Making creativity commercial

Making creativity commercial

For many creatives, balancing a regular revenue stream with truly artistic output is viewed as an impossible task. But Yorkshire-based, multidisciplinary artist Laura Casey is bucking the trend, and enjoys a diverse career that allows the freedom to explore her creative impulses while still retaining commercial viability. Surfacing spoke to Laura to learn more about her philosphy that all artists should be educated in business to help them succeed …

It is partly Laura’s multidisciplinary approach to her career that has ensured her position as a go-to creative for all manner of projects. From mural paintings to textile projects, as well as working as a stylist and illiustrator, Laura’s creativity is limitless – and a key facet in her success within both the creative and commercial domains. But, deeper than this, is Laura’s capability to effectively market herself, and her art, is a fundamental reason for her consistent, paid workload through her practice, Northlight Studios.

“I do have a varied career,” says Laura. “I started out with a fine art training, and have sold many paintings through galleries and private commission. More recently, I work as an artist-in-residence in schools – I paint murals, run creative workshops, and do a lot of work on exhibitions, creating everything from one-off art pieces to traditional displays. It is great to be in a position where I can choose the projects that inspire me,” she says.

The integration of all of her various creative discplines came about a year ago, when Laura confesses she was frustrated from trying to manage various, different aspects of her career. “I made the decision to amalgamate my various different heads, and present my website as a creative showcase. After all, what was the point of trying to differentiate between exhibitions and oil paintings when there is so much overlap? And, in the commercial world, all your experiences feed every artistic decision you make.”

While Laura is dedicated to her art, and is passionate about all of the projects she undertakes, she “shudders at the ridiculousness of the purist philosophy frowned upon to show any aspect of commercialism” and believes that it is entirely possible for artists to balance commercial and creative demands with some persistence and hard work. But still, Laura emphasises, artists need more assistance to be able to seamlessly incorporate these (sometimes contradictorary) demands into their working lives.

“Who in the world needs some business skills more than an artist?” Laura states. “There was a bloke on my course who used to make some extra money by painting pet portraits – and people used to snigger behind his back. But now I’m not so sure he didn’t have the right idea – notoriously crap with money, many fabulous artists I know do something else with their lives to pay their bills and just paint in their very limited spare time.

“If more emphasis was put on using artistic skills in a broader, more practical way, then more people could actually make a living from art. Training in business and marketing should be offered hand-in-hand with art courses – not be despised and shunned by them.”

It is here that Laura has succeded where many artists fail – Laura has capitalised on her extensive experience and ability to apply her creativity to varying disciplines, markets, and their individual demands. In September, for example, Laura was commissioned by the Flooring Show in Harrogate to create sets designed to inspire consumers to look at the flooring first, as an integral part of a design scheme, as opposed to it being the last element specified.

“It was a very open brief,” says Laura. “Flooring is a difficult thing to create a display from, as it is usually is on the floor, where most people are looking at eye-level. The displays were commissioned to promote creativity in retail – something that would inspire the consumer to consider the carpet first.

“Shopping on carpets, in many outlets, is on par with going to a wood yard. It’s all about stacking it high and price per meter. It bores me, even thinking about it,” she continues. “It just doesn’t make sense – women love shopping, and imagine if there could be beautiful, creative, inspiring display concepts in a feminine environment – the market would rocket!”

Applying creativity to commercial situations is clearly Laura’s forte, and her open and honest approach is a major attraction for her diverse range of clients. Combined with her open approach to experimenting with different mediums, Laura is well-positioned to tackle almost any creative problem – for all types of companies and institutions.

Retaining originality and inspiration could be difficult for some artists, but Laura’s affirmed balanced of mutiple mediums ensures that she is constantly motivated to explore new solutions.

“Inspiration is a funny thing,” she says. “Trends are fascinating. I always have an eye on them, and sometimes it might encourage me to use a new format – but overall, my art is very little affected by them. I think most artists tend to work in runs. Something catches your imagination, or you get an idea in your mind, and it absorbs you for months – sometimes years.”

Presently, Laura is continuing to work as a painter as the artist-in-residence at a Yorkshire primary school, in addition to the numerous other projects she has undertaken. At the school, Laura has encouraged the children to explore their own creativity, and recently completed a 7m-long mural of a forest, as well as a 6m-long frieze to celebrate the completion of a new library.

“I have applied my love of large format paintings and literature to product some large murals for schools, both inside and out,” she explains.

But Laura’s creativity isn’t limited to commercial projects – at home, she creates clothes for her children, home furnishings and art pieces. Part of this stems from her experience as a stylist and textile designer, as well as acting as an ambassador to promote various materials, including wool.

Again, this holistic approach to applying her creativity is a fundamental boon to Laura as an artist, who incorporates all elements of art and design into her world. It is this philosophy that Laura wishes to convey to up and coming artists, instead of the more strict, sometimes arrogant, attitude of the art world.

“The snobbishness of the art world knows no bounds,” she says. “There are very distinct areas that hold far more kudos than others – with oil painting and conceptual art being at the very top, and homecrafts, like knitting and sewing, at the very bottom.

“But really, these are all intertwined. One naturally leads to the other. Why does nobody value design – which, in reality, is art with application – as highly as they value fine art? Why is it so valuable to do a painting, but once you put it into repeat and call it wallpaper, it loses its integrity?”