We are excited to feature the unique and brilliant Nikki Segarra of Thistle + Twine Atelier in our latest Vendor Spotlight! If you're looking for a Fine Art approach to your special event photography, Nikki is the girl for you. While adhering to eco-friendly guidelines, Nikki draws upon her background in integrated media to add a special twist to her documentary-style photography approach. Her large format film portraits, and handmade keepsake boxes offer a memorable one-of-a-kind presentation to your special memories. (Yes, she even offers a wooden USB stick tucked inside a faux linen-bound book to deliver your photos!) Read on to learn more about Nikki's special knack for encapsulating the moments that you won't want to forget.
We have to start out by saying that you have one of the most standout approaches we've seen in the world of wedding photography, particularly with regard to your packaging and presentation. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed this technique? Was this something that you developed naturally as a results of your fine art background?
Well, my graduate studies were very much focused on experimental photography and mixed media. I'd say that it was my time as a student where I developed a love for the object - something tangible that can be touched and experienced on a more intimate level. I found myself printing on dresses and handkerchiefs, making giant scrolls with wood and silk, and then I discovered the art of bookmaking. I really fell in love with that process, as well.
The idea for integrating USB and keepsake boxes into my wedding work was a lovely accident. As an exhibiting artist, one that often shows objects rather than just prints, I needed something to transport my work to show curators, etc. I decided to make a portfolio box for my fine art work (my first keepsake box prototype!). I didn't realize how great of an idea it was until I had people asking me to make boxes for them, as well. Thus became the inspiration for the wedding boxes. The USB box is my favorite. I just love that it looks like a book - and that it contains this one wooden object that keeps safe your very own story.
One of our favorite Heirloom Boxes offered by Thistle + Twine.
You seem to infuse a very “analog” feel to your products, without printing off books and books of paper photos. What are some of the ways we can ensure an eco-friendly photography package, without sacrificing style?
I think it's a balancing act, for sure. It's primarily it's a lifestyle choice. My personal habits are integrated into my business. I recycle persistently, I avoid purchasing plastics, and I'm rarely seen without my giant metal water bottle. Many of my eco-friendly business practices include paperless contracts, quotes, invoices, etc. I use rechargeable batteries, I recycle equipment properly, I use a digital gallery for proofs, rather than a book, and my marketing materials are eco-friendly, too. The boxes that I make are from 100% recycled book board, and I package them with recycled packing paper, nicely wrapped and tied with natural twine and dried flowers that I have somehow inherited over the years (eco friendly, yes! But, with a touch of pretty). I often deliver my products to my clients if they are local, but I also re-use boxes when I have to ship.
Out of my two album options, my classic album is sourced from an eco-conscious company, using 100% post-consumer fiber, and is even produced using wind-power electricity. They make solid products - the best I've seen that can claim to be eco-friendly. My prints and my heirloom albums, and of course my film portraits, are of the finest quality, and are not 100% recycled, and film does require use of chemicals to process, but these are offered responsibly, and are produced in very small quantity, as objects and images that will surely be kept and treasured - not thrown away. With what I am unable to sacrifice in quality, I do my best to make up in all other aspects of my business, which is where the balancing act comes in.
Above: Somehow, Thistle + Twine seems to lend that coveted mystical mermaid look to all bridal photos.
Can you tell us a bit about your handmade brass/large format camera work? Has your experience with this technique informed your digital photography work in any way?
Very much so. Photographing large format film portraits is quite different - think 19th Century portraiture, with the photographer hiding under the curtain. There are movements in the camera that allow you to shift the focus. Every tilt and shift becomes a creative choice for what the image will be. The focus is delicate, as well. Only one sheet of film is placed in the back of the camera at a time, and this sheet film is quite expensive. So it means, that every frame that is shot is 100% crafted with intention. It is slower and more expensive, but the quality - it is ever so luscious.
What this technique has taught me is to take ownership of the frame. To trust my eye and my instinct. This is very much translated in my digital photography - I tend to shoot rather formally - clean lines and thoughtful composition. I prefer to choose the perfect shot or two, rather than relying on shooting a dozen frames of the same image. In the same vein as my eco-conscious self, I choose quality over quantity.
A few samples of Nikki capturing honest moments with clean lines.
As a former radio DJ and avid listener of records, we have a hunch we might have a proper music buff on our hands! How do you prefer to discover new music these days? Are you thrifting through the dusty crates, or are you a fan of the new streaming and playlisting culture as well? Any new and amazing discoveries lately?
Discovering new music was so easy when I had an entire (analog only!) radio station's music collection at my fingertips. Back then, I hosted a show that only played 7-inch vinyl. You can imagine how obscure my set list was! I still listen to V89.7 FM in Tallahassee for inspiration, and I enjoy Chirp Radio, as well, which is Chicago-based. There's also the occasional record searching adventure, or a work day spent at Cafe Mustache, where they play all vinyl. My favorite vinyl discoveries tend to be something folky, some jazziness, maybe some rockabilly, or 60's french pop - basically anything that you can imagine playing in a Tarantino film.
Spotify is such a great tool for discovery, as well, with their custom discovery channels. For instance, I am just about the biggest Future Islands fan, and I just discovered a side project called The Snails via my discovery channel. They are really good! Another recent favorite is Shannon and the Clams. Can't get enough of them!
The ocean seems to play a big part in your personal aesthetic. How do you manage to infuse a healthy dose of driftwood and salt into your life as a midwesterner? Does your schedule allow for the occasional pilgrimage to the sea?
Oh, I miss the sea every day!
When I first moved to Chicago, I had every intention of moving back to New England - but then I discovered how incredible this city really is. One of the perks of being a wedding photographer (other than how awesome it already is), is that my schedule can be relatively flexible. I've put all of my focus into Chicago within the past few years, but I hope to set myself up with an annual visit to Cape Cod, where I can make work and get reconnected with my art and my ancestry. I've also considered an artist residency which entails spending a month on a ship and traveling from the West Coast to China, working on my next personal project. If that doesn't pan out, I am speaking with someone about gaining access on a boat in Lake Michigan, for starters! Time will tell.
Well, there you have it, guys! If you'd like to work with Nikki, you can find her out steering a ship somewhere out there on Lake Michigan, or otherwise at her website: Thistle + Twine Atelier.