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  • 20 October, 2021

    Reinterpreting Training and Tools with Laura Deems

    Taylor Simmons

    Meet Laura Deems, an Atlanta-based, abstract artist who has created her own method of painting. With formal training in fabric dying, color theory, weaving and screen printing, Laura takes elements from these vocations and translates them for use in painting. Instead of brushes, she uses squeegees and sponges. Instead of mixing colors, she mixes materials - creating sought-after art as she goes.

    I sat down with Laura, wearing our Shirred Top and Pencil Skirt in White Coconut Tree, to talk about reinterpreting her traditional training and what inspires new collections of work.

    Why did you decide to pursue painting full-time and have you incorporated textile design and color theory into your paintings?

    Painting felt natural to me. Through it, I have been able to break out and reinterpret my textile training and love of the medium in ways that are new and different. I've had many inspiring, older women in the industry pave the way for me to do what I do.

    Talk to me about using sponges and squeegees instead of brushes. Are there other elements of traditional paining that you do differently too?

    If you were to put an easel in front of me and tell me to paint, I would crumble! I wouldn't know where to begin. My painting process is anything but traditional. My formal training is in dying fabrics, color theory, weaving and screen-printing, which are where my tools come into play. Squeegees, while uncommon in painting, are an inherent part of screen-printing. I use them to create dimension and texture. The sponge is my way of moving watered-down paint around the canvas in a controlled manner. Each tool works to create a loose interpretation of a pattern - I am freeing the motif from the repeat.

    What inspires each installment of your work?

    So much inspires new work for me. I create a character in my mind and allow it to inspire a collection. It has helped me maintain a vision and direction in the work, so that, when finished, each piece has its own story and personality. My cheeky titles give my audience a window into each work's story.

    As a relaunch, Coco Shop is interested in the process of taking something old and making it new again. How does renewal play a role in your work?

    Textiles are one of the oldest art forms and I love the idea of bringing this functional craft into the fine art sphere. My grandmother was a great quilt maker and, in some of my past pieces, I worked with patching and placing pieces together in a woven format. This took an old idea and interpreted it into a new form.

    In other collections, I have reinterpreted past artists' works, such as John Singer Sargent and Josef Albers. I studied their works and translated them into my own language in an attempt to make what they were conveying approachable and fresh for those unfamiliar. In my newest collection, Spring 2021, I am taking my own memories from a tough year and translating them into works on paper that bring life - for me and for my audience.

    What makes you feel personally renewed and ready to take on what's next?

    A walk, a great bottle of rosé with friends, trying out a new Ina Garten recipe, taking a moment of personal reflection - each and all of these activities help me to rebalance and rejuvenate to take on what's next.