Every great artist has a favorite medium to create with.
Some feel deeply passionate about the versatility of oil paint and others can't get enough of the malleable quality of clay. But there's one prolific artist whose work is created entirely in a very surprising medium: pasta.
In honor of National Pasta Day, on Wednesday, Nicholson created a vibrant portrait of TODAY's Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb that was made entirely out of colorful handmade pasta.
"It's beautiful," Hoda said twice.
"That's incredible," Kathie Lee exclaimed.
Nicholson first started making art with pasta when she was just 4 years old. It started shortly after her parents moved Nicholson and her two older siblings from Los Angeles to a small town in Idaho.
Along with her only friend, a cow named Slobber, Nicholson left the farm behind for the summer to visit her grandparents back in California. She spent the hot, smoggy days inside at a kitchen table covered in flour, making pasta until the perfect dough was crafted. She was young, but she adored it.
One night, after learning that Slobber had been slaughtered for the family's dinner, she vowed to become a vegetarian and turned to her new pasta-making skills.
By the age of 10, Nicholson's parents had divorced, her older siblings were out of the house and her mother worked long shifts as a nurse. Nicholson bought a book on romantic Italian cooking for two and often spent nights making elaborate gourmet dinners to enjoy with her mom.
For Nicholson, it wasn't just food. It was art. It wasn't until later in life, that she realized just how colorful this art form could be.
Years passed and Nicholson grew up and became a mother. When her son was 4, she faced an issue that many parents face when their child decides (rather vehemently) to stop eating vegetables.
"I was so frustrated because food is my life and I wanted to feed him in somewhat of a healthy fashion," Nicholson told TODAY Food. "The one food he’d eat was pasta. The one thing I love to make is pasta. It was a eureka moment."
Nicholson started adding every vibrant vegetable and fruit she could think of to her pasta dough, including beets, turmeric, heirloom spinach, passion fruit, blueberries and spirulina.
"I'm not a doctor but I know that’s gotta be good," Nicholson told TODAY Food. "The added bonus: It's really beautiful."
She turned her passion into a business and now Nicholson teaches people how to craft vegetable-filled, homemade pastas at her cooking studio, Salty Seattle, which is located in downtown Seattle, Washington. Occasionally, she accepts a large order for a wedding or party, too.
On Tuesday, Nicholson launched her first cookbook, "Pasta, Pretty Please," to bring her joy of cooking beautiful pastas into any kitchen.
Aside from that summer with her grandparents and two years spent living in Turin, Italy, where she observed traditional pasta-making, Nicholson is self-taught. Although she told TODAY Food there's "no such thing as self-taught."
"I pick things up along the way. Situationally, I absorb everything. It's not uncommon for me to take a photo of someone's shirt — I wanna turn it into pasta. Inspiration is everywhere," Nicholson told TODAY Food. "I have a big respect for tradition rooted with love and playfulness of where I can innovate."
Nicholson has hand-rolled fettuccine made from her favorite designs and fabrics, like a daisy print from Kate Spade's Spring 2016 fashion show.
She's created pasta floral arrangements ...
... and works of art inspired by some of the greats — from Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring," ...
... to post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."
Nicholson recently took on a new passion: Stop-motion film — starring none other than ... her pasta!
And the fountain of creativity is far from drying up, as Nicholson still has some very vibrant dreams "swirling" in her "colorful brain," she told TODAY Food.
One of these is to produce a fashion show featuring clothing made solely from pasta. She thinks it would likely take over 100 hands to make and that the pasta outfits would likely only last for a handful of minutes ... but it would be one whimsical (and delicious) fashion line.
"This has been the most insane 12 months of my life. So much landed on my plate," Nicholson told TODAY Food about Salty Seattle's growth and her endeavor to make this craft available to everyone in her cookbook.
"It's all in service of my mission in life: To bring more joy into the world using food as a medium bringing us together as people in the world, as humanity."