Inspired by nature and animals, artist Gerda Razmaitė – known as Kai Nemra in the art world – lives by the sea in Brighton, UK. She paints on canvas and renovates vintage and second-hand garments – a sustainable way of breathing life into pre-loved clothing. Her artistic style embodies ‘feelings that have taken the form of animals’ and her penchant for bright colors and patterns are seen throughout her work, including her unique rendition of the hand-finished belt bag for Elf Bread & The Artists Present: Creative Challenge.
Elf Bread: You’ve totally transformed the belt bag with your daring approach to color and shape. Have you always loved painting?
Kai Nemra: I enjoyed painting from an early age. When asked in primary school what I would like to do when I grew up, I wrote in crooked letters that I would like to be an artist – a fashion designer. Later, I forgot this desire and decided to opt for a ‘serious’ profession instead. However, I could not run away from myself - in my last year at school I decided to enter the Academy of Arts, where I got a degree in graphic design. I did a postgraduate illustration course in London and gradually drifted away from commercial design towards my own painting. I started painting on canvas and finally felt like I was doing the right thing.
EB: Well, it looks like you found your calling. When did you start painting on clothes?
KN: After graduating in London, I didn’t want to start working for a design firm, so me and two friends of mine decided to do something of our own. That’s how the NYMPHA fashion brand was born and I started painting on leather. We managed to achieve a lot – celebrities including Rita Ora, Ciara and Erica Jennings wore our clothes and now NYMPHA clothes can be purchased in boutiques in many countries around the world. Painting on leather fascinates me because it blurs the boundaries between art and the viewer: people wear leather clothes and accessories on the street and combine them with the clothes they have.
EB: So you’re used to working with leather. How was it working on the belt bag specifically?
KN: Painting on this bag was very easy – on quality leather, it’s easier to apply the paint evenly and achieve a good end result. It was fun to work with an item I would love to wear myself. The belt bag is one of my favorite styles. I loved the little pockets on the interior, so much so that I decided to paint these too. I even managed to turn the metal details on the outside into tiger eyes too!
EB: What’s special about painting on leather, as opposed to, say, canvas or fabric?
KN: There are technical differences – leather must be prepared in a special way before painting and a protective layer must be applied afterwards. Leather items come in a variety of shapes, which may sometimes complicate design possibilities, but on the contrary, this can spark ideas. It’s also necessary to take into account that the item will actually be worn. It has to look good with outfits!
EB: And, finally, your main inspiration? What keeps your creativity flowing?
KN: As seen on my Elf Bread belt bag, one of my main sources of inspiration is nature. I admire its vitality, colors, and mysticism. I convey my ideas through depictions of animals. Anything can stimulate creation – everything I see, hear or feel can be transferred on the canvas.
Check out the belt bag Kai Nemra painted for Elf Bread & The Artists Present: Creative Challenge collaboration here.