Arts & Culture

Double Life: Raleigh salon owner paints at night

Traci Lorraine Farmer at her downtown Raleigh art studio, left, and at her salon, Crazy Combs, right. Farmer’s bright, industrial landscapes are on display until the end of the month at Margaux’s, a north Raleigh restaurant where Farmer met her husband years ago while both were waiting tables.
Traci Lorraine Farmer at her downtown Raleigh art studio, left, and at her salon, Crazy Combs, right. Farmer’s bright, industrial landscapes are on display until the end of the month at Margaux’s, a north Raleigh restaurant where Farmer met her husband years ago while both were waiting tables. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Traci Lorraine Farmer spends her days cutting hair at her Raleigh salon, Crazy Combs. But late at night, she can often be found painting at her downtown art studio.

Her bright, industrial landscapes are on display until the end of the month at Margaux’s, a North Raleigh restaurant where Farmer met her husband years ago while both were waiting tables. Margaux’s co-owner, Steve Horowitz, tries to support local artists by regularly rotating the artwork on his restaurant’s walls.

Horowitz has watched Farmer’s artistic skills develop over the years and has seen her tackle a number of different projects including portraiture, natural landscapes and now industrial scenes, often inspired by downtown Raleigh’s evolution.

“I just keep falling in love with what’s she’s doing,” Horowitz said. “It’s so vibrant and so local.”

What pays the bills

Farmer, 44, grew up in Raleigh, graduating from Broughton High School before heading off to art school in Atlanta. When money ran out for tuition, Farmer returned home to wait tables and regroup. Her mother was a hairstylist and owned a salon, so Farmer decided to become a hairdresser.

“I went to beauty school because it was creative, lucrative, and it was only nine months,” she said.

Then Farmer realized that cutting hair and painting were similar. For example, when you soften a line with a paintbrush, your brushstroke has to go perpendicular to the original line. It is the same with scissors when cutting hair.

“I realized it was the same skills with a different medium,” Farmer said. “That’s when it clicked.”

Farmer and her husband, Joe, who owns Humble Pie restaurant in Raleigh, moved to California for a few years where she worked at salons in Beverly Hills. The couple returned to North Carolina in 2000. Farmer gave birth to their son in 2002 and opened her own salon that same year.

What feeds the soul

After her daughter was born in 2004, Farmer felt compelled to pick up her paintbrushes again. Before that, she had painted every now and then but not consistently.

“I couldn’t ignore painting anymore,” Farmer said. “I dreamt about painting.”

So she developed a routine: Work at the salon during the day, come home, cook dinner, put children to bed and head to her studio to paint once her husband got home from the restaurant. Farmer had her first art show at the Flanders Art Gallery in Raleigh in 2008.

But a steady routine of late-night painting sessions was not good for Farmer’s health, so she now spends every Tuesday painting at the SwitchHouse Studios with less frequent, but regular, late-night painting sessions. “I’m most productive in the middle of the night,” she explained.

Despite hectic work and family obligations, Farmer said she needs to paint: “I love my children. I make sacrifices for them, but I can’t stop creating.”

Beyond her own artwork, Farmer’s latest project involved 107 second-graders at Underwood GT Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh. As its recent artist in residence, Farmer oversaw a project in which the children wrote essays and created collages about who they are and where they live. Farmer helped arrange for their artwork to be on display at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh on May 1.

Her husband, Joe Farmer, said he is in awe of his wife: “I don’t know where she gets the energy. ... She drives me. It’s inspiring.”

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl

Double Life

Once a month, we share the story of a local artist hidden in plain sight. You never know what talented person may be waiting tables at your favorite restaurant, sitting in the office down the hall, or even working as a cashier at the grocery store. Meet them here.

See the Artist’s Work

Raleigh artist Traci Lorraine Farmer has several paintings on display until March 31 at Margaux’s Restaurant, 8111 Creedmoor Road, Suite 111, Raleigh, 919-846-9846, margauxsrestaurant.com.

Check out her website, tracilorraine.com, or her Facebook page: facebook.com/TraciLorraineFineArt

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