Profile: Soft Studios
Meet Nicole Leth, an artist making joyful objects with compassion and love in Soft Studios. The former owner of popular store chain Sex & Ice Cream has opened a studio space in the Crossroads, where she explores joyful objects and living authentically.
How would you describe your job and what you do?
I am an artist; a human being who is passionate about making authentic items that embrace humanity and bring joy to people. I’m coming more into that idea of authentic humanity and embracing joy as it is.
What is your background?
I am a professionally trained clothing designer. I went to art school and opened a chain of stores when I was 18. We had stores in LA, Kansas City, and Des Moines and I closed them when I was 25.
What brought you to open up Soft Studios?
My transition from my old company. It was a huge entity that had gotten a level of success and it was an emotional journey because I had achieved everything I had ever wanted to achieve but I wasn’t happy with how it had played out. That level of success wasn’t my personal level of success. The transition to Soft was about turning back in, connecting with what my personal values were, and finding what would fill my cup at the end of the day.
Do you think your definition of success has changed?
Here’s the thing about my definition of success: I think it’s always been the same but I used to think it was something else before I had done the work. The idea I used to subscribe to was it was about being known publicly and about reaching the most people. Now my definition of success is having human connections in ways that matter, and I realized that’s been my definition the entire way through.
What goals did you have for Soft when you started and do you feel like you’ve reached those goals?
The thing about Soft is that it's changing every single day. I want it to be a constant representation of me and what I’m discovering and learning in my life. My goal was for it to be a transparent representation [of my life]. I think I’ve achieved that but I have to achieve it every single day.
What process do you have in creating your pieces?
All of my pieces are created with the idea of an honest portrayal of what’s going on in my mind or what’s exciting me. They’re created with the intention that they give me joy to create and so I want someone else to find joy in them. When I’m creating my pieces, I’m listening to songs that make me happy. It’s important to me to create a space and a practice that is joyful.
Where do you gather inspiration for your pieces?
So many of my pieces have been inspired by how the Beach Boys make me feel. A lot of my inspiration comes from listening to music but it comes from moments where I’m feeling happy. It comes from me driving by myself on a sunny day. I will take myself on a drive if I need to feel inspired. I’ll have shapes or color combinations that come to me when I’m feeling joy in my life.
What goals do you have for the future?
My goals are to continue this art practice that is categorized under the identity of Soft Studios and have it always be something that brings me joy. I’d like to invite new processes in and I’m trying to approach it with zero expectations so I can be open to the evolving identity of Soft Studios. I also teach yoga so I’d love to have some way to incorporate that into this identity and somehow invite people into a joy-filled space for a joy-filled practice. The goal is to keep doing all of this in a real and honest way.
I love that you’re cultivating this joy and positive energy, especially with the recent focus on self-care and mental health in society.
Soft is important to me because [this is] exactly what I needed to survive my transition from Sex & Ice Cream. I’m hoping it can represent that idea for others too. Owning a store can be stressful but it can be this easy. You can make it whatever you want and it can be something that honors you.
What are some of your favorite people and places in Kansas City?
Bar K! I go there five times a week with my partner and our new puppy. We love hanging out with the people there. My friends just opened Mansion Coffee in the northeast and it’s a great place for a crafted latte. I love Family Tree Nursery. I’ll listen to Beach Boys and walk around the tropical section; that is the cure to seasonal depression. Power Life Yoga. Kobi Q. And of course, Jeff Owens, who manages the Bauer, and has always supported me.
Soft Studios is open on First Fridays on the second floor of The Bauer at 115 W 18th St. Visit www.soft-studios.com to see some of Nicole’s work.