Photographer. Writer. Mamma.
Hello dearest one! It has been what seems like an eternity past since I last saw you. Having met through the wonders of social media to a call out you posted looking for somewhere to stay in Sydney, way back when towards the end of 2014. I couldn’t believe I was set to meet a hero of mine who influenced much of my work when I was younger. I have so many wildly glorious vivid memories from hosting you over those couple of weeks! Thankyou so much for the joy of being able to interview you for Lola. For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself…
That time feels so surreal and far away now! My name is Nirrimi Firebrace, I live on the west coast of Australia with my 8 year old daughter and my partner who is a filmmaker. I became a photographer at thirteen and left my hometown to pursue those dreams at fifteen, winning awards and being flown across the planet. I’ve been writing stories forever, but the mediums I use to tell stories have grown over the years. Photography, writing, ceramics, music, art.
Where in the world are you as you answer these questions?
I’m in my light and plant filled studio in Fremantle, Western Australia. ‘Still Woozy’ is playing from my speaker tangled with the sounds of the busy cafe next door. The table is covered in ceramics and my intern is across from me hand-building a clay bowl. It’s a cold wintry day and I’m all rugged up and buzzed on coffee, in the best way.
In this surreal COVID time what has your life looked like over these past few months?
The introverted, safety-seeking part of me has rejoiced in the isolation and the ability to unapologetically slow down. I’ve been gifted the time to follow dreams I’d pushed to the side because I was too busy, like ceramics and writing my novel. Here in WA we are very lucky, life has gotten mostly back to normal but there is still a sense of chaos and fear unpinning daily life.
What are the motivations underlying as to why you create?
I try to hold onto the motivations I had as a child. I create to process my big feelings and heal my traumas. I create to make sense of my life and myself. I create to celebrate silver linings and beauty and meaning in the chaos. Those motivations have expanded since building an audience, but they are always my core reasons. If my work helps other people feel less alone, that is a glorious side effect I am proud of.
You are quite candid and unfiltered with sharing your life online which I find creates a space where people feel connected and close, even if they have never met you. What has been the defining reason as to why you share such vulnerable and tender moments with the world?
Vulnerability and authenticity is the best way I know to connect to people, both online and in the real world. Connection is THE most important thing in my life. People are what make it all worthwhile. It’s a tricky balance being both so sensitive and open, and it is scary at times, but the light has outweighed the shadows. I believe the hardest stories to share are often the most important.
You are a beloved young mamma to sweet alba, how have you navigated your creative endeavours and also the demands of being a mamma? It’s quite a broad question, but something that comes to mind that has helped shape you the most.
Parenthood is bloody HARD but it has also given me a sense of structure that I was lacking as a self-employed artist. I have so much less free time than I did before, but I know the worth of that time now and I live more intentionally than I did when I didn’t have Alba. There are times when I pick her up from school and we come straight to the studio so I can keep creating, but I love that, I love that she gets to witness me chasing my dreams and understand what it takes.
Of all the creative mediums that you love and are gifted in, what would be the one medium you couldn’t ever live without?
Writing! In a lot of ways it’s the hardest creative thing I do, but it’s also the most fulfilling. I don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t processed my trauma and endless thoughts through my writing. I just know I would be a lot more broken.
What are you currently working on at the moment?
I’m launching a ceramic jewellery brand called Weird Feelings, which was born out of isolation and has been a way for me to spend more times working with my hands and less time staring at screens. I’ve been chasing my joy and embracing my sensitivity in a BIG way through this little business and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so happy. I’m also writing a novel about the madness of love and working on a photography/poetry series about growing from trauma. So many dreams, too few lives, haha.
What are some of the fears you have walked through in regards to releasing work in a public sphere that you have overcome and how so?
I’m such a perfectionist it’s hard to feel like anything is ever truly good enough, so I try to focus more on the process than the results, on the feeling within the art than the smaller details. I always think of creative courage as a muscle, the more you’re sharing your art the easier it is. You just gotta keep creating and keep sharing.
I remember the poem you sent through to be featured in the last issue of Lola Ziggy Magazine, it was about your dearest little brother who took his life. What has the process of grieving looked like for you? How has that evolved over time and where do you find yourself in it now?
I miss him. I dreamt about him the other night and woke up feeling like I’d truly seen him. That missing will never go away but time keeps going on and life keeps going on and you just have to keep moving with it. Thank god it gets easier.
How would you define beauty?
It’s a feeling to me. Whether I’m taking a portrait, writing a poem or a song, or making ceramics, there’s a feeling I’m searching for. It’s like a *yes* feeling that I find hard to describe. Personally it comes to me through the story, and the smallest things can be a story, a single colour can be a story. It’s what that story evokes, how human it feels, how it relates to my own life.
What does an average day look like in the world of Nirrimi? What are some practical tips on managing a creative life?
My partner is out of the house before the sun has risen, so Alba and I wake up alone. I drink coffee on the balcony and often write in my head while I’m out there, mostly things I will never write down. I take her to school and I go to my studio, I’ve been here two years but I still feel unspeakably grateful and in awe of this creative studio I have made. I can’t believe it! I mostly do ceramics in the studio these days, pressing out and smoothing tiny quirky shapes for earrings while listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Painting, illustrating, glazing, packaging. I pick Alba up from school at 3 and (most days) I allow myself to switch out of work mode and just be present. We have dinner, do a family tidy while singing to the Hamilton soundtrack. We play and talk. I go to bed with Alba so I can get 3 hours of reading in. Peter crawls into bed and I am so happy to feel his skin on mine I could cry of joy some nights. Of course, not every day goes like this when you struggle with mental illness, but the good days do.
My biggest practical tip would be to have a plan. Know what you need to get done each day. Make yourself a map so you can get to your destination without getting hopelessly lost (or at least, less lost). This is what my course The Daily Map is all about.
To the Nirrimi I once met on the corner of a street near my house to the Nirrimi now, what have been some defining moments you can share that these past few years have unravelled to you?
So much love and loss and love and loss. Touring with my best friend in First Aid Kit across America. Therapy and antidepressants and facing trauma. Losing my brother, my baby, my naivety. Gaining a studio, a community, a real place to sink my roots. A reach for slowness, redefining my own idea of success. Growing as a mama, a partner, an artist.
What are the dreams you hold for the future that you’re able to share with us?
Publishing a novel is and always has been my biggest dream of all. When I think of walking into a bookstore and picking up a book with my name on it... I can’t imagine any greater feeling.
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