Artist Vainius Kubilius is Lighting Up the World — One Gourd at a Time
Lithuanian artist Vainius Kubilius remembers exactly where he was is in mid-2017. He travelled around Southeast Asia, got lost in its culturally diverse countries, soaked up some rays in sandy beaches — then was nearly scammed by a Filipino driver.
A year after fuelling that wanderlust, Vainius is back in Lithuania where he’s busy running his lamp-crafting business: “Nymphs Workshop”. Though he’s itching to travel again, managing his business continues to be a top priority.
Vainius launched Nymphs for two reasons. One was to challenge the conformity of a 9-to-5 work life. The other was simply to become, well, free.
With technology by his side, Vainius and thousands of individuals are enjoying the freedom the “digital nomad” lifestyle has to offer. They’re a new wave of remote workers and businessmen who are always on the move. They bounce from coffee shops in Thailand to co-working spaces in Barcelona — practically anywhere they wish to go, as long as internet connection is stable.
Before he sets off for another adventure, Vainius gave us a glimpse of this vagabond life. In conversation, he is thoughtful and optimistic, sharing about the challenges of being a lone traveller, his future plans, and why — despite the close brush with danger — he’d visit the Philippines over and over again.
learn: What is Nymphs Workshop about?
Vainius: Nymphs is a small business aimed at providing a gorgeous and interesting way to light up people’s homes. We try to show people that lighting means so much in creating the mood and emotion of the evening and that it can completely transform the feel of an atmosphere.
Our customers are people who enjoy beautiful art, interesting new things and those who do not follow the fashions and established classical styles of interior design.
Where did you get the idea to create lamps out of gourds?
My first lamps were from coconuts. And after a while, I looked for a material that would look prettier and create a better effect. I was searching for fruits that were larger than coconuts and wouldn’t perish.
Then I went online and found these beautiful gourds and ended up using them. I didn’t even know that existed at first since we don’t have them in Lithuania.
All of your creations are handmade — how long does it take to build a single lamp?
Two days, together with the crafting and electronics.
How did you get the funds to start your business?
I used my own money to create three or four lamps. After selling them, I raised enough money to build around eight lamps. There was very little funding at the start but I managed to grow it over the years.
Where do you get the most orders?
In North America. It should be a surprise because Americans buy a lot online. My lamps are also pretty expensive, so they sell more in economically stable countries.
There’s an interactive map on your website that lights up wherever a lamp is sold. Has any country surprised you?
I never thought I’d reach South Africa, New Zealand, or China!
Nymphs Workshop has grown over the years. What are your tips on building a business?
If possible, partner up with somebody.
Every one of us, when we have an idea, we get motivated by it. After a while — when people realize how long it takes to achieve their goals — they give up.
Having a partner prevents that since you end up motivating each other. You work equally as hard and get to distribute each task.
You see, you can end up wearing many hats when running a business. You work as an accountant, you become your own supply manager, and you’re a marketing specialist, too. Having a partner to split the work with makes it a lot easier.
“You see, you end up wearing many hats when running a business. You work as an accountant, you become your own supply manager, and you’re a marketing specialist, too. Having a partner to split the work with makes it a lot easier. “
Did you partner with anyone when setting up Nymphs Workshop?
Creating lamps is a very small community — not a lot of people do it. So when you find a person with the same interests, you keep contact and maybe help each other along the way.
I emailed a Polish artist and after a while, we met up. He gives me new ideas and tips and I do the same. I couldn’t achieve so much without him actually.
Do you run similar businesses?
Our businesses are a little different. He creates three or four lamps that take a month each to make. It is such a beautiful work of art that he sells it for tens of thousands of dollars. He’s like the Banksy of handcrafted lamps.
Me, I’m more of a manufacturer. I still create my own lamps, but the ideas are sometimes copied from my previous works.
Let’s talk about you as a digital nomad — someone who travels the world and earns a living through remote work or businesses. What made you choose this lifestyle?
I’m an adventurer and I want to see what life has to offer. I chose this lifestyle with the goal of finding a new home.
Now, I love my country. But I feel like there’s a better place to live my own life. So I’m still trying to find that perfect place — the one spot in the world where I want to settle down and stay forever.
Do you have any top choices in mind?
The Philippines is one of my top choices.
Any specific reason for this?
Each country has their own language and in order to settle down and meet friends and create relationships, you need to learn the language. I can’t learn Spanish, I can’t speak German and all that. But in the Philippines, everyone, even the people on the streets speak great English.
Other is the perfect weather and structure. You can enjoy nature and the beautiful outdoor or you can go to the big city. Finally, it’s so affordable!
How did you find a balance between running your business and travelling the world?
It takes a while before you can start doing that. I didn’t start right away. It took me three years to get everything into place. And when I finally had my business running by itself — or like, a minimal amount of supervision — I finally started travelling.
How many hours did you dedicate to running Nymphs Workshop while travelling?
When I started travelling, I had everything set in place. So I didn’t need to spend a lot of time — just about seven hours a week.
Did you have someone handling it while you were away?
Yes, there are freelancers working for me, too. And we had a lot of orders at that time. But all we needed to do was to complete them and send them out.
Did you have any side jobs other than your business?
At that moment, no. But when you get your business going for a while, you start getting bored and thinking of new ideas and what to do in your life.
What are the best and worst things about travelling the world by yourself?
The worst thing is “travelling the world by yourself”. The best thing would be meeting people and sharing the experience with them.
Another great thing about travelling is being free to do whatever you want. After spending a week in a certain place, you travel to the next destination. You don’t have that kind of freedom in a 9-to-5 job. Yes, you may have the money, but you don’t have the freedom.
Do you ever encounter any challenges, like missing your family or friends?
Yeah, when I was in the Philippines, I felt really homesick. I stayed for three months in Asia and after two months, I got really tired and wanted to go home.
How long did you spend travelling last year?
Last year, it was three months in Asia. And then Burning Man for two weeks. And then a week in Morocco. So that was almost four months of travelling.
This year, it was a month and a half but in more countries. I was in Burning Man again for seven days. I was also in Germany, and then in Spain, where there’s an island called Tenerife. It’s a really, really amazing place.
Can you share with us an interesting story that happened while travelling?
In the Philippines, I had a weird experience with a tricycle driver. I asked him to take me to the direction of the beach but he drove me to a dark forest. Three really scary guys came over and started paying him money. I wondered if they were paying money for me or for something else.
I kind of asked myself if I was overreacting or if I was in some sort of trouble. But I had two choices, either to keep calm or you know, run.
How did the story end?
It went pretty well. I ended up asking him to stop. I told him, “No, no, no, no, I have a GPS map, you’re taking the wrong direction”. Then I said I’d jump out of the tricycle if he wouldn’t go the right way.
What advice you have for anyone who wants to quit their 9-to-5 job and travel the world?
There are two ways to do it. One, you raise a bit of money and go travelling. But without a steady form of income, you’re going to run out of money once you return to your country.
The other way is better. You run a business or find other means of earning income to secure your finances. If it can keep accumulating while you’re travelling, then you’re all set.
You see, travel these days has become such a romanticized thing. People think, “Oh, I’m just going to take it one day at a time.” That isn’t gonna work in real life.
“ Travel these days has become such a romanticized thing. People think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to take it one day at a time.’ That isn’t gonna work in real life.”
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m just working really slow right now. I have tiny business ideas that I think would be good for my heart. I also have potentially huge business ideas as well. Hopefully, it works out!