In this Featured Crafter, we talk to Laurie from the MadeBySwirlyGirl. Read on to learn about how Laurie began creating amazing photo cards!
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Born in upstate NY and raised in Delaware and Pennsylvania, I grew up in a close-knit family with 3 siblings. While my brother pursued a higher education and eventually became a teacher, my two sisters and I–all ballet students–pursued professional careers in that field, each achieving our goals as dancers with nationally and internationally known ballet companies. The last few years of my dance career were spent performing on tour and on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera, Brigadoon, and Nicholas Hytner’s Carousel. Throughout my childhood and adult life I also experimented in a variety of arts and crafts from sewing, crocheting, knitting, and beading to painting, basket weaving, and floral design, enjoying everything enough to invest lots of money in materials, but not enough to keep me from moving on to the next medium!
I married an actor in 1995, and we moved to California with our first daughter a year and a half later, where I worked part time as a ballet teacher. After the birth of our second daughter, I began making cards for friends and family who eventually convinced me (along with my husband, who is my biggest supporter and the most encouraging person in my life) to sell them. Although I enjoyed the artistic outlet, it wasn’t until I received my first digital camera and shortly after that, the magic of photo software programs that I could seriously see taking my cards to the retail level. It still took me quite some time before I gathered up enough nerve and knowledge to walk into a retail store and ask to speak to the owner! Since that time, I’ve grown my business very slowly, only taking on the challenges that I felt enabled me to continue being home and available for my children. Since developing an online presence a few months ago, I am learning so much about what is possible and how I might make it happen.
Where can we find you?
What first got you interested in your art?
I had been making cards out of handmade papers, textiles, and ephemera for some time and although I enjoyed it very much, it was rather labor intensive for selling and making a profit, however I loved the idea of cards: relatively instant gratification; high reward for little effort; the potential they hold as gifts or as frame-able keepsakes…then I started creating photo cards!
I’d always enjoyed recording my memories with photographs, but my husband taught me to look a little closer at the world around me through the lens of the camera. When he gave me my first digital camera several years ago and I didn’t have to worry about wasting film and money snapping everything I liked, I went a little crazy! Now I look back at my photos from that time (many of which I still use on my cards) and I can see how open I was to seeing the beauty in everything from a crack in the sidewalk to the fuzz on a leaf. Macro shots still hold a fascination for me, but I’m a little more discerning about my subjects now. You can only have so many close up shots of tree bark!
When I began to get familiarized with the photo program that came on our computer, I stumbled upon the saturation and color wheel, made an adjustment and my world turned upside down with the reversal of the colors. I literally felt a shift inside me that opened up a whole new area of creativity that I had never considered before. Since then, I have explored and continue to explore the world of digital photography and photo software and have yet to get bored with it.
Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).
It’s multi-stepped and fulfills several creative desires for me. Walking with my camera is almost a meditative experience for me. It quiets me, and I focus on small areas, making that area smaller and smaller sometimes, to capture the colors, textures, and architecture of a subject. I am not a trained photographer and I know little about the mechanics of a camera or the techniques. I don’t think of my self as a photographer at all. I’m a person who likes to take interesting pictures. When I download my photos to my computer, I love putting it in slide show mode (with music) and see what I’ve got. After selecting a few photos to play with, I open them in my photo program (I work mostly in Microsoft Digital Image Pro 10 and Adobe Photoshop Elements)and experiment with the colors, saturation, contrast, etc, printing them on my inkjet printer on Premium Photo paper and saving the ones I like in a folder. I then make sets that will make a package of 4 cards for my Made-U-Look series. For my Kaleidoscope and WhirlyGirl lines I take some of the same photos (frequently the colors and textures are the only important results and sometimes even blurry or bad photos make the best choices) and put them in a special photo program that kaleidoscopes them and after finding a design that I like, I saturate the colors and/or add an effect filter.
After printing my photos, I hand cut them and using double sided tape adhere them to either the folded cardstock or to handmade papers, which are also handcut then adhered to the card. Next comes the finishing: signing, putting the labels on the back, putting them with their envelopes into sleeves or a box or vinyl folder, adding a ribbon or elastic bow and VOILA!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I’m first and foremost the mother of two beautiful and loving daughters, ages 13 and 8 1/2–both budding performers– and wife to an amazingly talented and supportive husband, who also happens to be my best friend. He is an actor and writer and life is full of creativity! I also teach ballet and choreograph at a dance school here in southern California. I enjoy hiking and being in nature, reading fiction and non-fiction, going to museums, and anything that stimulates creativity and/or my emotions. I also love doing other forms of crafts: jewelry making, quilting, you name it! However, I rarely have time to do any of them now.
Is there anything else youâ€™d like to share?
When I began this journey, I had no idea how many other people out there were taking similar journeys. Since I’ve begun creating an online presence, I’ve met so many artists and artisans and although I’ve never met them in person, many have become friends and an incredible support network. I’m constantly awed by their willingness to offer advice, help, and encouragement. They are the most generous people in the world. I’d also like to say that I can’t think of anything that is more spiritually fulfilling than doing what inspires you. Making money from it is not
the important thing (although that is great, if you can do it!), but doing it just because it opens up a new window for you can be life-changing. It saddens me that so many schools are losing or have lost their arts programs and I want to encourage everyone to create for themselves, teach their children to do the same, and share their creations with others. In this age of commercialism and mass production, there is nothing more special than the gift of something created by hand with love and inspiration. And there is nothing that takes you closer to your higher power, whoever that may be than immersing yourself in something that inspires you.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to let people know about Made by SwirlyGirl, Dawn. Another example of the generosity of people in the “handmade” world!