The Black Swan Ukraine

Niki Collier and Olga Melnikova met at an IMMA event in support of Ukraine in April 2022. We clicked straight away and chatted long after the gathering finished.

We went onto meeting each other on several social occasions at each other’s houses and at events. We chatted a bit about Olga’s travel from Kiev to Dublin though Europe. After weeks of sleepless nights she knew- she couldn’t put the life of her boy, Platon on the line. She left her job, her MA studies, her home and run. She scrambled a few things from her home grabbing her boy, stopping at her mum’s village to pick her up. Traveling with big canisters full of petrol under the car seats.  I stopped in my tracks thinking of the danger traveling with car full of petrol. Olga looked at me and said – it is not more dangerous than being blown to pieces from Putin’s bombs. The car was packed to the brim- even a small basin was kept on her mum’s lap.

When I met Olga she was saying all the time- I am ok, I am ok, I am not complaining. It made me wonder- was she? Was it me she was convincing?

I gave her tickets to Bloom. Her mum walked around the lavish flower displays and kept showing me photos of the blooming flowers in her garden. I could see how much she missed them.

Platon, Olga’s son was really quiet in the first couple of months. He would sit in the corner and play on his phone. Eventually, he started chatting and playing together with Tanya.

Once Olga, Tanya (her mum) and Platon (her son) came to the studio and we played with hats and then made a felted flower.

Olga and myself workshopped Olga’s journey in a movement workshop at the Orangery.

The day of the shoot was very rewarding as our small team was supported by Russborough House in the best possible way.

You can see one of the looks in the images on the right.

The concept of this wing design was very different to the rest- they were supposed to emote the idea of daggers that are put together but would fly out any minute. These are the first wings that have motion in them and the first wings that have feathers sticking out free flowing. The felt is mounted on black silk gauze.

Olga was dressed as a warrior and carried the wings as a scarf. These are the first wings that are one piece. Drawing its shape and form from a scarf.  Scarf like a trusted companion gives one respite from cold and evil eyes or simply hugs us when we need a hug. Scarves as an object in the craft world are both the most coveted and most celebrated object of both creating and gifting. They are the Swan song of every product designer and are intricate masterpieces of texture and rare materials and showcase of the most respected arts made.

Niki and Olga Workshopping in the Orangery @ Marlay Park
26th February, 2023.Black Swan by Niki Collier at Russborough House. Photo:Barry Cronin/
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