Here’s to the March Issue of Up & Coming OKC: a series dedicated to showcasing the creative talents of our younger generation. Take a look at last month’s featured young adults.
Jonathan Tang – Swimmer
When Norman’s own Jonathan Tang was offered a spot to compete in the Olympic Trials, he thought he was living in a dream. As an avid swimmer since the age of six, Tang followed his older brother’s interest in the sport. He quickly caught attention from local newspapers and media platforms in Oklahoma with his record-breaking swimming skills at a young age, and his rise to success had only skyrocketed since then.
“Growing up, I watched the Olympic Trials every four years and I never would have thought I would be standing on the same pool deck as those swimmers I looked up to as a child,” said Tang. “What it took to make the qualifications was what really made an impact on me. When I decided to set my goal at that level, I made sure to do everything I could physically, mentally and spiritually to accomplish it. I can confidently say it was the toughest training I’ve ever been through to get to where I got. I’m extremely grateful to have experienced competing at the Olympic Trials, but I take pride in the work that I put in to achieve that goal.”
Despite Tang’s outstanding achievements, he had to reshape his mindset to defeat the obstacles that arise within competitive sports — especially at the Olympic level.
“There are countless challenges that I’ve faced and continue to face,” said Tang. “When my progress in swimming first began to plateau prior to making the Olympic Trials, I did not improve in my best event for almost 3 years. I learned to never doubt the work you put in. The timing that you expect success may not be the timing that’s meant to be.”
Tang recently finished his first season of collegiate swimming at the University of Chicago, and he plans to continue the sport until he graduates. He hopes to find himself competing again at the Olympic Trials in 2024.
“To all those who are in competitive sports, don’t let yourself be defined by your accomplishments,” said Tang. “You are more than your successes, so remember to just enjoy the sport for what it is.”
Follow @jonathantang123 on Instagram for more.
Paige Burdick – Artist
With an eye for creativity at the age of three, Paige Burdick took to any canvas, as she was often found doodling all over the walls of her old home. Now 17, Burdick’s passion for art has remained unwavering. With her vibrant color pallettes and monochromatic masterpieces, Burdick is able to craft unique pieces with different mediums.
“I have always been involved with art — it’s been my only hobby,” said Burdick. “I love creation. I bounce between mediums like no other, as I do three-dimensional work, use watercolor, paints, colored pencils, carving tools and more.”
With an assortment of artistic skills, she hits the mark within her pieces as each portrays an array of emotions to the viewer. For the future, she hopes to attend art school and create prints of her work.
“I really like expressing myself through various details within my artwork,” said Burdick. “I love portraits, and getting to portray emotions through my art. In person, I have a really hard time verbally communicating my emotions, so I think that my art is able to get my point across for me. I think I use my art as a way of explaining how my brain functions.”
Maria Nairn – Photographer
As a self-taught photographer, Maria Nairn put in the time and effort to perfect her capturing skills. From taking classes on Asian brushwork styles to pottery to sculpting, Nairn has a wide variety of creative talents to offer. At the age of 13, she received her first digital camera for Christmas.
“I started out, like pretty much every other photographer, just taking photos of everything I came across,” said Nairn. “Just getting used to the settings, focal lengths, different exposures in different lightings. Over time, you start to pick up different tips and tricks and learn how to compose appealing photos. You get ‘the eye.’ Once I started capturing different settings and objects in the way I viewed them, I could not stop thinking about everything I wanted to shoot.”
Nairn’s mission within her photography is to capture her clients’ natural selves while giving them the confidence to develop a positive self-image after seeing their desired results. Currently, she is focusing on expanding her personal creative endeavors, and she hopes to work for National Geographic as an Explorer — so she can travel, take photos and tell stories through them.
“With portrait sessions, I do my best to capture my clients’ candid moments,” said Nairn. “Posing is a part of every shoot, but my favorite photos always tend to be candid laughing and smiling shots. I love seeing everyone’s unique expressions of joy; it’s literally the best part of my job. It’s the same with street photography; in order for people to be at their most honest form, you have to capture them candidly. With nature and other types of photography, I really just do my best to capture my vision in the moment. Changing my distance, zoom, angle, etc., all help me play around and figure out exactly what I want. But with everything, the story is the most thrilling part to me. Sharing individuals’ and communities’ stories is my penultimate goal with my art. I shoot to tell stories, to explore unfamiliar topics, to capture the tiniest of moments. And sometimes, I just shoot to see what works.”
Check out @PhotosByMariaNairn on Instagram for more.
Caroline Cox – Jewelry Business Creator
When 20-year-old Caroline Cox first began creating custom jewelry, she looked to her grandpa for inspiration — a former president of the National Gem and Mineral Society and once a jeweler himself. Cox had grown accustomed to the art of crafting creative and wearable pieces. Her business, Energy Creations, has just launched, and has already brought on an influx of eager customers.
Cox left Oklahoma to live in Sedona, Arkansas, for a period of time, where her interest in crystals and stones was piqued. She utilized her intrigue to create Energy Creations, where each order comes with a delicately hand-crafted jewelry piece with energetic stones as the main focus.
“My grandpa has been one of the biggest influences in my life, and he’s inspired me to live through him,” said Cox. “My spirituality has also been a major part of my identity, and it brings me so much passion to be able to teach other people about it through my own work.”
Cox taught herself how to wrap most of her stones and crystals in wire to craft necklaces, pendants, earrings and more. A large amount of her orders are dedicated to custom-made pieces to perfectly fit each customer’s desires.
“I am very optimistic as to where Energy Creations will take me,” said Cox. “My goal is to eventually have enough pieces to open pop-up shops at local art shows and festivals. Every customer who buys my jewelry is getting a handmade piece, as each is uniquely crafted and different from the rest, so you will always stand out in the crowd!”
Visit @energycreations on Instagram for more.