The following is an excerpt of Vickie Howell’s interview with Travis Nichols. The full interview can been seen in her book: Craft Corps
VH: What’s your first craft-related memory?
TN: In second grade, I used to make pop-up books in school with a couple of other kids, just for fun. I learned how to make springs out of paper by folding pieces over on themselves. Then, I would pop out stuff like monsters, swords, or things like that.
VH: Is there a moment from your childhood connected to craft that really stands out for you?
TN: Indirectly, my mom and dad always encouraged us to be creative and make things.
VH: Were they artists themselves?
TN: Yes. My mom’s now a full-time photographer, after teaching for 30 years. My dad was primarily a musician. My uncle was an artist. So art is always something I’ve been around, and people have encouraged me to do it.
VH: Do you have a memory as a professional artist that will always stick with you?
TN: When I had my first solo art show, I realized that aside from just making crafts and art, I really like putting shows together and packaging the things I do into presentation form.
VH: Was that the first time you also presented craft pieces, versus just showing your paintings?
TN: Before that, I’d been making comic books and other craft things, more so than painting. I got back into painting, though, and also incorporated handmade greeting cards and little door hangers. Since then, I always incorporate my craft stuff along with my art. If you can’t buy a painting, then there’ll be cheaper items you can pick up—something for everybody.
VH: Did you go to art school or are you self-taught?
TN: I did not go to art school—I kind of wish I did, though. I went to Texas Tech University, and my major was studies in fine arts and technology: graphic design, photography, music technology, and science fiction as literature. I also went to New York for an internship, where I worked for a magazine and was going to art galleries everyday. When I came back to Lubbock, Texas, I opened an art gallery with a friend. I don’t know if I could have done that if I’d gone to an art school, especially in a bigger city.
VH: Why not, because the gallery scene would’ve been over-saturated?
TN: That, and it would’ve been too expensive. I don’t ever want to regret where I went to school, because I got involved with the music scene in Lubbock, and that experience got me where I am today. I’m okay with that.
VH: You’re not doing too shabby these days, I must say!
TN: I think I’m doing okay.
VH: For artists and crafters, thinking we’re “okay” is good. Huge, even.
TN: For me, I never let myself get excited about anything for too long, because I don’t want that to be the peak.
VH: And you wait for the other shoe to drop.
TN: I’m always like, “Okay, that’s good, but now what’s next?” My mom always says, “Aren’t you so excited?” I say, “Yes, it’s okay, but now what?”
VH: I do the exact same thing. I’m afraid it’ll all go away if I stop to celebrate.
TN: The first time I got a comic published in Nickelodeon Magazine was really exciting, but it just made me wonder where I go from there. It was a big deal, but I didn’t want it to be the biggest thing I ever did.
VH: Do you credit anyone in particular for opening the professional crafty doors for you?
TN: When I worked for Jennifer Perkins (see page 57), I learned a lot about the business side. I owe a lot of my knowledge to her. I wouldn’t have met her, though, if I hadn’t started making crafts, moved to Austin, and got stuff in Parts & Labour, a local store that solely sells handmade items. Working for her taught me a whole lot about how to run a business and what you can do with it.
VH: What about personally? Who really got you started in a creative way? Was it your parents, or was there someone else who influenced you growing up?
TN: Well, there are my heroes, if that’s what you mean. Jim Henson, Paul Reubens, and Shel Silverstein are a few of my biggest heroes.
VH: Those are good! What about in your family, though? I’ve interviewed other crafters who’ve credited a grandmother, aunt, etc., for sitting down and crafting with them. Was that the case with you, or did you come into it on your own?
TN: I think a little bit came from my mom. As recently as a few years ago during
the holidays, we made soap, candles, or paper—which is probably my favorite thing to do. It’s so much fun! I collect scraps and then, at some point, turn them into new paper.
For more information about Travis and his projects, go to:
To see the full interview, pick up a copy of Craft Corps.