Welcome to the third installment of The heART Series, a monthly series in which we'll discover and explore some of the lesser-known creative arts, and will examine how the arts and faith are intertwined through interviews with Christian artists! Each artist interviewed in this series is a Christian woman, whether or not her work is centered around her faith.
I am beyond excited about this project, and because I want you to be just as excited as I am, if you haven't already, I really recommend reading more about the heart behind The heART Series ⟶here⟵.
So, once you're all caught up and ready to go, let's hear from our third artist!
Nikki Carlson of ChicBlvd Inc
She has almost 20 years experience in PR/Marketing. From high school salutatorian to a graduate with honors from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, Nikki reaches for her goals with determination and spirit.
Soon after attaining a degree in Marketing, Nikki landed a job with Russ Reid Company, an advertising agency in Pasadena, CA focusing on Christian and non-profit clients. She rose through the ranks to an executive position where she managed clients in tv, radio, print, fundraising, website development, branding execution, and event sponsorship, primarily with Women of Faith, Promise Keepers and Teen Mania. Her main focus: non-profit and Christian companies including World Vision, Columbia House Christian Music Club, and Veggie Tales.
After five years at Russ Reid, she served as an executive at Ambassador Advertising Agency managing clients including Compassion International with Wess Stafford, Breakpoint with Chuck Colson, HomeWord with Jim Burns, and author and speaker Jim Garlow. Her work included overseeing Christian radio program initiatives from creative concept through execution. She traveled to Bolivia with President of Compassion International Wess Stafford and a team of radio stations. While working with these ministries, she was responsible for placing their short radio programs on Christian stations across the country.
In 2004, she ventured out to pioneer ChicBlvd Inc using her creativity, entrepreneur passion, and desire to give back by helping other businesses and getting involved in charity work. The business began with ChicBlvd Magazine, which included inspirational articles and content written for WEtv on hard topics based on their television shows. This platform invited social networking before social platforms were popular, and women on the site were asking for electronics incorporating fashion and function, as something like this didn’t exist.
The development of ChicBuds was born to meet the demand, and was quickly placed in all major media including the Today Show four times, People Magazine four times, InStyle Magazine, RedBook, Us Weekly, and hundreds more; was placed in every major retailer including Target, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Barnes & Noble, and more; and was featured by celebrities such as Candace Cameron Bure, Cindy Crawford, and others. Due to the success of the brand, a new division was born, ChicExecs, serving emerging brands in PR, Store Placement, Celebrity Placement, and now serves over 100 clients and a network of 30,000 brands, and works with over 500,000 media and retail partners.
Nikki accepted the Lord as her Savior at age four, and has continued her relationship with the Lord as the most important focus in her life -- especially in her professional career and the many business decisions she has had to make. Her company verse is Proverbs 23:19 “Listen, be wise and keep your heart on the right path” as a reminder to seek the Lord’s wisdom and make good choices that honor Him.
She loves using the creative gifts the Lord has given, and is continually driven to make Jesus famous and inspire the growing number of entrepreneurs to live a life of purpose through their creative endeavors to honor the Lord.
the life in between: When did you first learn to (or realize that you could!) dance, paint, sew, write, style, photograph, etc. What is your heART story?
Nikki: From a young age, I loved being creative. My favorite classes were Creative English/Business and as I ventured into Product Design/Marketing later in my career, I realized the creative process came naturally and I loved it. God is the ultimate Creator who designed us in His image, so it’s no wonder that we love to create. As an entrepreneur/inventor at heart, I love creating things that mimic His creativity. It’s a joy to recognize God’s purpose for our lives and use our gifts and talents to make a difference for Him. There is emptiness in business unless it all points back to the One who makes it all possible.
tlib: While you're immersed in a project or a piece, what are some things going through your mind? Do you pray? Do you praise?
Nikki: When I’m immersed in a project, my mind is very active and when I know something is on track, my heart skips a beat. It excites me! Creativity and idea generation are my true passions. I spend time in prayer before starting a project as well as through the process. God definitely speaks to me, directs my thinking and gives me creative ideas. It is truly inspiring to have a creative moment with God and I thank Him for revealing his purposes through me.
tlib: Tell us about your creative process. What inspires you to get started? Can you turn your creativity on and off?
Nikki: During my creative process, I pray for God’s guidance and leading. I look at creative things that inspire me and brainstorm until I believe I hit the mark. And when I have, I am so filled with joy. I love the song by Hillsong United that says "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior." My desire is to trust God with the gifts He has given me, without comparison to other things/people, and walk where he leads with a trust-filled heart. When my creativity is turned “off” so to speak, I realize I’m not maximizing the gifts God has blessed me with, and am focused on the wrong things.
tlib: Do you prefer to share your work or do you like to keep it just between yourself and God? Why?
Nikki: My preference is to share my work with others, both creatively and through lessons learned. The reason my business partner and I started ChicExecs was to share our story, successes, and lessons learned to help other entrepreneurs/brands/creatives. God blesses us to be a blessing.
tlib: If you share your work, how do you promote your art in a way that glorifies God?
Nikki: Yes, I share my work and my goal is to give God the glory for successes along the way -- remaining humble and kind while also celebrating Him working through me.
tlib: How do you take compliments? How do you stay humble without denying your unique skill?
Nikki: It is always nice to hear compliments, however, I am quick to turn the glory to God as He created each of us with a unique set of skills and talents and guides us along our paths. The company verse for ChicBuds.com and ChicExecs.com is Proverbs 23:19 “Listen, be wise and keep your heart on the right path.” I know that pride comes before a fall so it’s important to give God the glory and be thankful for the gifts He has given each of us.
tlib: Do you believe that God can be glorified through secular art? How can secular work still point to Jesus?
Nikki: God is the ultimate creator/inventor and we were made in His image. It’s no wonder that we love to create and be artistic. I don’t believe God can be glorified in things that oppose who He is, however all good and perfect gifts come from above. There are millions of species in the world, some which haven’t even been discovered, and billions of stars in the sky. I know God loves to create, even if just for His own glory. When we create, it shows the character of God.
tlib: What is a dream or vision you have in regards to how your work may impact hearts and souls for Christ?
Nikki: My story is one of creativity and entrepreneurship. As I continue along this journey, my heart's desire is to showcase God’s character and our unique purpose, inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs to maximize their gifts and talents for Him while staying on the right course. In business and entrepreneurship, there are millions of decisions to be made on a daily basis. Some decisions aren’t popular, but it’s important to stay the course and never compromise. Of course none of us are perfect and God is constantly refining me.
tlib: Lastly, for fun, who (living or dead, and besides God) are you most inspired by when it comes to your art?
Nikki: My great grandfather, William Jesse Coulter, was a successful businessman. In 1939, with much of his career still ahead of him, Bill Coulter established The Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation, named for his first wife, who had died of illness in 1935. The philanthropic foundation remains active today and provides an enduring legacy for Bill Coulter. Since the Foundation was established, it has distributed an estimated ten million dollars in fellowships and grants for education. I love how he used his gifts and talents to continue giving to others.
Nikki, thank you for opening your heart up to us here for The heART Series! I have absolutely loved hearing from you, and am so inspired by your ambition, and your heart for Christ.
READERS: What did you take away from this interview with Nikki? Do you have any questions or comments about The heART Series? Let me know! ⤵︎