Designer Laura Stewart Talks Art, Inspiration and Anthropologie
Livingly's Inspiring Artist series asks talented women of all creative mediums to share their work and how they live life beautifully.
Meet Laura Stewart: artist, designer, builder. Her speciality? Creating elaborate handmade installations for weddings, events and editorial features. What first drew me to her work was the scale of her pieces. It takes a grand imagination along with some serious guts to fill that kind of space—which she does beautifully.
I was eager to find out more about Laura, her work with Anthropologie (who doesn't adore their whimsical store displays?) and how she feeds her endless creativity. From fabric to wood, thread to tissue paper, her inventiveness will amaze you.
How would you describe your artwork?
I experiment with a variety of materials and techniques including chalk, hand dyed fibers, wood, and random bits. Finding beauty in everyday objects and layering them tediously by hand creates a unique art form that I am truly passionate about. This concept and technique is always a process and I never really know what the end result is going to be. The idea starts in my head and always takes on a life that I could have never imagined. The wild unknown is what fires my soul and sparks a light inside of me on a daily basis!
I'm really fascinated by your installations because I think it's such a challenge to create art in that scale—and it takes courage! What drew you to the format?
I began working in large scale while I was a Display Coordinator at Anthropologie. I had to fill ceilings that were 20 feet tall and required a cherry picker to install. Large scale is my jam and gives each piece this power and beauty that makes the viewer stop and think. My favorite thing is when someone sees one of my pieces and gets so excited they ask me “How did you do that?” or “What is that made of?”
I was delighted to read about your visual work with Anthropologie—those store displays are magical. What did you learn from your experience?
What didn’t I learn? Everything that I create today, has some DNA of an Anthropologie display. Whether it is a technique like painting melted wax on tissue paper or a material like dyed canvas drop cloths from Home Depot, I got my tricks from the best! Because I was always on a tight budget, I had to come up with ways to make something huge and breathtaking with like $20 bucks. That means dumpster diving, hitting up my local starbucks for milk cartons, and buying firewood from some strange guy on Craigslist. I always say, that was the best school that I could have ever attended and I got paid to do it—win win!
What's your favorite creation to date? Why is it special to you?
Hmmmm that’s a really tough one! I would have to say the coffee filter backdrop that I created for Amorology Weddings. I came up with the idea from the couple’s love for early morning sunrises and their coveted cup of joe. I knew that I wanted to paint and dye the coffee filters but I wasn’t exactly sure how that was going to translate into a design and art piece. It became this ever growing, organic installation that took over my house for a solid week! I ran all over town,bought out all of the coffee filters, dyed them, and displayed them on my porch to dry for all of my neighbors to see. The end result was this abstract “Starry Night” textured sky that came to life in a magical way!
What was your most unusual source of inspiration?
My most unusual sources of inspiration come from places like the dollar store, staples, and truck stops. I will come across items that spark an idea like lining up a million white pencils in a rad graphic pattern or using safety pins to create a curtain. The best part is that the items are always super cheap so I can afford to buy a butt load of them.
What do you do when you're feeling uninspired?
Getting out of my bubble always gets my juices flowing. My parents have a cabin in the mountains that I love to go to for family time. When I slow down and silence the noise, I open myself up to the creative energy that fuels my art. If I can’t get out of town, a day at the Flea Market does the trick too!
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Let it Be.” I tend to overthink things and cause myself unnecessary stress. Anytime I am questioning a decision or am looking for direction on a piece, I say it to myself and it works like a charm.
What's the most played song in your music library?
I’m a ballad type of girl. My most played song in my music library is “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones—it just gets me every time. It’s the perfect blend of pain and optimism.
Our motto at Livingly is "live life beautifully"—what does living beautifully mean to you?
Living beautifully is being present and living with gratitude. It is being mindful of all the beauty in this life of mine. Sometimes I will randomly stop during a walk to smell my neighbor’s laundry detergent. Ok that sounds creepy but who doesn’t love the smell of clean clothes? Our senses are magical instruments that we can use to excite and warm our souls.