We had the good fortune of connecting with Nuge and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nuge, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I think there are many factors that have contributed to the success of my art. One of the largest driving factors of my success is my ability to utilize the internet and Instagram to get my work in front of people. I believe that we all have the power to get our work seen in this day and age due to the fact that we all have smart phones. It’s basically like having your own art gallery in your pocket. With so much saturation of art on the internet, it is still difficult to be get noticed. So I work hard to figure out creative ways to present my work that would otherwise look mundane and boring. This method has kept my business afloat for the past four years and has gotten my work into prominent homes and galleries. By showing the process and grunt work through videos, it adds layers of appreciation. It’s easy for people to look at a finished product and think how easy it was to arrive at that point, but I would like to believe that my videos dispel all of that. The element of showing process work on Instagram is also helpful in bringing traffic to my work because a significant portion of my audience are also artists and designers who are trying to learn or get inspiration from others.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Wood has been a staple in traditional homes and furniture since the beginning of time, but I don’t think it is used very much in the contemporary art world. People don’t think of wood when it comes to the modern aesthetic. I would like to think that the way I’ve crafted wood has defied these norms. My work stands out because I massage my art into a sleek, flowing aesthetic that still retains its naturally grained surface even after treating it to various finishes. I have been extremely generous with my finishes using various types of paints, metallic pearls and dyes. A lot of traditional wood purists cringe when I do this, but I’m self-taught so I don’t follow any particular school of thought. This factor has helped me create my own path. The most exciting part about my work is planning the next project. My wheels are constantly spinning trying to lock down the next project that I want to create. My ideas come to me sporadically. They can hit me when I’m busy working on the current project, while I’m eating or right before bed. Whenever they do hit me, I always get a rush of adrenaline. The excitement of seeing the very faint traces of a new idea will forever be the most exhilarating feeling. My habit of thinking ahead also helps me keep a consistently forward momentum with my work. In a very selfish way, I never want to feel stagnant or bored. Professionally, I got to where I am by constantly working. My work wasn’t that great in the beginning and I started off making the easiest items one could possibly make in a woodshop – the cutting board. The cutting board was a building block in my career, though. It was necessary for me to make the cutting board in order for me to learn the skills to make clocks. And, from there, I then progressed to coffee tables and countertops. Finally, I had enough creative maturity and ability to tackle pieces that are strictly artwork. All of this was possible because I kept working and I didn’t try to come up with the million dollar idea from the get-go. Good ideas will come to you if you simply take the first step and just create. From there, another idea will hit you. Then another. And another. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned on my artistic journey is that I can’t impress everyone. Being an artist is very vulnerable and challenging because I’m putting a piece of myself out into the world for people to see. I want to be seen. I want people to embrace the hard work and love that I’ve poured into my work, but I will never be able to win everyone over. Everyone has their own taste. Not everyone will like the same thing. And some of those people who don’t like my work will be vocal about it. I can read a comment that a passerby has given about my work saying my work is “boring” and I’ll internalize that. They may not have put much thought in what they said but it will sting nonetheless. My solution to situations like this isn’t to stop sharing my work online or to avoid reading comments, but I have embraced their critiques and have used it to propel my work further. Sometimes the haters are right and I choose to use this energy to improve my work. Maybe this still won’t appease the haters, but I can at least know that my work is still being pushed forward. I would love for the world to know that my craft has evolved from a place of passion and my love for the calming aesthetic. I absolutely love creating with my hands and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I have never created art for the purpose of impressing people and making money. My art is a reflection of me and I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoy creating it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Seeing that it’s San Diego, going to the beach is a must. My favorite beach to go to is La Jolla Shores. I love the accessibility, parking, and the iconic, cantilevered lifeguard tower. I have a background in architecture so the design of that tower is something that I always enjoy seeing when I go there. There are a ton of great restaurants that are walking distance from there as well. My number one spot to eat in all of San Diego is Chiko. It’s a Chinese-Korean fusion restaurant in Encinitas and is my go-to guilty pleasure. I think the food is to die for. Other areas that that are concentrated with great restaurants that I would recommend would Little Italy and the strip of Asian restaurants on Convoy Street. My favorite hangout spot is Kate Sessions park which has the most scenic view overlooking the city and water. That park never gets overly crowded. I could easily spend an entire day there as long as I bring enough food and drink to last the day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to think about my work as a one-man show, but the reality is that there’s a whole slew of people behind the scenes who have helped make everything possible for me. My work would absolutely not be anywhere close to where it is today without the help of my loved ones. Rick Barnes is my very first supporter. He bought the very first cutting board that I’ve ever made which is also the very first thing I’ve ever made inside of a woodshop. Rick commissioned me for this board and didn’t actually know if I even had the ability to make something like this, but he had a ton of faith in me and my ability to simply try my best. This simple act made me realize that it was possible to make money from doing something that I purely enjoyed. It has now snowballed into a full-blown career. Jeff Bitner has virtually been by my side for the entirety of my artistic journey and has never stopped supporting me. He has pushed me forward when I’ve been overwhelmed with self-doubt and has always allowed me to use him as a sounding board. Kevin Tam has taken almost all of my photos of my work which is no easy task. He is a full time doctor, has a wife and two kids so his plate is more than full. Yet, he still finds the time to come take photos of my work whenever I finish projects. My work would practically be non-existent without him. In a world where digital images are an artist’s currency, Kevin has provided me with top tier images. Erin Page is one of the greatest humans to enter my life. As my studio manager and advisor, she has done more for my career in the past 5 months of working together than I have in the past 4 years. Every major business decision is made with her and she is keeping my entire life organized. She has added so much professionalism to my name in such a short amount of time. It would be an honor for me to be able to continue working with her for the rest of my career. I think every artist needs Erin in their life. Carl Diaz if my very first dedicated, full-time employee. His hard work is propelling my work forward in ways that I dreamt of a year ago. His work ethic, passion and coachability has made our relationship easy to adjust to. My friends and family have also made this entire journey possible. Getting the approval from my family to go on this journey was extremely significant to me because I wanted to know that they were invested in what I was doing as well. My family has always shown love and interest in my work since the very beginning. My friends who supported me in the early days by purchasing my cutting boards have also made this possible. Everything that has happened for me was a building block. Thank you to everyone.