Getting to know Laura Spring June 08 2017
Since graduating from The Glasgow School of Art, Laura Spring has made her name with her bold screen-printed accessories and homeware. We quiz her to find out more about her inspirations and the day-to-day of her business.
The GSA Shop stocks products designed by students, staff and alumni of The Glasgow School of Art…Can you tell us a bit about your time studying at GSA?
I studied Visual Communication, graduating in 2002. This is where I was first introduced to screen printing, so that’s a very obvious influence, but on the course we only had access to paper printing so I didn’t print onto fabric until I left. It was a really conceptual course in many ways, and it might sound odd, but I think it really taught me how to think. Or maybe just to question my ideas over and over and be thorough in my research. Researching is something I love to do and I think I spent most of my fourth year researching and developing an idea into many different things and I think that research bug has definitely stayed with me. I’m a curious person and ask a lot of questions.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas for your designs?
I only realised this a short while back but a lot of my work stems from a love of nature. Nature amazes me constantly.
Can you tell us a bit about the kind of processes and materials you use?
The process involves research obviously! Ideas tend to form from things I’ve seen, heard or read about. I make a lot of notes, write questions to myself, go and look at things, study things…get out my studio as much as possible to work on an idea. The internet is great, but nothing beats rummaging around an archive, or studying something first hand. Then I start to work on small really rough sketches and then try and play about a bit on the print table or get to work in illustrator. It’s important to understand the scale of things in the flesh, so I often cut out things from paper to get a proper idea of size. Colours I always mix by hand and then, if I’m working digitally, I get lots of sample strips printed to try and get the colour as close a match as possible. Colour is hugely important for me and I enjoy mixing colours so much.
How long have you been trading for and what led you to start your business?
I started officially trading in September 2011 after a summer craft residency at Cove Park. I started my business by accident, I wasn’t looking to start a business again, but I got invited to do a trade show when a journalist saw a suitcase I’d made for a show and it all snowballed from there…
What are the hurdles you face as a maker in starting and running your own business?
Balancing time/money definitely. It’s hard at the start to realise you can’t spend every day ‘making’ because so much of your time is taken up with all the other stuff; accounts, marketing, admin etc etc so it’s not for everyone. But it’s all about finding a balance and a way to make it work for you. You have to face up to the finances as early as possible - it’s vital. Make friends with Excel, and then you’ll find you have more time to be creative, as you aren’t stressing about the figures.
And tell us about the high points that make it all worthwhile?
Well I think running your own business is a rollercoaster, so when there’s a high it’s amazing! I’ve been incredibly lucky to have several high’s that I’m hugely grateful for, but a recent high point was finding out I’d received funding from Creative Scotland to go and do research in Finland for a project I proposed. Funding is so competitive and there’s so many great artists/designers/writers who deserve funding, so to be given a grant in such tough economic times feels incredibly lucky.
What advice would you give to makers starting to design products for retail?
Do the maths. Do your research. Be your own designer. There are so many products out there and so much competition it’s really important you get to grips with how it works financially as fast as you can. I also think it’s really important to go and see what’s out there, but don’t imitate what’s already out there. Push yourself and your ideas further otherwise you’ll always be one step behind. You have to love what you do and that genuine love will shine through and make you and your work stand out. People want to know why you make what you make so it’s important to try and find your own voice, then go for it.
How are you finding the independent retail scene currently?
Vibrant. Independent retailers are great at championing small makers/businesses and I have the pleasure of working with some lovely retailers. I think a lot more people are considering where they spend their money and wanting to support the independent scene more and more.
How long have you been supplying us?
I think two or three years? It’s been great supplying GSA as it’s opened up my customer base to a much wider audience. There are so many international visitors to GSA so to have that exposure is brilliant.
Give us a sneaky taste of things to come, what are your big or small plans for the future?
I’m currently working on a variety things, which is pretty normal and how I love to work. I have a new collection to launch in September at designjunction during the London Design Festival, which my Finnish research is informing. There will be a new series of rugs launching at this produced in collaboration with the brilliant Floor_Story once more and some other new pieces. I have a really exciting collaboration I’m working on for a launch in springtime next year that I can’t share yet but I can’t wait until I can. I’m also working on a really inspiring interiors project over at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital with the NHS that should be finished by the end of the year. I think the future for me is to continue working on things that I feel passionate about. Making annual collections and collaborating on projects. I love being based in Glasgow and am passionate about creating and making in the city as much as I can, but I also enjoy working internationally and spreading Scottish textiles overseas! My aim is to continue having a diverse practice and I hope in years to come it just continues to grow in a way that I can continue to enjoy it.
What’s your favourite new material to work with or colour combination just now?
Right now it’s all about pink and green for me, but strong colour combinations are key to my work.
Which other designers or makers products impress you?
I was recently away on a research trip to Finland and met an amazing designer called Elina Helenius. She has a really exciting practice and was an inspiration to meet. I love that she has two practices - her own textile designs and also a creative practice with a friend working in a different way but obviously related…I think collaborating is really beneficial and important. It adds a new voice into what can often be a very solitary process and I love bouncing ideas around with others. Closer to home I have huge admiration and respect for Hilary Grant Knitwear, we’ve known each other since we both began our businesses and she’s another inspiring woman. Her designs just get more beautiful every season. I love a lot of Clod and Pebble’s ceramics – especially their mugs. Garnet McCulloch at Fireworks Pottery also makes so many amazing ceramic creations, the colour combinations on some of his glazes are incredible, I have a lot of his things in my house!