This week we meet Laura Evans, a fine artist, collagrapher, printmaker and of course lampshade maker from the Isle of Purbeck. As she takes on her first retail space, we're excited to chat with her about how this will make a difference to her creative business and where she draws her inspiration from for her range of beautifully delicate printed shades.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
I'm great thanks, today I have a conical shade in process, it’s a commission, with a fern print. I'm reusing the client’s shade frame, as it fits an American imported lamp, and they want to keep the original shade frame.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your design inspiration?
My design process usually starts with a sketch. I then cut my printing plates to size and play with my pressed plants and other materials to get the design and shape I like.
I like to combine fine art printing techniques, so at the moment I'm working on linocuts and collagraphs together.
I've collected materials from the strand line and flowers out of the garden and I'm really looking forward to putting together my designs for my range. It's been great to finally start to move my studio into its new premises . I get my inspiration from the environment around me and the actual materials I work with.
How would you describe your style?
I work with nature, so my work is generally soft and natural.
You clearly like playing with different printing techniques. Can you tell us a little more about each of them and which is your personal favourite for making shades?
My favorite is collagraph. I enjoy the process of building a printing plate, layering and shaping the plants, cutting into the printing plate to create backgrounds. It's just such a fun process, a bit messy and you never know how its going to print. I also love it as no matter how many times you use the same printing plate, each print is different, making them unique.
When did you start making lampshades?
Almost 4 years ago now
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
Making the plate and printing the fabric, and if its a commission handing the shade over to the client - this I love the most. I know it’s a cliche, but seeing a client’s reaction when they see there shade for the first time, it’s what makes it worthwhile. A lot of my work is commission based and generally its creating shades for pre-loved lamp bases, some of which have great sentimental value. Making them ‘shine’ again is great.
I also love working with clients on a one to one basis, creating colour and print samples, and tailoring the shade to fit in there house with existing furnishings, its a more personal service and I love that.
What’s the mix of shades you make to sell versus lampshade commissions, as part of your business?
I would say it’s about 65 % commissions and the rest shades I create for shop space, each shade and base is unique and the ones I create for the shop are a good way of showing clients what I can create for the home.
We understand you’re moving into a new space to retail your lampshades? Can you tell us all about it and what difference this will make?
Yes I am , I am very excited. I have gradually built the business up over 4 years, from home, 2 years ago I tried a small studio space but it wasn't big enough so I moved back home.
I have since taken to painting, which I love and need more space for a swell. Being a parent and working from home has its challenges, so the new space will make this so much easier.
The space, and ability to have a small retail space on the high street is going to enable me to expand my business and really give clients to be able to see different fabrics and works in progress. I will also be able to display my lamp bases, showcasing locally sourced wood used. I'm hoping to expand into other textiles to match my shades, so having this new space is going to make a world of difference and I'm so excited for the future.
Also with Covid -19, my working practice will have to change, it isn't going to be as easy to visit clients home’s, so having a base where they can come to me and bring paint samples, and old shades , it's really going to help sustain my business.
Do you have any tips for new lampshade makers in business?
Research, research, research, you need to discover your USP (unique selling point) , what makes you stand out from the rest, what are you able to provide that others can't. Don’t copy designs, make yourself different. Look at the market you are aiming for and think about how your work will fit into this .
Don’t over price to start with, but at the same time be sensible about work out time and costs, and make sure there is profit to invest back into the business. My first year was spent recouping the costs of equipment and material set up costs.
Have short and long term goals, and remember Rome wasn't built in a day! Anything worth having is worth waiting for. I still make mistakes and I'm still in the early years of my business, and mistakes are part of the learning curve.
Always allow 20% on purchasing materials! So buy what you need and allow 20 % more! Something my dad always said is there's nothing worse than making a mistake and not having enough of what you need!
What kind of creative workshops do you run?
When time allows it I run lampshade making workshops and printmaking workshops. I haven't been able to ruin these the last 12 months and I'm hoping the new larger space will enable them to start up again.
How do you fit in all your work?
Hmmmm I get asked that all the time, as I have 3 children. I have a very supportive husband and we juggle time between us. I tend to do admin at night and the daytime for making.
Do have a routine or are so you work in a more ‘free flow’ style?
This is a difficult question! Pre Covid-19 it was usually pretty fixed between school hours, but now I have new premises , it’s going to enable me to work more efficiently and on weekends.
When are you at your most productive?
After I've walked my dogs! I am lucky with where I live, the countryside and coastline are stunning, a walk before the start of the day in the forest or by the sea helps me clear my head and start the day running.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?
I don't tend to have one!
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
In a larger premises, with larger retail space displaying my collections along other locally made art and design. I'd also like to have a much bigger press to print larger !
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
Recognizing mistakes are not failure, they are just part of the learning process!
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