Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Artist of the Month: Lauren Rudeck, September 2012

I'm excited to present the first Artist of the Month who is a Seattle local! I first discovered LaRu, jewelry and artwork by Lauren, at the Winter 2011 Urban Craft Uprising. Bright colors and cute characters in funny scenarios? Sold! (Literally - I purchased quite a few pieces.) LaRu was also a vendor at the Summer 2012 show. I think Lauren's work is brilliant and I'm pretty sure you will too.

Thank you for joining us on Pink Wonderland today, Lauren! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a Seattle-based artist who enjoys drawing creatures that make people smile and uses bright colors. I moved to Seattle six years ago, after finishing my Masters of Architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. I was originally born in the Bronx, but grew up mainly in Colorado and a little in Idaho.

Four years ago, I started a craft group that meets once a month to experiment with different crafts and materials. During one craft night we made pendants with resin, scrabble tiles, and magazine clippings. I loved working with the resin, but hated using other people’s images and being forced to one size with the scrabble tile. Through experimentation with resin and my illustrations, it turned into what I make now. My name La Ru comes from the first two letters of my first and last name: Lauren Rudeck.

Your artwork is full of bold colors, cute/badass characters, and quite a few random situations (I’m thinking of the Octopus vs. Velociraptor fight). Where or how do you usually find inspiration?
A lot of times these crazy images just pop into my head and I think “why have I never drawn this?!” Sometimes the inspiration comes from my facebook fans. I will post a call for animals or weapons and within minutes I will have a long list of things to draw. I like using facebook for this because I get answers in a matter of seconds and it often challenges me to draw things I would have not thought of on my own. Usually once a year, I turn it into a contest. The person who suggested the drawing that gets the most likes and comments gets a free print.

Being a fellow Seattleite, I love meeting artists from the area. What is it like being an artist in Seattle? Do your location and the community here affect your artwork or business?
The Seattle art scene is a pretty close group of people; everyone seems to know everyone, which is really nice. I always know when I go to a show I will have friends to say hello to.

Who are your favorite artists?
Edward Gorey and Ralph Steadman. Some of my favorite local artists include Justin Hillgrove, Augie Pagan, and Stasia Burrington.

What do you like to do when you are not working?
I haven’t had a time when I am not working in a while! When I am not doing La Ru, I am usually at my other job as a project designer at an architecture firm in Capitol Hill. I am finishing up my architecture license right now, so it seems like I am always busy with something. When I can make time, I like to travel. Last December I was able to go to Costa Rica. I loved it there…I loved seeing all the exotic animals (especially sloths!!!) and the warm weather.

Robots feature prominently in your work. If you could have any robot, what would it be like and what would it do?
Hmmm, this is a good question. I think I would have a robot that would clean up after me. =) Something that would do this dishes and laundry.

Favorite dinosaur?
Ankylosaurus. They are so cute!

Are there any major events or experiences in your life that affected your work or business?
The most recent event that had drastically affected my business was that I was hit by a car in February. I was in the middle of a crosswalk in front of my house (I live downtown behind Pike Place Market) when the car hit me. I don’t really know what happened because I was knocked out. I woke up on the ground facing the opposite direction. I ended up with a concussion and tore most of the ligaments in my left wrist. Luckily I am right handed, but losing the use of my left arm meant that I could not physically make a lot of my stuff. I had to rely heavily on my boyfriend, Matt, and my family - especially my brother, Evan, to help me assemble the parts that I couldn’t do. This also meant missing out on a lot of summer art/craft shows. I did a few of them, but often with the help of my brother and dad.

Since March I have been in a full arm brace and am still currently in a half arm brace. I have had to learn how to create and make things without having the full use of my left arm. Had it been my right arm, I would have lost my business completely. I am very thankful that it was the left and that I had an amazing surgeon, Dr. Trumble, repair my wrist.

Tell us about your collaborative shop with Rosalie (of Ugly Baby)! There are plenty of successful Etsy shop owners, but not many make the big transition to owning a physical store location (let alone one at Pike Place!). How did the idea come to life?
Opening a shop (Ugly Baby and La Ru) kind of fell into our laps; it was not something either of us had been planning for. Rosalie had contacted me to see if I had any openings in my art studio. My building didn’t, so I told her I would be willing to move if we could find a studio with a retail space. Two days later we found our new shop. It was the first and only place we looked at. It is perfect because it has a small retail area on the first floor and the second floor has a studio space. Conveniently, the shop is right across the street (across the crosswalk I was hit in) from my house.

Since we hadn’t really planned to open a shop, there were a lot more hoops to jump through than we imagined. We had to get approved by the market and submit a three-year business plan, then get approved for our use and design by the city’s Historic Design Review board. The whole process took about three months, had I not had an architecture background I think it would have taken much longer! They had to approve everything from our products to paint colors. They even asked us what Kelvin our light bulbs would be!

Will you be exclusively selling LaRu and Ugly Baby in your shop or do you plan to include items from other businesses as well?
We plan on inviting other artists to consign with us, but will probably bring other artists in slowly so we can figure out the whole process. Our first featured artist will be Matt Inman from the Oatmeal. Matt is a good friend of mine and it just so happens his new book is being released at the same time. He will be doing a book signing at our shop on November 17th.

Any idea when the shop will be open to customers?
Initially we had planned on opening as soon as possible, but the previous tenant had been a bit of a hoarder and the shop had been closed for a year. Needless to say it needed A LOT of cleaning, new paint, and some fixing up. Our grand opening will be October 20th, 2pm - 9pm. It corresponds with the Pike Hike Art Walk so other shops in the market and along Western Avenue will also be participating.

Tell us about your creative process and workspace.
My work space is usually kind of messy. Since I hand cut out all my characters to collage them on different colored backgrounds, there are paper scraps all over the floor around my desk.  I have two bunnies that come to studio with me. They love the paper scraps because they can throw them around the studio and play with them.

When I am working at my studio, I am usually watching (or really listening) to documentaries. I feel like it’s a good way to learn new things while working at the same time and a lot of times you don’t have to watch what is going on. I love documentaries on artists (like Beautiful Losers), architecture, and prison life. I am fascinated by the grittiness of prison and the situations that land people in jail. The artist documentaries are pretty inspirational and usually give me ideas to try new things.

As far as my creative process, I usually draw outside of my studio (at home, restaurants, wherever) and then assemble everything at the studio. I carry a sketch book with me everywhere because you never know when an idea will pop into your head.

What advice would you offer an aspiring artist or someone who wants to start a small business?
Don’t be afraid to try new things and get your work out there! I have a lot of friends who ask me about starting up an etsy shop and then get too worried working out all the details. I feel like you should just jump into it and you can figure it out and fix things along the way. It will never be perfect, so there is no point for waiting until it is.

I think people should also start with what they can afford.  Many people take out credit cards and loans to start something that they don’t know if it will be successful or not. If you start small and see if it is successful first, you can expand from there with little risk involved.

The one thing that I tell everyone to do when they are thinking of starting a crafty business is read Kari Chapin’s book “Handmade Marketplace.” Her book is like a craft business bible! It covers everything you need to know: how to price your items, how to market yourself, etc. I have used mine so much the cover fell apart.

I have seen you at Urban Craft Uprising twice now and it looks like you have participated in quite a few craft fairs / events. Any advice for small business owners who are ready to start participating in craft fairs?
I started pretty small, at I Heart Rummage when it was at Chop Suey. It was inexpensive and a good learning experience. There are quite a few smaller, inexpensive shows that are good places to try out vending at shows.

When I first started doing shows, I also became a team member of the local craft group EtsyRain. EtsyRain helps connect local crafters to different events, meetups, and even host their own shows. Being a member is free and a good resource for both shows and answers to any business or craft question you may have (there is an online discussion forum). Their next show is November 23 & 24, 2012, Show hours: Friday 11am to 6pm / Saturday 11am to 5pm.

Other than the store, are you working on any projects or pieces that you are excited about?
I am currently working on a piece for a fundraiser for a children’s hospital in Oregon. They sent me a bowling pin to draw on that will be auctioned off. I really enjoy the challenge of drawing on 3D surfaces (I started by drawing on all of my arm braces). I also really enjoy doing projects for charity; every year I try to participate in a few different events and fundraisers especially for children and animals.

Tell us if there are any events you have lined up where we can find you and your artwork in person.
Applications for most of the winter shows still haven’t announced their vendors, so I can’t say for sure, but you can come see me at the EtsyRain Holiday Show (dates and times above).  And for any New York readers, this Saturday (September 29th) I will be one of 50 alumni invited to vend at the Pratt Institute 125th year Anniversary Celebration in Brooklyn , NY.  The show is open to the public, 10am-5pm, on the main campus.

Thank you so much for sharing your stories and advice with us on Pink Wonderland, Lauren!

You can find Lauren and her work in these places:

You'll hear more about Lauren and her and Rosalie's shop on the blog next month! Isn't Lauren's work so much fun? I can't wait to hang up my LaRu pieces in the new house once I've gotten them framed!

Artist of the Month is a monthly interview feature with an artist. I am very selective about whom I interview - I pick artists I believe in, whose style I truly love. See all previously featured artists here.


  1. Aw her artwork is so cute!!! Thanks for the introduction to her

    1. I totally agree! Glad you like her work, Trishie!


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