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Rising Stars: Meet Shalimar Waffa of Cary

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shalimar Waffa.

Hi Shalimar, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for sharing your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
When I was younger, I used to sell art on the side of the road like a lemonade stand. Art was my escape; I always knew I wanted to do it as a career since I could pick up a paintbrush. Raised in a Filipino household, my family persuaded me to become a nurse, so I did that. Nursing school was tough, and it was when I was 19 I started to explore painting again. It was my escape from the stress of nursing school, my typical early adult development, and its challenges. I had a tough battle with my depression and went through a dark exploration phase. One day in college, I was sitting outside in the courtyard and saw tiny buds of wildflowers. They made me happy, and I decided to try to paint them. I found that painting flowers and bright colors helped ease some of my depression and brought me some joy. Over the years, I mastered my technique with florals and learned that texture, and I mean a ton of texture, is the look I love the most. I got to the point where I was posting my florals on Facebook and selling pieces within the day of posting them. I built a loyal group of followers and made art a stable “side hustle” for many years. Nursing was still my main career, and I did some time in a level 1 trauma and ultimately spent most of my time in an ICU setting while working on the code blue team part-time. In my early 30s, I had a miscarriage that led me to learn about a new battle with infertility – check out my blog post from my website about my journey with infertility if you haven’t already.

Fast forward 3 years later, I was miraculously pregnant, at the peak of covid. I was still working as a code blue team nurse in the ICU, where it was very likely to walk into a covid patient’s room. It was not worth my pregnancy risk, so I decided I needed to leave the hospital setting. I took the leap of faith in leasing an awesome space downtown Cary and opened my art gallery and studio. During covid alone, I made about 100 sales in the artwork. Fast forward to a year of being open, I’ve sold close to 300 pieces since I decided to make the career switch to art full-time. I am grateful for the change and for finally doing what I love full-time.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has been a challenging road. I sold a piece to someone here in NC a few months ago. She posted her piece on her Instagram account and tagged me. One of her friends reached out to her and sent her a message saying that her husband had purchased a piece from me about 12 years ago in a coffee shop in Durham. This brought a huge smile because it felt like yesterday when I set up in that coffee shop. I always took advantage of an opportunity to display my work. On the weekends, I would set up tables in public places while I painted. I would go into grocery stores, restaurants, etc., and put my pieces on tables. I taught art camps in the summers and did so much networking to put my name out there. I explored many different mediums, color palettes, and styles until I found what worked for me. I painted hundreds of pieces I wanted to be happier with and familiarized myself with the market and what styles and colors sold while maintaining a balance between what I love to paint and making my art into a business and a full-time career.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My work is heavy oil on canvas. I use a palette knife to shape, layer, and mold the paint to create an almost 3D-like painting. When you are close to my work, you can see the layers of color and texture in every stroke of the palette knife. When you step back, the painting comes to life differently. One thing that sets me apart from others is that I like to tell a story with each piece and find a way to connect to my customers through my art. I want them to be part of me and relate to the inspired theme. I paint what brings me joy, but I also think about how each piece would look in someone’s space. I want my art to fit almost any setting and work with multiple design styles. I am most proud of my amazing support from my customers and the compliments I receive almost daily about how my art brings them joy and some happiness to their walls.

Please feel free to see my art in person and attend my final exhibit of the year on November 5th between 7-10 pm. Tickets are free and can be secured through my website.

What do you think about risk-taking?
Before leaping art full-time, I had nursing as a very stable and well-paid career. I tested my skills and ability to sell my pieces before deciding to do art full-time. Making the decision to open my own business and build a gallery and studio space was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. But it also was with testing my success by selling my art and knowing that I had nursing to fall back on. Art is a challenging career, and many people thought I would fail. Granted, I have been open for a year, but I have only seen a snowball effect for sales and endless growth opportunities. The world is tough and to live in it is even more challenging. I would have taken the risk knowing I had a stable career to fall back on.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All images copyright and owned by Shalimar Waffa

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