Like most adventures, we did not simply pack our bags and head out on a long road to create NiciArt, instead a little free-spirited inspiration melded with experimentation, ideas often gone awry, and frequents twists and bends turned Art into a journey.
In 2006, Nici Laskin traded in her brushes for poster-boards and spray paints to transform her love of Sci-Fi and imagination into a colourful glimpse of distant planets and stars.
After decorating our first house, Nici continued spraying her way to the Las Cruces, NM Farmers Market, where every Saturday she sat at her booth in rain, wind, or boiling desert heat to sell her paintings. The dream was put on hold in early 2010, when a job transfer took us to Tucson, AZ and eventually to Scottsdale.
While on the road, Nici continued to create simple jewelry literally "under the table" in a small apartment and list her pieces for sale on Etsy as a creative outlet to escape the tedious mundane rituals of 9-5 employment in a healthcare job, where the climate is a steady 66F and fluorescent 365 days a year. The other half of the team, RJ Laskin, finished up a freelance gig and not being able to sit idle for more than a day, decided to conquer the Etsy Shop before moving on to his next assignment. After re-writing all the listings and photographing many of the items using a set of bicycle lamps linked to the flash output of an old point and shoot camera, sales began appearing almost daily. As confidence rose, Nici signed up for the Glendale Glitter Christmas Market in November 2011. Unfortunately on our shoe string budget, we ended up with a table down the street, around the corner, and situated in that sub-prime pocket between the garbage and recycling. With no traffic whatsoever, the sinking mood was broken by a few kids on skateboards asking if we could make and stamp a metal guitar pick.
Remembering the Las Cruces Markets with a degree of nostalgia, Nici was a bit discouraged by the experience, while her hubby was ready to jump on the guitar pick idea and so we listed our first I pick you in bronze on Etsy the day before Thanksgiving.
Sawed entirely by hand from a sheet of 20 gauge bronze, this first guitar pick sky-rocketed to the front page of Etsy. A week later, we were hit with hundreds of orders thereby establishing NiciArt as a kitchen table business. The neighbours below would bang on the ceiling when we were too loud with our hammering , polishing, or sawing away, but working in secret, we kept the Christmas orders flowing straight through to the New Year.
Finding acceptable space proved to be quite the challenge which left us relegated to a back alley garage for the messy work and continuing to ship from our small 2 bedroom apartment. During 2012, we incorporated, started our first NiciArt website, and worked on honing the processes to meet demand while never sacrificing the artisan character embodied in each product headed out the door. The garage morphed into a full scale workshop where we housed our press, pancake dies, shears, and welders.
Needless to say, NicArt replaced our day jobs and became a new way of life. Everyday was about waking up, crafting, and filling orders.
Tragedy struck our little shop at the close of 2012, when we were completely swept away by a tsunami of holiday orders starting on Cyber Monday. By December 1st, we found ourselves on the list of the top 10 shops for the day in Craft Count.
Etsy's smallest 2 person shop was now in position 7 and the days and nights began to blur as we consumed a steady diet fueled by caffeine swirled in a cocktail of pure dopamine topped off with some adrenaline to carry us through the midnight hours day after day. Luckily, our customers loved those guitar picks enough to patiently ride out our 6 week turn around time. I clearly remember March 3, 2013 as the day when we managed to ship the last of the holiday orders.
Barely surviving our first Christmas season and feeling a bit bruised, battered, and sleepless in Scottsdale, we were faced with a choice: grow into a big team or accept life as a boutique. With our house still rented out in NM, we ended up renting a small home with a huge garage in Sedona, AZ. Inspired by the Red Rocks and beautiful scenery, Nici began the Metal Challenge 360 which marked our new direction back to our roots as creative artists without boundaries. The guitar picks gave way to a passion for music inspired jewelry.
Everyday like clockwork, Nici would craft a new creative design with a focus on ever more degrees of complexity combined with intricate details, while RJ took over stamping out blank guitar picks. Though our favourite sharing site, Imgur, the Metal Challenge propelled NiciArt into the wedding jewelry, men's accessories, and higher end unique artisan jewelry categories. Having unlimited workspace allowed us to revive our youthful free-spirited experimentation that thrived in our Sturm and Drang years back in Las Cruces. This was our opportunity to be wild, crazy, and let go of inhibitions to ignite a flame of passionate crafting with social media as our audience.
NiciArt rung in the new year 2016 with a new studio and place to call home at the edge of the mountains far from away from HOAs, traffic, and neighbours who might object to a little midnight welding or the whirl of a chop saw at 3am.
We're not the only ones to find a new home in 2016. NiciArt spun off the guitar picks into a separate brand and established Nici's Picks where our guitar picks can finally rock out in their own studio space. In keeping with our commitments to the environment as well as supplying jewelry without contaminants such as lead, nickel, or cadmium, our second studio for painting is currently in the works and constructed as an earthen hut made from clay found on our property.
Excited about 2017, we are planning on crafting a few road trips, visiting local markets, and expanding our product lines to include the space paintings, supplies, and even products for the home and office.