I am so excited and honored to introduce my very first “Featured Artist” on JoyCreation!! Laurie Poast, artist and writer, was born and raised in Black Earth, Wisconsin and moved to Holland in 2009. She currently resides in the picturesque city of Leiden, just a few steps away from Rembrandt van Rijn’s childhood home.
In December 2010 Laurie launched her Etsy shops NOSTALGIE europe and ARTISANIE europe. A third one, RÊVERIE europe, is coming soon. Since January Laurie’s work has been featured on the front pages of Etsy numerous times, as well as on several blogs, such as bonbon mini and à la mode.
In our interview Laurie talks about her professional journey, her love for European heritage and the influence it has had on her art. Laurie’s description of life in the “Old World”, as well as her take on simplicity and authenticity inspired me deeply (and frankly, made me a little home sick!). Enjoy my interview with Laurie! (all photos courtesy of Laurie Poast Atelier)
Can you share a little bit about yourself and your artistic background? What brought you to Holland?
I’m an American girl living in Holland, exploring an Old World aesthetic through collecting old bits of European people’s history and looking closely at traditional European folk arts and the works of the great Dutch masters. I’ve thrived on creativity since my very first years, studied art and worked in creative fields for years in the United States, and now I’m focusing at last on my own painting and sculptural work. I’ve long wanted to return to the continent from which my great-grandparents came, but the true motivation to leave America for the old world was to follow my love Yves Aubert, a Swiss neuroscientist working here in Holland.
What does creativity mean to you? Has Art always been an important part of your life?
Even before Kindergarten, my eyes grew wide at the sight of art supplies, blank paper and a clean, empty workspace. While my playdates pulled and begged me to play kickball outside, I insisted on sitting everyone around a table and writing stories and making art. They hated it like nothing else, but I just couldn’t imagine anything more fun than creating!
Growing up, I loved watching my Dad making musical instruments, airplanes and cars, and on lucky days, I became his tiny apprentice. This early exploration of tools and materials, combined with my formal fine arts education in Madison, Wisconsin, paved my path to becoming an artist.
Even in business, reengineering a company’s operations plan or re-thinking its market positioning has leveraged my creative skills in a rewarding way. It is only in creating art, though, that I feel a sense of serenity and contentment that I don’t find in anything else I do.
Your work is very much inspired by the beauty of Dutch architecture and culture. In which ways have you changed artistically during your time in Holland?
Perhaps it’s because I’ve long been far from home in America, or because I’m trying hard to make a new home now in Holland, but creating all these little clay houses – the Dutch canal house and Zaanse Schans series, along with the French farmhouses and the Cinque Terre and Norwegian houses I’m working on now -are probably my unconscious’ way of expressing my strong sentiment toward needing to feel a sense of home, or even to reclaim a sense of homeland here in Europe.
Artistically, my process has (thankfully) slowed down tremendously since moving to Holland. Our entire way of life here is slower and simpler than it was back in the U.S. There’s no Michael’s craft store or Home Depot here. My ground powder pigments that I mix into paint and colored clay come from a pigment-grinding windmill; my sheep wool comes from a local sheep farmer who spins yarn on her spinning wheel; my metal, tools and other things come from the hardware store that closes when the shopkeeper goes on holiday, from the blacksmith around the corner, or from the friendly old cigar-smoking man who sets up his wares at the Amsterdam market each day rain or shine. Even though I can’t speak enough Dutch to understand entirely, the shopkeepers of the local art shop – of all the shops – are true experts in what they know.
Space is limited here, and although we are lucky to live in a very nice canal-side apartment, we have no car, TV, freezer or oven, and really, (gasp!) we don’t need them. We ride our bikes in all kinds of weather, near and far. We buy fresh bread at the Friesian bakery and fresh produce from the local farmers market every Saturday. We spend our evenings cooking and playing music together, dancing, storytelling, or listening to music at a local café. The most dramatic artistic change has really come from living life this way with a constantly active, creative mind rather than a consuming, passive one. This generates more creativity, and is probably responsible for leading me into full-time arts.
When did you decide to start your own business? How much time do you devote to it?
I launched my Etsy shops and began painting and sculpting again in December 2010. Starting up a business is all-consuming for me, and unless I’m working on it from sunup to sundown and late into the night, I just can’t fit everything in. In the rare moments in which I’m not creating, I’m an idea factory. My partner Yves said that even as I fall asleep at night, instead of counting sheep I count all the ideas running through my head. I can’t wait to hurry through sleep and start again the next morning.
You currently have two online stores on Etsy – NOSTALGIE europe and ARTISANIE europe. A third one, RÊVERIE europe is opening soon. What is your vision for each store?
While living in Europe, I’ve fallen in love with the centuries-old bits of history I’ve collected at antique fairs and flea markets, church benefit sales and folklife demonstrations. I’ve talked with remarkable villagers who have told me aged tales: the Rotterdam harbor worker who skimmed sugar and tobacco for his family and friends during World War II; the frail woman who collected a house full of beautiful lace in France; the Royal Delftware potters and painters who let me watch as they made their world-famous pieces; the witty historian at the American Pilgrim’s Museum in Leiden; the flea-marketers selling their family’s postcards and fountain pen letters from generations past. These precious relics passing through generations of these people’s hands into mine, and then on to my customers who have bits of European heritage or who truly value their sentiment, have made NOSTALGIE europe a special experience for me.
The little clay houses and other fine art objects I make for ARTISANIE europe come from a sort of simple, euphoric, meditative manipulation of clay and antique wood, metal, fabric and small curiosities I find throughout Europe. In these sculptural processes, I can work for hours and hours without realizing much time has passed. I think this is the most natural artistic medium for me, having come from generations of farmers, luthiers and craftspeople who worked with their hands.
RÊVERIE europe is probably the most intimate expression of myself of the 3 shops, and certainly the one I’m most shy about expressing. This shop presents my original paintings. I try to capture a sort of old world romanticism, or “belle fantaisie” of old with imagery and subject matter from fables and fairytales, early European decorative arts, and psychological symbolism within a sweet, “fleur bleue” aesthetic. Through highly floriated window frames, we can peer into some of my deepest childhood reveries in indulgently idealized scenes that contrast sharply with my early life experience.
Since you opened your Etsy stores a few months ago, your work has been featured by several curators and appeared on the front page of Etsy! What advice do you have for other artists who are thinking about selling their work online?
It is only by putting in your absolute best effort in imagining, creating and presenting your work that you’re able to show people a true reflection of your aesthetic. When you do this, your Etsy shop will begin to shine in its own unique way, and the interest in your shop will grow tremendously. Your photographs should match the quality (I starved myself and my poor boyfriend for a couple of months to invest in a good camera) of those in your favorite catalogues; I’m a fan of Anthropologie and some boutique fashion photo shoots. Tagging your items with keywords straight from the Etsy Merchandising Report helps to get your work some attention from treasury curators and onto the front page.
What are your endeavors for 2011?
One of La Fontaine’s fables talks of a wild horse who, realizing the comforts of living with man, agrees to pull a rope, wear a saddle and heavy packs, and pull a coach in exchange for a nice bed of hay in a well-built barn. At the end of his life, he died there pulling his rope, realizing he had lived his life as a slave, and not a wild horse.
I don’t want to realize at the end of my life that I’ve missed my opportunity to live authentically and to contribute the very best that I have to give. I won’t thrive if I pull that metaphorical rope. In 2011, I’ll be focusing entirely on my own creative work and working hard to develop my shops, website and blog for my 3 brands, NOSTALGIE europe, ARTISANIE europe, and REVERIE europe.
Thank you, Laurie for all your time and effort you committed to this interview. It has been such a pleasure connecting with you!