Looking at handmade products online, on such sites as Etsy, Artfire and Zibbet, one only sees part of the whole picture. Who created those unique objects, and what went in to their production? These are questions I ask myself when I am looking to purchase something handmade. The story behind the handmade object is important to me. Laura, the artist behind Laura Jean, Laura Jean, let me share with you these great pictures of her studio space in her Ontario home, and also answered a few of my questions about herself and her art practice:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family!
My name is Laura Fetterley and I live in Cobourg, Ontario (one hour east of Toronto) with my cat, my bunny and my boyfriend – my biggest fan and partner in crime.
I have always been a maker of things and knew that I would one day go to art school. My parents encouraged me to follow my dreams. I received my BFA from York University where I soaked up all things art – painting, printmaking, sculpting, art history.
My sisters are my biggest supporters as well as my biggest critics. They will tell me if I’ve just made something that sucks.
How did you come up with your shop name?
My shop name is laurajean, laurajean.
When I was a little girl my dad made up a song about me that began with “Laura Jean, Laura Jean…” He still sings it to me now. My parents have always called me by both my first name and middle name. I was named after my paternal grandmother, a woman who was strong, smart, capable and generally awesome. I have a lot to live up to. I think I could out-curse her, though. She would be proud.
Where do you create your items?
I have a studio in my backyard and I am fully aware of how absolutely lucky I am to have it. I’m currently trying to re-organize it in a way that I can work on both woodworking and painting. Sawdust is not friends with paint or freshly printed ink.
What is your favorite item in your shop and why?
My favourite item in my shop is usually the newest one, I’m fickle that way. But I do love the woodland critter lino-prints. I’ve done 8 critters so far in the series – bunny, chipmunk, fox, owl, deer and fawn, wolves, ducks and a mother bunny with kits. They are the types of images that I would have loved as a kid. They’re small and inviting, little teensy glimpses of nature.
Apart from creating beautiful pieces, what else do you do?
As for “real jobs”, I’ve had a number of gems over the years. I curated a small gallery, worked in a bookstore, worked in the publishing industry in the areas of publicity, marketing and production. The one with the most cache – I was a pioneer at a historical museum for many years. I learned to dye, spin and weave wool, set lead type and print it on a nineteenth-century flat-bed press, turn wood on a treadle lathe, and cook on a wood-stove. I could totally survive an energy crisis. Currently, I’m about to start a new job at the Library. I can’t escape books.
As for interests: traveling, (recently drove from Ontario to Whitehorse, Yukon – a trip which has inspired me to do a whole series of Canada lino-prints, we live in such an amazing country) biking, kickboxing, obsessive reading, thrift store shopping, eating cheese, art history discussions with my sister, and drinking wine on the patio.
Any advice on selling things handmade?
I always think about items that I would want to buy, then I make them. If I can look at something I’ve just made and say, “Yup, I would buy this,” then I feel confident that I’ve succeeded. I’m my own worst critic. I think the most important advice I could give would be to make high quality products that you yourself are proud of.
In terms of promotion – good friends and family who support your work are invaluable. The internet has made so many things available to us now that it’s a bit overwhelming, and I think a lot of people, including myself, base their decisions on recommendations from friends.
Also, participating in local arts and crafts shows is the best way to get your name and work into your community.
Why should people buy homemade?
I always think back to earlier times when people could identify each and every object in their household and know exactly where it was made. If they hadn’t crafted it themselves, they most likely knew the person in the community who did. It’s such a great feeling to possess a one-of-a-kind item, to know exactly where it came from, how it was made and to have a connection with the person who made it. My grandpa made me some carving knives that I use all the time and each time I pick up one of these knives I think of him.
Our lives are often cramped with mass-produced stuff so it’s amazing to have access to unique, meaningful, hand-made items.
Any works in progress?
I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have works in progress…
I am excited to get back into some woodworking projects. I love woodcarving. I’m currently working on a small treasure box with intricate woven foliage around the edges. I’m still deciding what to carve in the middle, probably a pair of bunnies. It will be finished with white paint, shabby-chic style.
I’m also *this close* to completing a set of lino-prints that are inspired by William Morris. There are three prints in the set featuring Canadian birds and wildflowers.
I’ve also instituted a daily drawing regime. As you would guess, I try and do one small drawing each day. There are no restrictions in terms of subject matter. I’ve done unicorns, abstract patterns, squirrels, tiny abandoned cottages…
I’m also about to start a series of large oil paintings featuring animals in precarious scenarios…
Any other sites you can be found on?