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what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade

by Annie Werbler

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

If mixed media artist Nikki Cade was in charge, “wanderlust would rule and how to be daring would be taught in schools.” This Plano, TX-based creative spirit draws from her background in education, design and world travel to create layered paintings rich in texture and color.

When Nikki first felt the overwhelming urge to paint, she wasn’t sure what she’d make or how it would be received- she only knew that she needed to try. “I’m living proof that if you leap first, the net really will appear,” she says. Her mother taught her to create her own opportunities, so she built a studio to work from and gathered collections of items that remind her of “imaginative worlds where anything is possible.” Nikki is constantly creating, always using her best ideas right in the moment. “One thing I know for sure,” she says, “is the more you use your creativity, the more you have, so I make time every single day to play.” For now, Nikki is happily exploring her newfound creative energy and trusts that the plan forward will reveal itself to her as it unfolds. “I’m learning how to show up for something bigger than myself, even when it doesn’t make sense. It’s a messy, bumpy, beautiful ride and I’m figuring it all out as I go.” —Annie

Photography by Shutterlove and Sara Gillespie

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

What’s in your toolbox?

I like to create a lot of layers rich in texture and intuitive color combinations. I use acrylic paint, molding paste, book pages, patterned papers, etc. I also use many unconventional tools like sandpaper, old credit cards, and the end of my paint brushes for mark-making. My favorite tool for creating texture is a brayer.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

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What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Daring Adventures In Paint by Mati Rose McDonough is the first book I read about art techniques outside of textbooks. I still return to it time and time again for inspiration. I also love The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s the kind of book we could read and work through for a lifetime. History was not exactly my favorite subject in school, but I’ve found that young adult and multicultural literature has a way of bringing historical context to life. Read Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor and you’ll see what I mean. I also collect children’s books because I adore imaginative worlds where anything is possible.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

How do you keep yourself organized?

I keep a good old-fashioned calendar specifically for art and creative endeavors. I make sure my studio is cleaned after each session, and organizing my paint by color has been life-changing.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Oh this is easy! I’d definitely love to teleport (or is it quantum leap?). Either way, having the freedom to be anywhere I want to be at any given time sounds magical.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

My mom started cultivating the gift of creativity in me at a very young age. She taught me how to make things even if we had very little to start with. The best advice she gave me was, “If you can’t go through the front door, go around back.” I would pass this advice on to any young artist, maker, or designer. Don’t wait for someone to discover you or until you have everything figured out. Start where you are, use what you have, and create your own opportunities.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

How do you combat creative blocks?

The more you use your creativity the more you have, so I make time every single day to play. There are no rules; I just do whatever feels right in the moment. It can be something as simple as taking a nature walk or going on what Julia Cameron calls an “artist date.” This is an opportunity to go out into the world and explore; it works wonders for combating creative blocks. It is one of the things I hold very sacred in my life. I firmly believe in scheduling time to slow down, see things anew, and stand in awe of all God has created. I still remember the feeling I had the first time I saw the ocean. I’ve learned to look at my everyday surroundings with this same sense of wonder. I can’t exist in the world any other way.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

I like to shop in thrift stores and flea markets. I have such a nostalgic and sentimental heart and often see the potential in what other people might look past. I’m generally inspired by modern or vintage children’s books, maps, and anything that reminds me of my sweet grandmother.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

There are far too many to name! However, I must say how wonderful it was to spend four amazing days in Portland, Oregon this summer learning from the talented Flora Bowley and Annamieka Hopps Davidson. My heart is also so full after a life-changing workshop in Italy with Justina Blakeney and Bianca Gignac. I’m still on such a high from being in the presence of these amazing women and actually looking forward to spending more time with each of them.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

I’m actually more inspired by movies and podcasts at the moment but I’m a huge fan of Putumayo World Music, Solange Knowles, and my favorite Pandora station for creative inspiration is French Cafe.

What's In Your Toolbox: Nikki Cade, on Design*Sponge

 

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Comments

  • I loved this! This particularly: “I’m learning how to show up for something bigger than myself, even when it doesn’t make sense. It’s a messy, bumpy, beautiful ride and I’m figuring it all out as I go.” was a great reminder! :)

  • Thanks for the introduction to this inspiring woman. I love her aesthetic and philosophy. And not only is she a talented artist and gifted teacher, she’s also a fine writer as demonstrated on her website. Wishing her all the success to which she aspires and countless joys on the roads she travels.

  • Great feature on a talented and beautiful spirit. Love the photography, and how the artist reminds us of the value of play in our daily lives, and transforming our work into play as well.

  • Yes! Nikki I love how you say ““I’m learning how to show up for something bigger than myself, even when it doesn’t make sense. It’s a messy, bumpy, beautiful ride and I’m figuring it all out as I go.”your work is GORGEOUS and you are such an inspiring person. I am so happy to see your work getting out in the world in this big way!

  • I love this artist! Nikki is wildly creative, fiercely beautiful and brave. I’m honored to know her personally and am inspired at the mere mention of her name. At first glance her work seems light hearted and whimsical, but then it reaches deep…wraps around my heart and leaves my soul refreshed!

  • Such an inspiring article. Nikki I love that you’re authentically living in your yin/yang — combing your bold, colorful art, w/ your gentle, soulful-self.

  • Wow! This artist is beautiful, both inside and out! I love her work and how it inspires others, even the little ones like my 7 year old child. He is so proud to call her “Aunt Nikki”

  • I felt so inspired by this article! You’re such a gifted and talented individual. Keep striving and making the world colorful.
    -Doc Rob

  • I love the colors she uses in most of her art! Makes me happy!
    I also love to see African American women showing theirs talents and inspiring more women of all races to step in to their passions in life and do not be afraid to share!
    Well done Nikki!

  • I love this! Your art makes me want to get back to painting.
    Your studio and work are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your art practice with us.

  • I am so inspired by this beautiful lady and all of her art. The colors are so bright and uplifting and her work in genius. I also really love her studio space. Great article!

    rachel

  • So happy to read this article about you Nikki! Such an inspiring studio environment and approach to your creative life!

  • So happy for you Nikki on this feature!! I LOVE how you say “Don’t wait for the opportunity; start where you are, use what you have & create your own opportunities”. Gorgeous work & so happy we connected in Mati’s Abstract Class xo

  • i keep coming back too this since it published – loving her (your) spirit! such a strong impression of a beautiful personality and art comes out in this short interview.

    Nikki – if you are still reading comments, what podcasts are inspiring you right now?? i’m always looking for new ones!

  • I love that I’ve just come across this post again. I love what Nikki is doing for the art community. Her work and words are so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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