Karen Nichols is the local artist and antique lover responsible for two booths at Kudzu Antique Mall. If you are wondering which booths are hers, you wont have to look for too long. Karen’s booths are always in perfect order, showing great symmetry and harmony between the items showcased. One of the first things you will notice when you see her booth is all of her beautiful oil paintings. This artwork along with her eclectic mix of furniture and antiques, represents the Karen Nichols that I got to sit down and talk to. She is one part artist, one part antique lover, and a million parts everything else. Fun, eclectic, and full of creative energy, Karen sat down with me to tell me about how she balances the two great loves of her life: art and antiques.
Karen, How long have you been an artist?
“As long as I can remember, it’s been part of my identity. As a kid, I was drawn to the arts. I remember doing a big poster in school when I was 8 and my bird looked like a real bird, not an “M”. It was an accident, but that accident showed what was inside of me. When I went to college, I never questioned what my major was going to be. Art is what I always did.”
Do you find that your art sells well at Kudzu?
“Yea, it’s done very well. It has out-sold my galleries. With the economy like it is, people aren’t going to galleries so much. Kudzu allows me to sell great art pieces at lower prices so that anyone can enjoy and own my work.
What is the inspiration behind your art?
“I think it has changed over the years and I think it continues to change. I believe that we are attracted to certain things innately. We call it beauty, but its really just basic principles: complimentary colors, harmony, repetition, etc. I also draw inspiration from life experiences and places I’ve visited. My art becomes a way of holding onto those feelings and experiences and finding a way to share them with others.”
How did you get started in the antique business?
“I was always very interested in it. My husband and I have a place in St. Simons and I got to decorate it. We didn’t have a fortune to spend on the interior design, so I had to be creative. I “recycled” old pieces while working on a budget, and the final result was amazing. Also, painting can be very lonely. I spend hours alone in my studio. It’s nice to get away from that. It’s nice to be around people. I love the atmosphere at Kudzu and the people here. It’s a great balance to the other passion in my life.
How would you describe your booth at Kudzu?
“My booth is very balanced. It’s a mixture of my artwork and pieces that I find. I love being in a good aesthetic. I just think your environment is very important for your mental well-being. When I set up my booths or look for things, I want everything to work in a sort of harmony. I set up my booth the same way I set up my paintings. I want things to work well together. I also like for people to be able to see things in a realistic setting. I love taking something old, fixing it up, and seeing how it can be used today. I like an eclectic mix of items: modern with old.”
Where do you find most of the items in your booth?
“Most of the items in my booth come from estate sales. Over the years, I’ve made contacts with people and formed relationships. People get to know you and what you’re looking for and they contact you telling you what they have or what you might like.”
Do you see yourself making art and working in the antique business forever?
“Yes, I think so. They are a good balance to each other. Before I did this, I owned a fashion photography studio with two partners. It allowed me to have the social aspect while I painted on the side. When we closed that, I really started missing the social aspect of life, and that’s around the time that I picked this up. An artist that I love said if he could pick a place to have a studio, he would have a studio on a balcony overlooking a supermarket. I completely agree with that because painting is very lonely and it’s nice to not feel alone all the time. It’s important to be around people. I balance my time between painting and Kudzu. I work at Kudzu on certain days and then I set aside days to paint. I need to get away from one to truly appreciate and excel at the other.”
Karen Nichols is directly represented by her booths at Kudzu. They show a sense of balance and symmetry which is directly related to how she lives her life and fulfills her two great passions. After sitting down and talking to her (she even took me to her studio), I began to understand and see things a little differently- a little bit more like she sees them. If you want to get to know her better, just look around her booth. Each item tells a story and each painting expresses a unique emotion. Little pieces of Karen are seen throughout the booth. You just have to look long and hard enough to see them. Like the other booths at Kudzu, there is often more than initially meets the eye.