By Sarah Hodges
When I think of artist Nadia Fairlamb, I think of Still & Moving Center’s guiding motto – “Claim your magnificence.” Nadia has truly done this, coming through the many obstacles that stood in front of her to claim what she knew was her true capacity for creativity, greatness, and inner fortitude. As she continues to expand herself and her art, Nadia shares about her journey and how different her life was a decade and a half ago when she faced a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the life she was living.
Almost exactly 14 years ago today, artist Nadia Fairlamb sat at her mother’s bedside to be with her for her final breaths. This deeply challenging transition brought Nadia to assess her own life. She was working many odd jobs, receiving small hourly payments, living with difficult roommates, andwas surrounded by people who were not healthy for her.
“I realized I needed to change my life,” recounts Nadia. “I’d been living on others’ terms for too long. I wanted to live the life that I wanted and knew I was capable of. I was done living the life that society or my parents or others told me to live. I needed to find out how to live on my own terms, working for my own dreams. I hadn’t yet had the courage to do what I really wanted to.”
Nadia stepped into problem-solving mode. She began using her time off to sit with herself and identify what came easily for her, her greatest skills and interests. Then she evoked a clear vision of this magnificent person whom she felt living deeply tucked within the folds of herself. She felt and envisioned her way through this process for a few months, determined to land on something that she could drive toward. The answer began to take shape and then blared out to her: Make art!
“I told myself I’d give 3 years to do whatever it takes to make art and make money from it,” says Nadia. And that’s when the first synchronicity struck.
One day, a woodworker for whom Nadia was working a construction job with handed Nadia a large bundle of usable scrapwood and power tools. He was refreshing his tools and told Nadia encouragingly, “You have a lot of energy that needs to be let out. Do something with this.” Nadia brought the materials home to a shared garage space and began experimenting, sanding and cutting the wood. She’d previously co-owned a bakery in Austin, Texas, and knew she was very capable of producing many items of one product. And in her Univeristy years worked at a stained glass studio and had the skills for glass cutting. She landed on an idea – she’d use the wood to make mirrors.
“Making these little wood-framed mirrors gave me the opportunity to have autonomy and private, personal space,” Nadia recalls. She’d been needing creative headspace that allowed her separation and independence from the influence that family and community had on her.
Once she’d made enough of her art product, rented a booth at the local farmers market, taking a chance to see whether they would sell. And, they did! She learned that patrons were indeed interested in what she was making – unique, elegantly flowing wood framed mirrors. Thus, began her art’s first phase as “The Mermaid Mirrors.”
Then arrived the second synchronistic moment. Her home garage was becoming too small and cumbersome with her roommates. She needed a studio where she could expand. Perfectly timed, when Nadia was out to dinner explaining her art and her search for studio space, her friend’s husband offered Nadia space in his workshop at Kapaa Quarry, not far from where Nadia was living. Prayers answered.
In her new studio, Nadia worked tirelessly and her mirror business gradually began to grow. Then, one afternoon her landlord let her know that their workshop needed to close, and everyone who had been working in the warehouses had to find a new location. Oh dear.
That’s when Nadia moved to her place in Waimanalo. Her move to a bigger studio happened just in time to provide her with a place to make work for larger art shows like the Haleiwa Art Festival.
Nadia shifted from making a product to producing work that carried more artistry. “I began asking myself, how do I turn these mirrors into art and how do I turn art into a business?” And then came the Clark Hulings’s business accelerator program for fine artists.
Just making enough income to break even, Nadia knew she needed to get her business skills up to speed to keep sharing her art. With the new skills she was developing in the grant program, Nadia gave herself another 3 years to push towards making her living purely from art. “I’m going to do whatever it takes for another 3 years, I told myself,” Nadia shares. “Physically, mentally, financially – I’m going to give it my all.”
From that point, Nadia started recognizing what blocked her creativity: her beliefs about herself and her past patterns. She found a personal and business development program to get her past these internal blocks. “I became a healthier, happier person after realizing I needed some help and got it,” says Nadia.
After another 3-year cycle, Nadia again assessed her business. “Am I making the art that I know I can make?” She asked herself. The answer was a resounding “No. There’s more.”
Until that point, she had still been taking side jobs and odd jobs to keep her afloat. She challenged herself to let go of those small part-time jobs and do whatever it took to focus 100% on her art. And, despite a period of burnout from very physically demanding production work, Nadia stepped into making large scale sculptural woodwork and mirrored wood carvings. She also developed a strong sense of trust in her process.
“My work became more of the art I envisioned I could make,” Nadia expresses. For her, art means making something that transcends common, routine daily life. Through art, she intends to transport the viewer. Her purpose took shape: “I want my art to remind people of who they are, that they are part of the infinite light of creation.” Now, as she creates a new piece her first question to herself is, “How do I accomplish this purpose with a physical form?”
Nadia describes visions of art pieces and ideas landing on her. They arrive with a pulsating need to come to life. As she follows this process, Nadia’s work continues to evolve. Most recently, Nadia was selected by a Colorado art curation company to adorn the front lobby of a newly renovated highrise in downtown Honolulu. I had the joy of helping with the installation process and witnessing Nadia’s art as a full, immersive art installation. The piece that was selected for this space is called, “Realm of Namaka”.
Beautiful blue ocean-like sculptural pieces dance across the walls, and lively little wooden fish-like creatures swim across part of the ceiling like a school of fish flowing into a current. The pieces grace the space with a sense of wonder and whimsy.
Nadia recounts her story to me as she is on vacation at a beautiful villa in Italy, where she marvels at how far she’s come. She’s living life on her own terms, supporting her dreams and life with her art, and living with a great sense of purpose. And, she says, she’s only just begun.
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