In this series we aspire to inspire you to slow down, switch off and get creative by introducing you to fellow creatives, innovators and artisans. We chat about their inspirations, processes, and touch on the pace of their craft vs. the pace of the current zeitgeist.
Lauren’s North Melbourne based LLh Studio is a high ceiling, corrugated roof space where Lauren artfully brings her designs into fruition. The space is filled with bright untouched limestone and uniquely shaped carved sculptures that are ready to be stacked into completeness. Lauren has constructed her world of design through the need to develop and materialise her ideas and to gain continuity in her practice.
We chat all things process, natural materials, and her place in the digital world…
DOF Studios: Can you tell us the origins of LLh Studio, how did you start creating? - the conception of your concept.
Lauren: I studied Furniture Design at RMIT, here in Naarm/Melbourne. Previous to this, when I was in my early twenties I got a set of tools from my dad and used to collect roadside furniture and try to reinvent it for my home at the time. I have always loved working with my hands and had an interest in Design related fields. When traveling I would get most excited over the architecture and sculpture in galleries and museums, so I suppose I have always had an appreciation and curiosity for design and art.
From my studies, I decided the path I wanted to go down was working for myself, and trying to create some continuity in my own work, so I had a style I could work from. I started LLh Studio with the intention of focusing on local materials and/or recycled materials.
DOF Studios: There's a running theme of recycled or kind-to-the-planet materials running through your portfolio, what draws you to the natural material? Does this influence the process or outcome?
Lauren: I think it is important to work locally, whether that be through sourced materials or other small businesses. It's important to me that I evolve slowly and ensure the best practices are being taken to keep to a somewhat small production, to keep my output reasonable.]. I think most makers in Australia share similar ideologies around this, which is great! I also love working with natural, raw materials like limestone, as it has its own unique qualities you can emphasise and respect, which on its own is beautiful. It definitely can impact the outcome when sculpting as I like to respect the properties of the material, for example, if a large shell appears it's seen as a feature and I will work around it the best I can to preserve it as nature has for thousands of years. I don't consider these flaws and get excited when I find a fossil or shell or very old coral formation.
DOF Studios: The silhouettes really define your work. Can you tell me a bit about your inspiration behind the shapes?
Lauren: They started as an improvised collection of sculptures in my studio. I would look to the last one I made and draw lines from that one to make the next one and so on. This then took the form of a series of flowers, and tulips. These were the main inspiration at the time as we had them in the house constantly throughout lockdowns. The aluminium and steel work I design is inspired by my sculptures, which were the first pieces of my practice and so I think I found a shape, or style here that I constantly played with then and still now.
DOF Studios: The importance of sculpting by hand is really prominent in your practice, can you tell us about this process?
Lauren: Each limestone piece is hand sculpted by myself and my studio assistant. Hand tools and many hours of hard work are required for each one. Since power tools are too robust for my pieces, all finer details are done by hand. Since you have sweated for so long over a piece, it deserves to be the best it can be and it must feel like a job well done and worth the effort. You do end up feeling some sort of attachment to the piece working so closely on it.
The Foli pieces are designed by myself, then fabricated by local fabricators. They use CNC technology to bend the pieces and then they are all welded together by skilled fabricators who also put many hours a day into making them look so finished. Their work is so important, and I do believe they enjoy the break from fabricating large-scale projects for architects around Melbourne when they work on the small tables I design.
DOF Studios: How do you feel about the slower pace of your work having a place in the fast-paced digital world? How do you strike a balance of staying true to your practice and keeping up?
I find it very challenging to balance this. Keeping up with the digital platform while maintaining the joy and focus needed for my sculpting work is a challenge for me. You can get swept easily in one direction or the other when balancing these, too. For managing this, I always look to other makers and similar business owners and ask for advice, that's all I have access to, and that's great. Having a good community around you can make you feel more at ease knowing you all feel the same pull at times.
DOF Studios: Do you feel like the digital world has an impact on your work aesthetically? It's such an oversaturated landscape, is difficult to avoid feeling influenced?
Lauren: There is no doubt that it does, since so much time is spent online now. Rather than only looking at furniture makers or designers for inspiration, I also like to explore other design and art mediums. My favorite way to balance this is to look outside, study landscapes for colour, or look at photos from road trips or holidays.
DOF Studios: Oftentimes the aesthetic of an artist's work is reflected in their style do you feel this is the case with you? Or maybe its your personal style that influences your work?
Lauren: It's probably a combination of both. I am always changing my 'style' personally, and I am always exploring new materials and ideas at the studio. The two things I am addicted to most are colour and texture, and these things definitely overlap within my home, style, and work.
DOF Studios: Do you tend to shop as consciously as you create? Can you share your favourite designers with us?
Lauren: I definitely do with furniture, I am always looking for local designer's pieces to add, or second-hand furniture. One of my favourite perfumes is called The AYU, they are Australian and very much my favourite smell! My favourite designer at the moment is someone from my course at RMIT, Jill Stevenson, I love her explorative, artistic, and research-driven approach to design.
DOF Studios: We are big foodies here at DOF, to add to our city guide can you recommend your top three favourite Melbourne restaurants?