We were lucky enough to grab a chat with busy bee Laura Spring on all things textiles.
Firstly can you tell us who you are and a wee bit about your business?
I'm a textile designer/screen printer based in Glasgow with a huge love for colour and bold prints. My business started kind of by accident in 2011 after a journalist (Charlotte Abrahams) saw my wet weather suitcase I had made for a Craft Scotland show earlier in the year and invited me to be part of her 'Spotted' showcase at the trade show Top Drawer in London. I was away on a craft residency at Cove Park at the time so had to pull together collection quite quickly, but I did and it all snowballed from there!
Things have developed a lot in those five and half years and I'm happy to say I now work with a local manufacturer to produce 90% of my collection which is great because it means I have more time to focus on designing, printing and planning for the future. I love working on projects/commissions too, so am usually juggling multiple things at once but it's how I enjoy to work!
What made you want to get into the textiles industry?
I’d always loved textiles from a young age, but somehow ended up studying Visual Communication for my degree at The Glasgow School of Art. Much of my work during that time was more ‘handmade’ than computer made and it’s where I learnt to screen print. As soon as I graduated I started trying to get work in a more textiles based environment, as it was what I felt most excited by and probably the most natural to me. I didn’t really know where I fitted within textiles at that point but knew I loved to ‘make’ and design so completed a placement with Timorous Beasties pretty much straight after graduating and then spent several years working in the costume department of TV, films and opera before combining my passion for screen printing, fabrics and design to begin my own practice in 2011.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is really no such thing for me. I think part of running a small studio is that you have to get involved in many aspects of the business so each day is different depending on the time of year and things that I’m working on. A typical studio day though usually starts with some emails at home, then arriving at the studio about 9.30am where I’ll stay until about 6.30pm. I’m lucky to be in a lovely studio environment where we all tend to eat lunch together which is really nice. It’s good to take a proper lunch break and hear about someone’s sculpture problems (I share a building with mainly fine artists) or discuss each other’s lunch options. It refreshes the brain for the afternoons tasks!
What is your favourite thing about your job?
That there’s so much variety in what I do. I love that I wear many hats – designer/printer/explorer/researcher…I love working on a variety of projects as well as designing collections, it keeps it interesting and I’ve been really lucky that my job has taken me to many exciting places and working on many exciting commissions.
What does your workspace look like?
I’m based in an old sawmill on the north side of Glasgow by the canal. My workspace is a double studio – one side is my print room, the other more of an office/clean space. Quite often it’s a bit chaotic as there’s always multiple things to manage but I love it when I have my print class once a month as it makes me do a really good tidy up. I also have quite a few plants in my space – plants are important.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be kind to yourself. Running your own business can be all consuming so it’s important to invest in yourself – take a holiday/day off etc. You’ll do much better work if you do.
Can you tell us about another Scottish creative that inspires you?
I have so much admiration and respect for Hilary Grant. I first met Hilary at a trade show; probably in 2012…she was behind me, on the other side of the partition wall at Pulse. I knew of her brand a little bit and loved what she was doing so we got chatting. Over the years, we’ve got to know each other well (we were both on the Fashion Foundry pilot programme and have shared an exciting trade mission experience to Japan) and it has been amazing to see what she’s achieved in that time. Her designs are really beautiful and intelligently structured. She’s really clever and knowledgeable about the industry and her work ethic is incredible. I think she’s created a really unique, strong and respected company that I find hugely inspiring – plus she’s a really nice person with a genuine belief in what she’s doing and I think it shines through.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned along the way?
I think there’s a couple of really valuable things I’ve learnt. The first being, always trust your gut instinct. When you run your own business, it’s essentially all your own ideas/vision pouring out in to the world and sometimes you know there’s something you want to do or a decision that needs to be made and it’s hard to explain why but you know it’s the right thing for you, so my advice is to always listen to that voice. It’s really important in a highly competitive industry to remain true to yourself, it will keep you focused, in love with what you do and I think, make your company stronger.
I would also say that I’ve also learnt that mistakes are inevitable so it’s important to learn from them and move on in a positive way. No-one knows everything, sometimes it can be painful – financially or emotionally but the recovery is the most important thing and how you handle it, so be prepared to fail and have the courage to do things that might scare you and make you fail, but it will lead to better things, I’m sure of it! Staying in your safe place is never a good idea in my opinion so be brave!
What has been the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
I actually feel incredibly lucky to have a few projects to choose from in regards to this question. Without doubt India Street (a project curated by Katy West) was a total highlight as it involved working with a small group of amazing designers from Scotland and India and then being taken over to India to learn how to block print with an incredible team of crafts people. The two weeks we spent in India were so rewarding and enriching for me as a designer. The exhibition at Tramway last summer was a delight to be part of and I think told the story of the project so well and I’m excited to be continuing the project with a workshop on Mull shortly.
What kind of projects or plans are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a project that has very kindly been funded by Creative Scotland and has been developing in my mind for the last eighteen months. I took part in a residency in the summer of 2015 at Arteles in rural Finland and came across some old catalogues about a particular type of Finnish weaving known as Täkänä. The catalogues really caught my eye because of the graphic nature of many of the designs and also the way the cloth was woven using only two colours which is something that really resonates with my work. I was recently back in Finland exploring the history of this technique, visiting archives and speaking with curators and experts in this area.
I’m now working on pulling my thoughts and findings together into a new collection and new work to be launched at designjunction in September this year. It’s been really interesting for me to explore weave as potential way to work and has opened up so many interesting conversations with people already. It’s kind of what I meant in the earlier question about trusting your gut and taking yourself out of your comfort zone, as a print designer trained initially in graphic design, my knowledge of weaving is very limited but it is so exciting to explore this new technique and dream of new outcomes and collaborations…
What words of advice do you have for the next wave of upcoming talent?
Look forward, don’t try to imitate what’s happening right now, you want to be part of what’s happening next. Be nice to people, so much of what we all do is about building relationships and without the help and support of good people around you, nothing will happen.
What do you do to unwind from your busy creative life?
I love being outside. I love the silence of a forest and the chat around a campfire…away from computers and emails!
Final question, what do the next five years hold for Laura Spring?
Hopefully continuing to build on what I have now, working on projects that excite me with people who I love to work with.
You can find Laura at lauraspring.co.uk and get a look behind the scenes at @lauraspringstudio.
Laura Spring interviewed by Kimberley White