News and reviews of made on Maui products and Maui-based companies and success stories. Also featuring island shopping guides

When one has given themselves the task of finding the best Made on Maui products, going onto Etsy can be a somewhat daunting task (and potentially expensive).  Just typing in the search word ‘Maui’ leads to 4,894 items (today).  So when a shop catches my eye enough to review each and every item in it, I not only start taking notes, but I have to personally contact the owner for an interview.

Artist : Kim Nolan  – painter, illustrator, photographer, designer and sculpture

Tell me a bit about your background:

I grew up in New York and got my BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Then moved back to NY and spent the next 10 or 12 years designing and building interactive exhibits for children’s museums, zoos and aquariums throughout the U.S.

From there, I wound up working as a Project Manager for an International design and engineering firm. My job required extensive travel. Sometimes 3-4 cities a week for 3 months straight. I loved it. But then I got married and hardly saw my husband. I was sent to New Zealand for a couple months-it was amazing except I had only been married for 5 months and my husband was back in NY.

Have you always been an artist?

I majored in Illustration at RISD and for my thesis project I helped design two exhibits for the Providence Children’s Museum. They needed someone who could create conceptual renderings of what the space would look like and I just happened to walk in at the right time looking for a job. That’s how I wound up with a career in Exhibit Design but I always freelanced on the side. I illustrated some books, magazines, and some exhibits, I had some of my paintings in a few shows here and there, and did some private painting commissions but was never a full time artist until I came to Maui–well I’ve always been an artist but you know what I mean.

How did you find yourself on Maui?

When I got back to NY after living in New Zealand, I found it impossible to settle. We went through a series of family tragedies and decided we needed to take a break and re-boot. We had never gone on a honeymoon and somehow we wound up selling our possessions, quitting our jobs and traveled around the world for 4 months. We entered back into the U.S. via Oahu and after a week decided to check out Maui. That was February 2012 and we are still here. We had never even been here before. We didn’t know a single person and all we had was a backpack. We lived in a hostel at first and started over here with nothing.The fear of homelessness can be very motivating!

Tell me a little about your art?

People identify the figures in my paintings as mermaids which is fine but I like to think of them as “free spirits.” I guess my work is very much inspired by my journey. I always incorporate movement and try to evoke the feeling of freeness and weightlessness-that’s why I like to use water as a theme. It’s cleansing and gives you that sense of floating. There’s no identifiable place or time. I imagine it as the space between one life and the next.

What inspires you about Maui?

Pretty much everything. I’ve always lived near the ocean and love to surf. Now I see the ocean every day except it’s blue and not brown! And there’s whales! And dolphins! and sea turtles! and seals!!! In New York I looked out my window and had a view of a brick wall. Everywhere you turn on Maui, there is an amazing view. There’s so much fresh air and open space, peace and quiet. Pretty much the exact opposite of NYC. After spending much time in 3rd world countries, I’m grateful for so many little things like running water, electricity, my bed. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to live in such a wonderful place it’s overwhelming sometimes. Every one of my oil paintings I have on Etsy and on my website were done here on Maui in the past year.



Where people can view your work:

My work is currently showing at By the Bay gallery in Paia and I sell my illustrations and prints at the Hui2 gallery at the Hui No’eau. I also show my work every 2nd Friday during Town Party night in Lahaina at the Longhi’s Artisan Fair.

In the past, I’ve shown in galleries in NY, Providence, Chicago, Portland, and Fort Lauderdale.

My website:

My Etsy shop:



Also, since moving to Maui, I’ve developed a brand called, Surfer Chick. I sell merchandise through my store on Zazzle. It’s geared towards little girls:

I also have a blog called Museum Trekker. I’ve been writing about my travels around the world and museums I’ve visited for the past 5 years:

Mahalo to Kim for the interview and I look forward to seeing your work in person! – LS

Comments on: "Artist’s Profile : Kim Nolan" (3)





  3. Merry said:

    Great article about a great artist who is so multi talented.

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