We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Trainor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, how do you think about risk?
I actually tend to think of myself as risk-averse. I am the poster child for taking my time and evaluating situations for seemingly a long time, but I have found both reward and pain in the risks I have taken in my life. I was born almost blind, and eventually was able to see somewhat in one eye after extensive light therapy with my ophthalmologist. Growing up in South Carolina, I was also very close to my mom, Della, and we shared a creative spirit that I am so thankful for to this day. I went to school to study photography and graphic design because of that creative inspiration and also partly because I had spent so much time looking at everything I could with my compromised eyesight. We also shared a lot of laughs and good times too, Growing up, one of my dreams was to travel. I was always motivated by new places and experiences. Mom always said “Go live your dream!”
After my mom died several years later, I decided on taking a big risk. I sold my house and without even searching for a job, I picked up and moved to Boston, MA. The only thread I had was a friend from my hometown had moved there a few years before for a relationship. I stayed with him for a week to find an apartment and found one in a few days not even three houses down the street from him. Finding a good job took a little over three months, and it was not even related to design or photography, it was as a museum store manager at the Old State House Museum on the Freedom Trail. I eventually worked over seven years and ended up designing store renovations and new build-outs in three locations. It was a very happy and successful time in my life.
Then as the cost of living in Massachusetts skyrocketed, I had the choice of moving way out of the city I loved while keeping up with the rent, or risking it all again on relocating to an area of the country with much lower living costs. I moved. That area eventually became North Texas. I had other dear friends who I had visited in the Dallas area a few times and they were adept in showing me the area, and I figured that after the success of Boston, I could easily negotiate the new climate while using the things I had learned in New England. Nope, didn’t work. I was unemployed for many months and I was just about tapped out when I found a design job with an area manufacturer of home goods. After a few years of seemingly getting back on my feet the company had wide layoffs and over 40 employees were dismissed on the spot one day in 2018. Well that was no fun! Bad risk? You could say that in many ways but…
Being the creative, stubborn, maybe even crazy person I am, decided to move back to my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina with my tail between my legs. Nicknamed “Sparkle City” Spartanburg was no Boston or Dallas, but in short order I began to appreciate the things that this small textile town affords. I get to still be creative and work with local businesses and artists on projects, but I also created my own little business, Sparkle City Snaps, where I take my photography from my favorite places including my hometown and digitally-repaint the images into pop-art style canvas pieces. The thing I most appreciate is being back near my father and my family. I started working part-time in my father’s shoe store and am able to spend so much time with him that I missed when I was a kid. My father George is a hard worker, and very special and his dedication to all his customers after over 50+ years in businesses so rewarding to watch and participate in.
So this is a story of risks, all leading to where I am today. I think its important to take some risks to better yourself and the people around you.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think it is exciting that at this point in my life, my eye doctors said I would be blind again… Hasn’t happened yet! So I keep photographing and exploring and making my digital pop-art. My process, which can take awhile to finish, is may favorite part, I either digitally shoot new images or scan my vintage film images shot years ago into my Mac, pull up Photoshop and spend days or weeks on one image. I actually manipulate the images to get my desired visual pop, which is to say the least bright and poppy, sometimes moody, but always happy! My images are all of places that I have explored. Starting around 2008, I started showing my digital work on Facebook, then eventually on Instagram since early 2018.
The thing I am most excited about is the recognition and expansion my Sparkle City Snaps brand is now experiencing. I am launching an online store where customers can purchase canvas prints of my art in the US and tentatively in Canada.
People seem to gravitate to the part of my work that makes me produce the art in the first place, nostalgic, familiar but yet surreal, pop-colored places from my childhood imagination.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Spartanburg “Sparkle City” South Carolina may be a small town, but there is a wealth of great things to do.
We would taxi from GSP Airport, past BMW Manufacturing and into downtown. Drop off luggage at the AC Hotel downtown. Get our first cocktail with a view from the hotel’s restaurant, Level 10. The view from here looking over the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains to the North is absolutely beautiful.
Walk the Mary Black Rail Trail system, with lunch and beer at the Flock Shop, a chicken-lovers delight located in a 1950’s gas station. Dine in Morgan Square where there is Delaney’s Pub, or Sophia’s Italian among many more restaurants.
Visit the Spartanburg Music Trail featuring artists like the Marshall Tucker Band, Pink Anderson, the Sparkletones, Champ Hood, Marshall Chapman and many more. Eat a great lunch at classic drive-in Sugar-N-Spice with Baklava for dessert. Afternoon coffee at one of the Little River Coffee shops and later browse through Hub City Bookshop, a local non-profit featuring all manner of interesting book titles, many published in-house at Hub City Press!.
Enjoy morning coffee at Spill The Beans Coffee in Midtown, explore shops along East and West Main Street, and walk over to The Chapman Cultural Center to visit the Artists’ Guild of Spartanburg gallery, the Science Center, the Spartanburg History Museum or the Spartanburg Art Museum, and see a Spartanburg Little Theater production or Spartanburg Philharmonic concert that evening.
Day 5. Day trip to North Carolina to explore Asheville and the beautiful Biltmore Estate.
Day 6. Last day starting out with Breakfast at The Skillet Restaurant and lunch at Health In Hand. Early dinner at Tulip Tree and bowling at UnderPin Lanes ‘N Lounge with a late evening visit to the oldest bar in Spartanburg, the Nu-Way Lounge & Restaurant.
You might need a vacation to get over the vacation in Spartanburg!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A shout out to my Mom, my Dad and family. Also to my dear friends past and present in Spartanburg, Boston, Dallas and beyond. Special nods to both Jan Scalisi (Dearly departed friend who pushed, pushed, and pushed!) and a little scrappy non-profit in Spartanburg called the Hub City Writers Project and Bookstore. All of them and many more have been a big part of me and my risky adventures.
© Nick T. Trainor