Orpen and I am a practising exhibiting artist and educator. I am so very impressed with the beautiful crochet work created by Sue’s online course members and hope to inspire you in other directions too!

I worked with Sue for 10 years while we were both teaching in the textile and fashion department at City College Norwich, where we became friends and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to introduce myself and my own textile practice and courses to you.

I have a fine art background and studied painting and printmaking at Leeds Polytechnic in the 80’s but after graduation moved into the arena of textiles that I had always been hugely interested in since my foundation course, consequently my artwork is made using collage, print, paint and dye with stitch on cloth and paper.

Here are some examples of my work:

“Woodlands” 2019, private commission for an interior. 

Triptych 175×50 cms, mixed media collage with stitch on canvas

I have been teaching textiles and art for 35 years mostly in further education and since leaving the state education system in the U.K. and moving to Europe in 2005, I set up Texatelier teaching small groups of students from all over the globe and in a variety of locations about the wonderful and diverse world of textiles.

I taught myself how to use plants to create colour on cloth as I wanted to create textiles with fabulous colours while using less polluting methods of colouration than with chemical dyes.

My textiles specialism is surface pattern, particularly natural dyeing with plant colour, indigo and shibori, botanical printing, print and paint on cloth and paper, batik, and mixed media collage and assemblage on cloth and paper.

Indigo, Shibori, Rust Dyeing & Botanical Printing

My current studio is high up overlooking the river, and is set in the foothills of the Serra dos Açors, 1 km from the lovely and lively schist village of Benfeita in Beira Alto, Central Portugal.

The village has a small local shop, two cafes, a restaurant and lots of affordable accommodation mostly in the form of Airbnb.

Coja is the nearest small town 6kms away with everything that you need for a comfortable stay.

The area is largely unspoilt and the landscape dramatic with wonderful walks and glorious mountains to explore. We are just on the edge of a natural park called the “Mata de Margarança” which is a luscious chestnut forest and has the extraordinary waterfalls of Fraga da Peña, where the wild swimming is thrilling! This is an area where many people live off grid (as we do) and use the earths natural resources for power, making for a highly sustainable lifestyle.

I run all sorts of textiles courses including all the techniques mentioned above and more.

However this May (12th-14th) I am running a new and exciting, experimental 3 day mixed media collage and assemblage workshop.

The reason I am so excited about this is because nearly all my art work is made using mixed media collage and this will be my first commercial workshop using this method!

So alongside the more obvious ways to create collage and assemblage I hope to be able to share with you some of my special techniques and secrets.

It will include creating your own stock of papers, card, fabrics and threads to work with using all sorts of ways working with paint and print.

This collection of samples will be used to assemble collages, small artworks, cards, and textile pieces with glue, stitch, staples and even screws and nails!

It will be a fun but challenging workshop focusing on colour, pattern and composItion.

It’s a workshop for any level of student aiming to build confidence and of course art/textile skills and at the end of the 3 days you will leave with your very own individual collection of beautiful pieces and samples.

For complete details of the course and more information about me and my other courses please  go to

(Look at mixed media collage and assemblage: 2nd on list.)

I Really hope this is of interest to you, thanks for reading and maybe I’ll see some of you in Portugal!



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