The Whimsy World is so hot right now. In her debut instillation, Houston-based artist Shelbi Nicole evokes joy with her trademark abstract silhouettes and bold use of color. Her love for vibrant pigments and punchy patterns features most prominently in that Wonderland-esque installation, which debuted last month in EaDo and is now open March 15–April 28 in Sugar Land. The Instagrammable experience is her biggest art endeavor to date, but her work can be found elsewhere thanks to a number of high-profile brand collaborations.
"I feel like fashion and art are one now," Nicole says. "My art translates really well to fashion pieces. It started with silk scarves and evolved into shoes. I think fashion is just another way to express yourself."
She's worked with renowned names like VANS, Free People, and Texas native Kendra Scott, to name a few. The high-profile partnerships are the result of determined self-marketing: “I would just walk into places, email people, and network," Nicole says. "People would tell me ‘no’ one million times; finally, someone said, ‘Wow, you have cool stuff. Let’s work together.’ I’ve just been staying with it for so long through all of the rejection, and finally it pays off.”
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Finished painting The Kendra Korridor at @kendrascott in @ricevillagedistrict !!! I love working with the #KendraScott team! They are all so creative and genuinely really kind people, just like Kendra!! Good vibes! Please go snap a photo with it and tag us!! #ShelbiNicole #KendraScott
Scott tapped Nicole to help with the mega-jeweler's recently released charms collection after meeting in L.A. when Nicole was working with VANS. “I wasn’t familiar with Kendra Scott before that," Nicole says. "She’s a really cool girl. We went to the same high school! I think we were meant to cross paths in life.”
Nicole ended up creating murals for Scott's opening night, and the artwork was such a hit that Scott asked for more—particularly here in Houston, a huge market for the Austin-based jewelry mogul.The unexpected collab led Scott to sponsor Nicole's Whimsy World.
She's also involved with Houston-based luxury scarf company Rozendove as creative director, often searching for other artists to help grow the brand. "Every single scarf is limited to 200 units, and they'll never be made again." she explains. "They're wearable, but a lot of people like to frame them and keep them on the wall."
In fact, Nicole says, Rozendove uses the same Italian scarf manufacturer as Versace. "It's an art piece," she says. "I definitely jumped on the opportunity to help with that." Though not available at major retailers yet, the scarves are sold at The Whimsy World's gift shop. So, too, are reimagined vintage kimonos from Kimono Zulu, one-of-a-kind pieces hand-painted with Nicole's unique, colorful designs—wearable art.
Nicole credits loyal supporters with her success over the last decade. “As an artist, you need a handful of collectors and supporters—those people who love your art, get it, and help you along the way," she says. "You must get those people in your corner. Those people are why I am where I am.”
The Whimsy World by Shelbi Nicole is on display March 15 through April 28 in Sugar Land. Purchase tickets for the Pink Carpet Grand Opening here.