Nina Brabbins

For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!

This interview is with Nina Brabbins, whose colourful and fascinating work seeks to explore the environmental issue of plastic waste.

Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.

Hi, so I am Nina Brabbins, I am a 3D experimental textile/basket/jewellery maker.
I recently moved to Bristol from Stroud, which is where I grew up and where my passion for making began, at the Steiner school I went to.
My work looks at the connections or lack of, between the natural and human worlds, exploring how making can create awareness of the devastating impact our throw away culture has on the planet.
As well as making baskets/jewellery/sculptures I also love knitting, crochet and sewing clothes and face masks (which I sell if anyone is interested) and medning and upcycling clothes. I am interested in sustaining a circular fashion world, so haven’t bought a new item of clothing for many years now (except the bare essentials hehe).
I love being out in nature, especial going on long wandering walks on my own, or little adventures in my van.

Tas Kyprianou 2018

Photograph by Tas Kyprianou 2018

What is your favourite thing about the materials that you work with?
Nina Brabbins

I work almost predominantly with sea plastic/ghost nets gathered from beach cleans in Wales. The whole process taking a day away from life to take a trip to the beach, walk all day up and down the beach, scouring it for rubbish and hauling it home, then monotonously cleaning and untangling it, is all part of why I love working with this material. Along with the physical enjoyment comes the mental satisfaction of knowing I am making a tiny difference and the hopefully creating a moment of thought and awareness of the plastic waste crisis we are facing.
As well as working directly with the plastic waste I also love creating with natural materials, but often get caught up in the net of working with plastic, that I forget the beauty of the natural materials such as wallow, rush, day lilies etc. 

Where can we find you on the internet/buy your work?
I don’t have a website, but have all my work etc on Instagram (@ninabrabbins) where you can keep up to date and I am always up for commissions etc. I also have my work on We Make Bristol’s online shop and on show at Clevedon Crafts Centre Studio 3.
Nina Brabbins
What are your plans for the future?
My future is fairly unknown, partly because all our futures with covid here are a little unsure, but also because I was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis which has slightly changes things. However, a few things I know I will or want to do, such as walk the Camino de Santiago next May (if covid allows) and to do a masters degree…there is one at Goldsmiths, Art and Ecology which sounds perfect. I would also love to get involved in community art projects, bringing art and making to everyone, whiles also creating awareness for our environmental impact.
Nina Brabbins

As well as all these things, my dream would be to be able to keep making and properly start selling and showing my work… 

Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
My current favourite is Lois Walpole, her work is beautiful, intriguing and delicate. I also love Colette Davis who actually taught me coil basketry.

Then I have always been deeply inspired by Andy Goldsworthy and Julie Brook, who aren’t necessarily under this category as they are land artists, but…

Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?

This doesn’t really define my practice, but it is a quote a read a while ago and has stuck with me, by Lisa Anna Auerbach.
‘If nothing changes, it changes nothing’

Alex Brabbins 2020

Photograph by Alex Brabbins 2020


Other Photographs by Nina Brabbins