The story of how Angela Nikulinsky created a symbiosis of visuals, writing and nature from her home office.
Nature, and Australian nature in particular, lies at the core of studio Nikulinsky founder Angela Nikulinsky’s life. When she’s out with her children, it is often in King’s Park – Perth’s main park and botanic garden. When she recalls her favourite memory, it is of walking through the vastness of Flinders Range national park.
And when she decided to start her own business after having her first daughter, it was to share the incredible works of her mother-in-law Philippa Nikulinsky. Angela also comes from an academic background in professional writing and literature – and so she has a profound appreciation for storytelling, which is an essential pillar in studio Nikulinsky.
Stories are the way that we connect. They are the way that we share – the way that we remember. And they are enduring legacy. If you were to think about cultures previous to writing cultures, it’s all about oral storytelling. That’s the way people shared survival and culture and love; their world is through storytelling. Stories are personal, and then they can also be universal – so they are the centrepiece of life.
Angela sees storytelling – that concept of sharing experience – not just as an important part of our lives, but as a responsibility. She is particularly passionate about providing access to those stories for everyone, which is why she believes that an image combined with a story, either written or told, is the apex of all storytelling mediums. It allows everyone to share in the experience, whether it’s through the image or the words.
studio Nikulinsky provides a peek into the wonders of Western Australian nature. Through Angela’s thoughtfully designed gifts – eucalyptus greeting cards, dragonfly magnets, budgies notebooks, desert daisy pocket mirrors – she offers the visual perspective into the nature she loves so much. Then, Angela couples her designs with rich tales, whether through her blog posts, her website or her Instagram account. Her mission is to share the appreciation for and importance of nature, and she believes it is her responsibility to make that narrative as accessible as possible.
On an accessibility level, if you have one without the other, you are ignoring a huge amount of people you don’t want to ignore, that shouldn’t be ignored, and I think that businesses do have a responsibility to cater to people with different abilities. I love the concept of having an image with words and describing that image, and describing the experience when you go through that image, so that you can actually share what you want to share to anyone, without their disability being an issue. Because that is up to us – rather than up to them to find a way to experience what you’re producing.
One of Angela’s key characteristics – in life and in business – is that she is profoundly honest. She is precise and direct, with that fantastic hint of Kiwi dryness and sarcasm (Angela is originally from New Zealand). It makes for a fantastic foundation when she is sharing studio Nikulinsky content on social media. Her product-specific storytelling is sharp, and is almost always coupled with a snippet from Angela’s everyday life, whether that’s about the challenges of toddler motherhood, the importance of sustainability, the difficulty of staying organised when running your own business, or the profound love for her local nature.
I want people to be with me. I don’t feel like I’m delivering to people – I feel like I’m sharing things. So I want to use storytelling to make my content accessible and relatable and enjoyable. Everyday life is really interesting if you actually choose to share it in the detail. And it also comes down to finding moments that you can share to highlight that, you know, life is actually pretty amazing. It’s good for me to do as a person, it’s good for me to do as a business owner.
And it’s great for me to share because that’s a very universal experience – struggling to find those quiet moments, or loud moments that are still really enjoyable. I think storytelling is a crucial part of anyone’s business, if they want to be a business that’s actually taking people along with them, rather than staying on a pedestal and saying ‘My life is this, and you should be entertained by me.’
With her studio, Angela is building a community. Scaling, expanding and massive profits are not her underlying motivations or driving factors. As she sits in her studio and brainstorms and designs from Philippa Nikulinsky’s extensive watercolours and drawings of WA nature, it is with thought, care and responsibility. She believes that a business will be successful when it views its customers not as business relationships, but as person-to-person relationships; celebrating that time when sharing stories was about forming real connections, and building the foundation for empathy within a community.
Using storytelling in your business will actually make you friends, rather than customers. And friends probably will buy from you, because they like what you do, they like to follow your adventures and they value what you have to share. And they’ll share back. If you’re telling good stories, people will share back. And if that’s not one of the best things you can achieve in your business or in your life, I don’t know what is.
Stories aren’t just important as part of the studio Nikulinsky communications strategy. They’re also integral to the product development of every single item that Angela designs, manufactures and sells. Celebrating nature is celebrating the locality of that nature, which is why she searches for the most sustainable, local and mindful partners as possible, to help bring her designs to life in accordance with her ethos.
Angela believes that businesses shouldn’t wait around for customers to ask about the story of a product – it should be a natural and pronounced part of each step of the creation journey. It builds trust, and it underpins the transparency that is so important if you want to create an ethical, honest and sustainable business.
You need to be upfront with people. Don’t make them question where something’s coming from – tell them the story of where that thing is from and why you’ve created it (…) Take people behind the scenes and say ‘I’ve got these things and they come from this place and this place’, and if you’re actually upfront, even if it’s not 100 % the ideology or ethos of your potential customer, they’re probably going to respect that you’re honest, that they know what they’re buying. And the best way of communicating that is actually describing, showing and making it a narrative (…) I mean, that’s what draws me in. The what and the who and the where. And the why – you can’t communicate the why without stories.