Finding herself as an artist: Woman returns to community to raise family as she explores her art

Published 11:18 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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Growing up in Albert Lea, Nicole Morrison was known for her artistic abilities.

Even when she was little, she said it was her go-to activity.

“I loved to draw. I loved to paint — any type of child craft I would do,” she said.

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In addition to drawing and painting, she cross-stitched and remembers sewing for the first time with her mother, who helped her create some outfits for 4-H.

“I think I always kind of knew I was going to get in some form of art,” Morrison said. “Even in high school I was dead set on going to art school. It’s something I always want to do but wasn’t sure what capacity.”

She ultimately went to school in the Twin Cities and studied fine art with a focus in fashion design. She also studied fashion design in Paris for a year through school, and after completing her degree moved to Los Angeles to work for a while.

She said she worked for a couple companies as a design assistant, helping create new designs for garments to be made and helping them pick out the right fabrics for garments.

“It was all very fast,” she said. “It was that very fast fashion world … I like taking my time, like working with my hands.”

When she had her first daughter, who is now 6, she said she was working in a part of the fashion industry that she felt didn’t suit her at the time.

“Once I had my daughter, I didn’t want to raise my baby in the hustle and bustle of such a big city,” she said. “I was craving that small community town.”

Her parents were still in Albert Lea, and she recognized it would be nice to have more support.

So she and her husband, Michael, decided to move back to town, where Michael is able to work remotely and she has been a stay-at-home mother. She does her art when she’s able to squeeze it in and sometimes brings it into the room where the children are at, so they can play while she creates. She also has an art room where she can work if the time is available.

As of early February she now has two daughters, one 2 1/2 and one 6, with a third daughter on the way.

Morrison said she had been on quite a break from her art when she was pregnant with her first daughter, but when she was pregnant she started knitting. In the time since, she has started developing more and more of a passion for fiber art and particularly hand-stitched embroidery.

A lot of her work is inspired by nature — with things like flowers, landscapes and fruit — but she said she likes to make things a little more abstract — and make her own interpretation of things.

In both her paintings and her fiber art, she likes layers, she likes texture and she likes color.

She said it has been difficult trying to find her way as an artist — especially in an age of social media.

“When I was young I felt like — back in high school everybody knew me as the artsy one. …” Morrison said. “In college I was in a group where everyone was like that.”

Now with social media, she said it can be overwhelming because there are so many artists doing so many different things.

“How do you stand out but also not feel pressured to change your aesthetic or who you are?” she said.

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, she is still trying to find herself as an artist and learning to let go of her perfectionist tendencies.

“I tried so hard to not be that way because it paralyzes me from moving forward,” she said. “I can’t get anything done because nothing’s ever good enough. I’ve been really happy with my work the last year or two because I feel like I’m letting go of that part of me and just letting me be more free, and I end up liking it more.”

For her, her art has become an outlet, particularly as she has struggled with anxiety in recent years. She said it is gratifying for her to create something from start to finish and noted she’s the type of person who could sit and sew beads on something for hours as it is calming and relaxing for her.

“Now more than ever, these types of activities help me remain balanced,” she said.

So what’s her advice for others as they venture out into the world of art?

“You need to experiment a lot and be patient with yourself,” she said. “Try to have short- and long-term goals for what you might want to accomplish.”

For her, a long-term goal is creating more art for another gallery show, while a short-term goal is making scarves to sell at a craft market this fall.

But her most important priority is her family — the art fits in around that.