In Focus…. Naomi Walker

Naomi Walker is the creator and owner of Her Blaze®, which is an online platform offering support, promotion and opportunities for artists.

Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up and where do you live now?  How did you become interested in the visual arts?

Naomi Walker

I grew up in Maryland and my family tended to move around the state – a lot. After I graduated high school, I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Michigan but it was way too cold there, so I left shortly after. I moved to sunny Nashville (at this moment they’re having an ice storm!) for a couple reasons; music and warmer weather. While I was living there, I got a Master’s Degree in Business Management with a focus on Artist Management. I also met my wife while I was there. While we loved Tennessee, we tend to continue the trend of moving a lot. From Tennessee, we moved to Memphis where we started focusing more on business.  Then to Virginia, after my father passed away, and years later we moved to the ultimate Sunshine state… Florida! Now… we are here.
My love for the visual arts actually stems from my love for the music. When I was a young teenager, my father was wrongfully imprisoned because of his skin colour. He spent 10 years in prison for “allegedly” stealing $40k from a lady who had a made a business arrangement (with attorney’s included) to help my father fund his music studio. After the woman went senile (5 years after the deal was made – her young family decided that they didn’t like the fact that she had provided my father with these funds and the judge publicly “made an example of him”. Many people ask, “are you sure it was because…” and I have to tell them I was there. Also, I’m an adult now and I can pull the records for the cases and yes, I am sure. But the point of the story is this…
Shortly after he went to prison, my mother struggled to manage her 5 kids, 6 jobs and constant children “strays” (kids who were getting kicked out of their family homes) who she would graciously allow in her small – 1 bedroom home. Because life was so hectic there I would try to find ways to escape. For many years I was told I wasn’t allowed to play the drums because “I wasn’t a drummer”, but we had an old beat up drum set (without heads or anything) that my father had left behind and I would disappear to go “play”. I would spend hours imagining what my beats would sound like and how they would come together. I couldn’t get enough but I wasn’t able to play drums in school or even at church, because I wasn’t a “drummer”.
Some years later, my parents got a divorce. My father couldn’t handle life in prison very well and my mother couldn’t help him the way he needed it. But because of that divorce I was freed from the notion of not being a “drummer” (wasn’t my Dad’s feelings but his family who happened to run the church). So when I started high school, I joined the Drum Line as well as taking percussion courses. I fell in love and became very good, very fast. I started playing at new churches, and practicing daily. I was obsessed. I played professionally for almost 10 years before coming out as Lesbian. When I did that, all of the churches that had employed me for years decided I was no longer “fit” to take part in the ministry. I was crushed! So I decided I would start looking for a well payed job, and that’s what I did.
I started working with my brother who is a bit of a financial guru. I made great money within a few years and set myself and my wife up for some great experiences. However, I always had the feeling that it wasn’t really what I loved. A few months back I found myself falling in love with the visual art and the ways artists create their work. I wanted to invest in these artists but I couldn’t buy everything I liked, so I decided I would try to help artists – I just wasn’t sure how, yet. I had so much background and experience but technology has also changed so much. Then it hit me. I know how to use social media, I know how to influence people and I know how to show value. From there… my passion for the visual, musical and all other arts has grown tremendously!

How did Her Blaze come into being and what’s the idea behind the name?

Great question! I was thinking of what I wanted to focus my attentions on. I knew it needed to be art but I wasn’t sure how I was going to make sure I provided a needed service. I actually started with the name Her Blaze and built a website for a Marijuana review page. My wife had an accident years back that truly could’ve taken her life. She survived with a fractured skull, broken neck, broken clavicle, broken ribs, shattered pelvis, two broken femurs and skin grafts covering the back of her left leg and portions of her hips. She struggled with meds for years but found recovery in Marijuana and I was going to help her tell her story! The name itself was suppose to represent the female review perspective, but I truly loved the flow of the name and I even had hopes of creating a His Blaze and Their Blaze, so I purchased the domain names.

But at the end of the day, she wasn’t ready to make that jump quite yet. It was then that I noticed all this art passing through my Instagram  feed. I saw how little attention such amazing art was getting so we decided to make it about art! We kept the name as symbolism! This is her fire… her passion… her love! A blaze is defined as a very large or fiercely burning fire and that’s what I want for my artists. I want the passion and heat of my fire to help ignite the passions and fires of those who cross my path!

What’s the rationale behind Her Blaze?

I’d say the rationale is to promote artists! It’s to help artists find outlets. What I’ve found is that many of the artists we work with feel the same way. They feel rundown. They feel as if their efforts have been for nought. They feel like their time is better spent elsewhere… and maybe it is? But… maybe it’s not. Maybe someone had the opportunity to re-ignite a fire that would change the world but they missed the opportunity due to fear, or lack of funds. To me, those moments are what define us as people. I want to use my experience, knowledge and funds to help artists do what they love so that they can focus on making sure their blaze is strong! So the idea is to support the artists that make ‘The Arts’!

We really admire the diverse selection of artists on your website.  Mexican artist Susana Badillo, painter Shari Michaud, Italian artist, Sofia Fresia and of course our very own Lesley Hilling to name but a few. What do you look for in an artist’s work?

Great question and Thank You! I would love to say we don’t look but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve had to choose to not accept artists in the past. However, what we focus on is the artist themselves before the work. We advertise and promote all around the world in order to help artists find each other but also to help collectors find the artists. With this knowledge it’s important for us to remember that the artists themselves must be active. They must be showcasing their art in some way. They don’t have to sell their art (if they don’t want to) but we also like to try to buy art, as well as get our friends and family to do the same.
In all honesty, I’m no art expert. I simply love it. So for me, if I look at an artist’s work and I go… “hmm I don’t think I like that” – that doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t love it! So I try to look at the art last! I will get an application and review the bio and links provided and then I have my team give me an idea of how they feel about the artist. If we all see an artist that is excited to share their work and their work shows a passion for what they are doing, we will accept them and their work and do our best to promote i

Since the pandemic has shut down galleries, a huge amount of websites have sprung up offering opportunities for artists but mostly at a cost.  So it’s refreshing that Her Blaze offers support and promotion with featured artists, challenges and interesting articles.  How do you make all that happen?

Oh wow… that’s such a compliment, so thank you again! I don’t do it alone! That is for sure. I started doing it myself while working full time. I’m in sales so I have to work extra hard sometimes to maintain a commission that my family and I can live on. In the beginning I was providing for myself, my wife, my sister (Hannah), her girlfriend (Erin), and one of their kids (Carter). I was waking up at 6am daily to work on the site, make posts, write blogs and then get ready for work and come home to work on the site some more. Then something grand happened… my sister got married! She didn’t have the funds to purchase her wife’s ring yet, so I decided to help them purchase it. My sister (not being one for handouts) wanted to find a way to work for it and I had the PERFECT idea. At that point, I hired my sister and her wife, who is a writer, to join the Her Blaze team. Hannah would focus on the daily posts and Erin would write the blogs. This time gained would offer me so much in terms of life as well as being able to focus on the concept of Her Blaze but it also provided Erin a platform to write (which she loves to do and is incredible at) and Hannah to focus on social media management. Now, Hannah, Erin and I all have full time jobs.
Currently, we do accept donations but I also know what it means to be an artist and the financial difficulties. I am blessed to have a job that pays well. I’ve lived my life knowing that the more I give, the more I receive. I wanted to offer that same sentiment to my artists. Let me help you share your work and find others who will pay for it! This way, at the end of the day, the artists find hope, joy, and a new excitement. I don’t depend on Her Blaze for finances because it’s not meant to be that way. I try to find other avenues to help offset the cost. Nothing financial has quite come of it yet, but I don’t care. I love my artists. I love my team. I love Her Blaze!

Do you have any advice for artists in these difficult times?

Negative feelings come from a place of not being in line with who you really are. If doing art makes you happy… do that! The ones who don’t quit – find success in living a life of happiness. Take it from someone who knows. Lol I’m going to buy a drum set here again soon. Just gotta catch up on my art purchases first! 

What are Her Blaze plans for the future, any upcoming projects?

Oh yes! I’m working to locate a 3D and Virtual Reality based creator who can help us build a 3D and VR gallery for each of the HB Artists. This gallery would be accessible through the site as well as on VR based platforms like Oculus or Playstation VR. Now this is a little further into the future but this truly is our goal! Picture this… 
You wake up and you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see this piece of art that captures your attention. Who is the artist? What is the story behind this art? So you click on the Her Blaze bio to find the website. You go to the artist page and you click to enter their 3D gallery of art. You walk through the rooms until you find the piece you’re looking for and there’s the artist – complete with options to interact. You look in their direction and click on a series of questions you can ask that artist and they answer, directly. That’s a quick snapshot. What do you think? Like the idea? Let me know.

Here in Britain we follow American politics more and more.  I think we feel that what happens in America will come to Britain.  What hopes have you got for the Biden/Harris administration and the future of America?

Wow… My heart sank a little with this question but I am happy to answer it anyway. First off, the reason it sank was because, as a country we have lived through one of the toughest 4 years in my lifetime. Now I’m not that old (32 at the moment) but I have lived through a lot of life!
I’m not sure which part you mean when you say “I think we feel that what happens in America will come to Britain”. If you mean having a Trump run your country… I hope not. Lol If you mean ending racism… I think that’s already happening and I hope it continues but in a much more peaceful way than it is here. If you mean struggling to fight the pandemic and people loosing their jobs endlessly with limited help from the government up until this point… again… I really hope not!
My hope is that this administration won’t look at the USA as a single entity but as a small puzzle piece in a grand puzzle! The planet earth has so many different types of people from so many different places that it is truly unrealistic to believe that we are the best anything – outside of the whole. We have awful people just like every other country and at the same time we have amazing people just like every other country! It’s not about where you come from as much as it’s about how you impact those who you come in contact with…
My hope is that more people will find a way to focus on learning to see others to be as valuable as themselves and also to find themselves to be invaluable. No matter what place in life you are. I hope this administration can see people as valuable no matter where they come from and make changes that promote value in people around the world.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share. I am truly thankful for Felix H. Wilkinson, their team of artists and last but not least, Lesley Hilling! You all have so much talent and it is an honour to get to share a platform with you to speak about my passions and Her Blaze!