Laura Goldstein is a surface designer, entrepreneur, and master of happy accidents. Her vibrant scarves, pillows and wraps sell worldwide in high-end boutiques. With materials left over from the creation of these textiles, she creates richly layered artwork with vivid imagery that is at once playful and surreal. We’ll be showcasing her exquisite textiles here at Hanson Dodge Creative this spring. The opening is Friday, March 28 from 5:30 til 9 PM. If you miss that, you can still stop by and see her beautiful work hanging in our lobby for the next several weeks.
Laura will be back at Hanson Dodge Creative on Thursday, April 10 at 5:30 PM to talk more about her work. This intimate conversation with the artist is by invitation only, but we’ll share her insights in a future blog post.
Laura spends her days in a small Third Ward studio, turning fabric and chaos into art. The strange and wonderful tools of her trade are stacked in corners and scattered on tables: hundreds of hand-crafted printing screens, transparencies, brushes, palette knives, bolts of silk and canvas, and of course her work – vibrant, organic and richly layered silk scarves, pillows and wraps in various stages of completion frame Laura’s world with color.
Laura’s creations begin with raw fabric, usually silk. First, the fabric goes through repeated dye baths. Each bath yields deeper saturation and more subtle variations in the base color. After the dyeing is complete, layers of imagery are added by screenprinting.
Laura refers to her screen collection as her “vocabulary.” The screens represent years spent collecting graphics and text from books, postcards, wine glasses, and just about anything else you can imagine; part of Laura’s charm is her tendency to find art in unlikely places.
Depending on the type of piece, the fabric may undergo additional layers of hand painting or washing to enhance texture or add emphasis. Laura often includes vintage handwritten text in these layers, giving new life to a lost art while imparting a sense of intimacy to her own.
When the surface design work is finished, the fabric is sewn to create pillows, scarves, wraps, table runners, bowties and other textiles for high-end retail outlets including museums, specialty stores and gift shops. These pieces comprise the commercial offerings of Laura’s company, Grotta & Co.
In addition to her retail offerings, Laura creates one-offs and hanging art created largely from the byproducts of her commercial operation. For example, Laura screenprints on long tables covered with canvas drop cloths that become art in their own right. Portions of her screens bleed off onto the drop cloths and create a living canvas of layered art. This process produces imagery that might never had been conceived otherwise, inspiring some of her happiest accidents. These cloths also serve as a proving ground for new ideas and colors. She refers to the drop cloths as “Research and Development.” The drop cloths inspire future production, which yields more drop cloths, completing her creative cycle whereby nothing goes to waste.
Laura’s artwork is refreshingly analog. By her own admission, she does not know how to operate a digital scanner. She creates her screens with transparencies converted from paper prints at the copy shop. Laura prefers the natural degeneration of images scaled and copied repeatedly as opposed to the digital “perfection” of a scan or vector image. The result is a hand-tooled, painterly look that would be nearly impossible to capture with digital tools.
Hanson Dodge Creative is located at 220 East Buffalo Street in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.