Wishu: Was there a particular age or moment where you realised that you truly are a creative?
Laura: I was a bit older when I finally realised I was creative, about 23 or 24. Even though I studied graphic design at university! I think I thought that everyone was creative and that everyone could do what I did, so I didn’t think I was any more creative than the next person.
Wishu: Was there a pindrop moment that helped you realise you were a creative at that age?
Laura: It was more of an accumulation of stuff. After uni I was looking for a job and ended up working as an inhouse designer for a small print shop, where we printed flyers, posters and stationery – usually on a 24 hr turnaround. shop. I was quickly promoted to a management role and I eventually worked there for eight years doing the business and creative sides. I always had side projects at home which expressed my creativity and that’s when it clicked really. It was when I was removed from the creative stuff that I realised how crucial it was.
Wishu: Is that how you found your niche? Working full time as a designer alongside tactile home projects?
Laura: I didn’t fully realise my niche until much later. While working at the print shop it was more focused on general business and marketing design. My fourth year at uni was probably one of my most creative periods. The theme for my project of the year was “The Best of Both Worlds: the amalgamation of Handmade and Digital Design”. I’d started a knitting group as research and I did a flipbook (physical) and animation (digital). I even built a physical homepage with buttons you could press! My class was full of confident guys and I was quite shy. I remember being nervous about involving knitting in the project but my lecturer encouraged me not to care what others may think, so I went with it. The guys at the end of the year came up to me to tell me they loved my work!
Wishu: That’s how you grow, I guess, from exposing and embracing your vulnerable and authentic side? Would you say that’s what makes our niche?
Wishu: That uni project is still such an immensely relevant topic ten years later. Since the pandemic, everything has gone digital by necessity and people feel a need for the tangible. Do you apply that balance and both handmade and digital elements to your work today?
Laura: I like to add texture when I can to a project. It’s not always relevant but I usually find a way to work it in. People are so eager for more connection and tactility and that’s why I like adding texture to my work – it ignites the senses. Looking back it’s been a constant theme throughout my work.
Wishu: What inspired you to go self-employed three years ago?
Laura: I always liked the idea of having my own business. I was a big fan of The Sims games when I was young and loved the business expansion pack! Four years ago I was on holiday with my family and had a chat with my sister – she’s a self-employed spa owner – which was a lightbulb moment. I was a bit dissatisfied with my work and she asked me ‘well, what do you want to do?’ and it just came to me that what I truly wanted to do my own thing. She said she always imagined me doing that and having my own studio. That was the moment when I knew, right, I’m gonna do it. I keep thinking I could have done it sooner but actually I did it at the time it felt right. I’m grateful for that.
Wishu: How important was networking as a freelancer and developing relationships within the creative field on your own?
Laura: I struggled more than I thought I would at first. I used LinkedIn a lot but a lot of those relationships dried up eventually. I went to a few networking events in Glasgow but nothing really came of them. I think this was in part because I didn’t know what my value proposition was as a designer, I was trying to appeal to too many people. Ironically, I was making more effort to get involved in the creative community right before the pandemic hit. Fortunately I’ve made a lot of new connections through online networking and programmes, and I feel like I’ve got people who get what I’m going through as a creative business owner.
Wishu: Going back to the conversation on holiday with your sister, what was the equivalent of that moment when it came to deciding to set up a freelance studio? You worked as a full time freelancer for three years before setting up a studio. What spurred you to be brave enough to take that step?
Laura: Again, it was a gradual thing. I took a part time job after 6 months of freelancing which I thought would give me a steady income and time to work on my own projects. But I found myself feeling very stuck again. So I started chatting with a business coach and friend of mine and after some soul searching I realised I wanted to be a studio and not a freelancer. I wanted to have a brand and offer a service, and a different structure than being a ‘freelancer’. When I did a course in March I realised I wanted to move away from using Laurabelle as a name and adopt something that feels separate from me. My freelance work felt too tied up in who I was and I wanted some more separation.
Wishu: How do you think your tactile creative practises bring something new to the audience. How do you hope it makes people feel? (painting and knitting)
Laura: I hope they feel a sense of wonder. As a kid I loved the book The Hungry Caterpillar and its messy painting style and I loved the see through colourful wrappers on Quality Street chocolate. I naturally want to imbue my work with the same sense of wonder, tactility, excitement and sumptuous depth. I hope my work gives people that cosy sense that I love and comes from within me.
Wishu: There’s an element of nostalgia in it too which is lovely.
Laura: Yes, that’s true. There’s an element of being yourself there. Graphic design has trends which has a great purpose but I’m very conscious about not following trends now and maintaining my sense of individuality.
Wishu: I saw on your website that you make amazing brownies! What is your secret?
Laura: So it’s 200g of dark chocolate melted with butter then you add plain flour, a ton of sugar and eggs. Then bake for 35 mins in a tray and it’s amazing! They’re very popular with a lot of people I know hahaha.
Laura’s studio www.paperarcade.co.uk
Laura’s website www.laurabelle.co.uk