Conversations + Colour: Natalie Miller
With a zest for life and colour, Natalie Miller has forged the path as one of the world's favourite textile artists. With works scattered around the globe, this Southern Highlands local remains humble and shares her love of palette pal through both her work and wardrobe.
Merging her love of design with her passion for chroma - she's recently completed work at Berrima's renowned Bendooley Estate, where she took on the mammoth role of architect, interior architect and created an awe-inspiring tapestry for the space. We can't wait to visit.
As a genuine brand super fan, Natalie truly encompasses who a Little Tienda woman is: a celebration of individuality, passion, authenticity and a lover of colour and pattern. She is a force - in the very best sense of the term. Can you tell we're huge fans?
Natalie Miller, you’re an architect, textile artist - what else should we know about you? Yes, I have been practicing architecture and interiors for the past 30 years and I also have a passion for tapestry weaving. I love colour, I love art and anything design. I am an avid hiker and will climb any mountain and chase any waterfall no matter how challenging it may be. I run long distances every other day and dance on my dining table on Saturday nights to 80s music with my husband. I’m a terrible cook and not a very good gardener. I work better in chaos and probably have the messiest car that exists. I love everything Japanese and like to get dressed up most days even if it is an adventure to the supermarket. I have three children ranging from 22 to 11, all completely different in personality and needs, so certainly life is busy.
Tell us about where you live, and why you love it: I moved to East Kangaloon in the Southern Highlands ten years ago from Paddington in Sydney. My husband and I wanted to buy a slice of land that was magical, and we could design and build a contemporary environmental home. We were extraordinarily lucky enough to find that magical piece of land that overlooks a picturesque working dairy farm. The view is of green rolling hills and each season and each day the skies are ever changing their colours. It never gets boring.
How did your career start? I studied architecture straight out of school in 1989. I worked in numerous large firms designing hotels and hospitality venues. Throughout my career I have never stopped studying art. I studied photography, ceramics, painting and 10 years ago I studied tapestry weaving at Sturt in the Southern Highlands. I fell absolutely in love with weaving. I knew at that point I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I began to dye my own wool to create a vast palette of colours. for my tapestries.
At what point did it really kick off? I would say that my career in weaving kicked off maybe 10 years ago when craft still had not made its revival yet. I was experimenting, I was being unique in style and bold in colour. I would say Instagram helped getting my ideas out and sharing my work. From there craft really took a turn and was back in vogue. I began to teach weaving and create large scale commissions using my hand dyed wool. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be involved with so many creative projects, from designing the woven scene in the latest Trolls movie, the biggest macrame chandelier in the world, to incredible commissions that are now housed in exciting spaces.
Have you always been creative? Is your family creative? Yes, I've always been creative. As a child I never played sport but would rather be drawing and painting. I used to build models of scenes as a child hence deciding to be an architect. I never left the house without my film camera and would live in the darkroom or art room at lunchtime at school. My mother was a dressmaker, and my family home was filled with fabric and sewing machines. My grandmother was a knitter and her home was filled with wool.
You host a lot of creative workshops (when Covid isn’t raining on our parade) - tell us about them: For many years now I’ve been hosting creative workshops all over the world. I would find a special place in the world, for example, Sumba in Indonesia where IKAT weaving is the best in the world. We would learn natural dyeing and weaving from the locals, experience their culture and food. It truly was phenomenal. Places include, India, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, USA and within Australia. The people that I have met on the way, the experiences I have had, I’m forever grateful.
In 2016 you created the largest piece of macrame in the world (in Hong Kong). How did this come about? And can you tell us about some of your more recent commissions? I was approached by a creative agency from Hong Kong and asked to put a proposal together. As I was an architect, I was able to design the steel structure and the 3D model of the chandelier that took 10km of 20mm hand dyed rope. I was able to estimate exactly how much rope was required. I won the tender and spent 2 months in Hong Kong creating the piece in 8 segments and then installing it on site at Pacific Plaza on Hong Kong Island. To be honest I look back and cannot believe I pulled it off, I knotted a good 16 hours a day every day for 8 weeks. My hands were bleeding, muscles aching, and sleep deprived, however when it was finally lifted in position, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and achievement. I felt proud and honoured to have had such an opportunity to create something so large and yes - was and still is - the biggest macrame chandelier in the world.
What’s been your favourite project to date? I’m going to say my latest project which opened on Monday. I was the architect, the interior architect and created a tapestry for the space. It’s the new cellar door at Bendooley Estate in Berrima, Southern Highlands. I hope that you can visit one day, the setting is sensational, food and wine incredible and the fireplace is spectacular. The space is filled with texture, from my colour hand woven tapestry, herringbone bricks, timber clad ceiling in the bar, wallpaper to the ceiling and walls. It is a visual feast.
Talk to us about colour - how does it affect you, how do you work with it, and do you have a favourite? Colour is an absolute must in my life. Colour makes me happy. All colours are my favourite and I think they can be used together. There are no rules, it's just a matter of being confident in your selection and then it will work. If you are happy with your colour choice, then that is all that matters.
What influences you? Nature, people, travel, patterns, shape and texture. I guess everything in life does.
What’s your go-to song that never fails to cheer you up? Anything 80s, as a teenager in the 80s, dancing on the podiums, anything from that era never fails. However, if I had to choose one it would be ‘Wake me up before you go go’ by WHAM. I cannot believe I still don’t have my GOGO t-shirt.
What’s one thing you have to do each and every day? Something active; run, swim, hike, cycle, or aerobics. It’s my therapy. Also creating, designing and making things.
What’s your favourite Little Tienda piece? I own so many Little Tienda pieces now, I love the feel of the hand-woven cotton, the colours and without a doubt the flowing feminine style. The cut and shape of the dresses are just divine. In winter I wore my purple hand-knit everywhere and have just received my seasonal subscription which is just stunning and unique. My Meadow Polly in Watermelon which I’m wearing in the field is such a scrumptious flowing fit and perfect spring colour. In love.
Describe your fashion style in five words: Unique, colourful, artistic, fun, feminine.
Go-to beauty product you can’t live without? Well, I love makeup and always have. I love experimenting with eye shadow, it’s like a mini canvas on your eyelids every day.
Favourite person to follow on Instagram? That is a very hard one to answer as there are so many creative talented wonderful people on Instagram.
Favourite artwork/artist? Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist, my all-time favourite.
What’s coming up for you, and where can we find you? I’m currently designing a 48-room lodge, health centre and 300 seat restaurant located in the Southern Highlands in which I hope to instill with lots of creativity, colour, art and craft.
I also have a very exciting tapestry exhibition in a well-known Sydney gallery that I will be working towards over the next year. I’m excited, life is good. I work really hard, I’m motivated, and life is what you make it, and it's all better when I'm wearing a Little Tienda dress.
Natalie wears Little Tienda Meadow Polly in Watermelon throughout.