Nadia Simpson was feeling burnt out by corporate life. We had a chat with her about how she turned things around and is now turning forgotten photographs into works of art.
Hi Nadia. Why did you decide to enrol at The Learning Connexion, and was it a good decision?
I think like a lot of us in 2020, I took time to reevaluate life. I had been working in the corporate world for five years, and previously I was hairdressing for 13 years. But working in an office five days a week staring at a screen I found myself being burnt out and just really questioning what I wanted in life. I had a few friends who had been to TLC and thought I would reach out to one after a day while I was on break at work. They replied so quickly with almost an essay-like response and I said to myself if I don’t do this now I won’t do it at all. I enrolled and handed my notice in and haven’t looked back.
It's been one of the best things I've done for myself. I get to be me do things I want to do, learn things I want to learn, and be around creative people. I have enjoyed it so much my daughter is now doing her Level 4 Certificate.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I would say I am more of a hands-on sort of artist. I like to say I made this from the start to the end, taking the time to just zone out, listen to music and create.
I like to be able to take photos on film, develop and print them myself. I find a lot of joy and find it therapeutic. There is nothing better than sitting in your own little darkroom, and when making my oddity creations it's also about that process of taking something you wouldn’t expect – be it bones, dead insects or birds – and making it into something beautiful.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a project I have called ‘forgotten images’, where I have collected over the past year people’s photos, negatives and slides that were thrown away and have found their way to local op shops. I have collected these from Rotorua all the way to Invercargill.
I have spent many weeks just scanning and editing and restoring these images. The collection is now sitting at over 3000. Although it has been long and time-consuming, I really enjoy sharing some of these images with people, and everyone that sees them just really loves them. Plus I love getting to look through the eyes of the person who took them.
I am forever grateful to have these images and have people's memories, as I find it rather sad that people just don’t care for them and throw them away like yesterday's trash.
I would love to do an exhibition in the future of these images as some of them date from the late 1800s right up to the early 1990s. There are just so many images too amazing to even explain how great they are.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about studying at TLC?
From being on-site to now being a distant delivery since moving to Dunedin, I have been lucky enough to be onsite to be around the most creative and amazing people and have the resources to create art. I have also made the most amazing group of like-minded friends which is always a huge plus. Now as a distance student, I am connecting with a new bunch of amazing people and being able to have that support from mentors and just the TLC Community has been great.
How do you sustain your creativity, and where do you draw inspiration from?
I feel that my inspiration really comes down to the mood I am in. As someone who has battled with mental health, I have found that I need to listen to my body and do things for me. When I'm low I tend to pick my camera up and head to the beach where I will sit there for hours taking long exposure photos, and when I'm in a well-focused mindset, I will be working in my art room with my music playing creating things with the material I have on hand.
This is where I feel that my artwork has changed and evolved over the years. I stopped doing things that I thought people expected from me and have been creating things that I want, and if someone likes it then that’s a bonus. As an artist, I feel that this is something we tend to forget about. We are always creating trends or what people expect us to make, so breaking away from that mindset is so freeing.
Have you had a recent "wow" moment with your creativity?
Recently I have started to make art pieces out of bones I’ve collected, and ethically sourced butterflies, birds, and moths. I started making these just for myself as this is something that I enjoy, as I really love oddities. Since I shared the pieces I have made, I have had a lot of people loving them and even sold and done some commission pieces for people, which has just blown my mind. As artists, we are always our own worst enemy and have that self-doubt that our work is any good and why would anyone want that? But I am just blown away by the support for this extra project I have been working on, and it's something I could definitely grow into something more.