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Design-Nation member Nicki Jarvis wins heritage cottage residency

Design-Nation member Nicki Jarvis has been selected by North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) as artist in residence at the historic Mrs Smith’s Cottage in Navenby. Nicki started work last month and will continue on the project until June 2021. The Cottage is owned by NKDC and was operated as a visitor attraction by them for a number of years until remedial building work required its closure. Now, with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Council is undertaking major renovation work as well as developing a new visitor centre and garden in an adjacent property.

Nicki says, “I am completely thrilled to have been selected. The house is a really interesting traditional Lincolnshire cottage, special because Mrs Hilda Smith (who lived until she was 102) maintained a very traditional lifestyle. Mrs Smith kept a daily diary and so we can ‘hear’ a personal narrative of her daily life at the same time as experiencing the frugal yet wholesome world she made for herself.”

As Artist in Residence Nicki Jarvis will make connections between Mrs Smith, the Cottage and Mrs Smith’s lifestyle that are relevant for the present day. Over the next two years she will work on a range of community projects with local people, including the creation of a Village Trail, and culminating in the production of a series of permanent artworks for the property. She says, “In addition to formal craft-making sessions and special events at the Cottage and beyond, I will be simply present in the community getting on with domestic tasks such as mending and embroidery.”

Emma Clark, NKDC’s Visitor Economy Project and Funding Officer, congratulated Nicki on winning this commission. She says “The NKDC project team are mindful of the opportunity to celebrate and promote sustainability, as practiced by Mrs Smith, and we will be looking for lots of ways to build this in to the future development of the Cottage as a visitor attraction.”

Nicki Jarvis has been a member of Design-Nation’s portfolio of contemporary craft and design practitioners since early 2018. Programme Manager Hayley Banks says, “We are delighted that Nicki Jarvis will be ‘in residence’ at Navenby. This project is an excellent example of how Design-Nation’s contemporary makers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to celebrate tradition and heritage, developing new exciting work and events for the 21st century. We look forward to seeing how Nicki brings Mrs Smith’s story to life over the next two years.”

Notes to editors:

The Artist:Nicki Jarvis is a textile artist and ceramics tutor, based at Oxcombe Pottery in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Her artistic practice is strongly centred around ideas of ‘make-do-and-mend,’ domestic frugality and the husbandry of scare resources. She explores the emotional sustenance gained from transforming basic skills and simple materials into objects which make a home, or a sense of homeliness. Nicki Jarvis intends through the two-year project at Mrs Smith’s Cottage to use her usual methodology and working practices in textiles and clay as a starting point, but to learn from Mrs Smith’s history and lived experience, as well as the local community, and to generate new work which is specific to this environment.

The Project: Mrs Smith’s Cottage

Hilda Smith neé Craven was born in Navenby in 1892 and bought a cottage at 3 East Street in 1922. Mrs Smith lived in the cottage until just after her 102nd birthday. She died in May 1995. The cottage is thought to date from the 1830s, and minimal alterations means most original features remain intact. It passed into the ownership of North Kesteven District Council after Mrs Smith’s death and was run as a museum and visitor attraction, closing in 2012 when serious structural issues and deterioration of the building became apparent. The restoration includes urgent repairs and conservation work, reinterpretation of the site, a new learning programme and range of events and activities, and will restore the Cottage to its place at the heart of the local community.

Project Funders:

North Kesteven District Council is the lead authority for this project which brings together expertise from a range of internal services including property, visitor economy and planning. The local District Council ward members, as well as the Councils’ Executive Board, have been supportive of the project. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is the main funder of this project.


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Liz Cooper


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