The Pompton Lakes resident was a teacher in her native Chile before an 8.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated parts of the country in 2010.
Both her school and home in the city of Angol were damaged in the quake.
“I have to start over,” she said she told herself. So she came to the United States “with a big American dream,” she said.
A year ago, with the support of her husband Steve, Nieswand launched her own business – Amazing Faces By Claudia.
And she is back to making kids smile again.
She uses paint to transform their faces with designs like tigers and butterflies during events like birthday parties, baptisms and fairs.
“The best moment in painting children’s faces, is the moment I finish the design they have chosen and hand them a mirror so they can see their faces. That reaction in front of the mirror and the expression on their faces is amazing,” she said.
“Their joy makes me want to better my designs and techniques every day,” she said.
Nieswand said she had occasionally painted the faces of her students back in Chile but did not consider herself an artist like her mother who is a professional oil painter.
When she showed her mother photos of some of her work on the faces of kids in New Jersey, her mom told her, “this is the art that you have,” she said.
“I was never thinking, I come here and I can do something so beautiful,” she said.
Coming to the United States wasn’t easy for Nieswand. Besides her mother, her daughter, granddaughter and other family members are still in Chile.
When she first arrived, she spoke only Spanish, and listened to English-language tutorials whenever she could. She put in long hours as a babysitter and cleaning lady, so she could send money back home. That money put her daughter through engineering school, she said.
Niewswand said meeting her husband Steve, who is American, “changed my life.”
It was her mother-in-law who first asked her to paint faces for a church event in New Jersey.
The reactions of kids “made me feel so happy,” she said.
“Today I feel so lucky,” Nieswand said about her life.
For more information on Amazing Faces By Claudia, check out her Facebook page, HERE. You can also email Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 973-440-0627.
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