Posts Categorized: Life

Art + Artist Feature + flowers + In My Next Life + Life / Monday, 11 Mar 2013

In my next life: painter

This is the second post in a new monthly series called, “In my next life” where I basically gawk at people whose jobs I’d love. See last month’s with professional ballerina at the Royal Danish Ballet, Christina Michanek
photography by Luisa Brimble courtesy of Arent & Pyke’s blog In/Out

A few weeks ago, Luisa Brimble, a fantastic photographer based in Australia, showed a picture on Instagram of artist Laura Jones’ studio. I was instantly (no pun intended) hooked. Laura paints florals in beautiful, bright colors and thus, her studio is a floral haven. I think I would be pleased as punch if this was my house. 
I grew up in a pretty artistic household and at one point I had decided to be a painter when I grew up. I don’t know when that decision was disrupted–perhaps school, sports, music? But never could I have imagined something like this. Laura’s work takes the cake, right? I’m rarely tempted to actually buy a piece of art–I’m usually quite content to just post it on my Pinterest board–but I’m so absolutely drawn to her work. Check out the interview below.

Did you always want to be an artist? Why or why not?
I did, I have always made art and knew I would always want to make it. I didn’t know if I’d actually become an artist but as I got older I realised that I could make it happen. Being an artist is really important to me now. I work hard at it because I believe that it is what I should be doing and because the world needs artists! 

How did you get into painting? 
I have painted ever since I was little. It has always come naturally to me although that’s not to say it is easy. Painting is a very difficult thing to do because you are always trying to push yourself to make better work, and it is always hard to make space for it in your life around part time work.

As of late, you’ve been painting a lot of flowers. Why? What’s the attraction?  
I grew up in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia. There are a lot of beautiful gardens there and my mother always had flowers around the house. I have always loved them. When I was studying for a Masters in Art at the College of Fine Arts, I would bring big bunches of interesting leaves and flowers to the printmaking studio and make coloured etchings with them. I also started working in a flower shop part time to get me through uni. That was about 2005 and I have worked in flower shops ever since.

My most recent body of work is all about flowers because painting them just made a lot of sense all of a sudden. I had always done a little bit of flower painting here and there but I realised I should make a whole show about them. Flowers are very symbolic, reminding people about the transience of life, whilst also being very positive, happy things. They were good for the soul to paint and I hope that’s what people feel when they look at my flower paintings.

Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shaped the decision to be an artist?
I have so many. The most influential time was when I was at art school. Because I majored in printmaking, we often had a lot of artists come to the studios to do print projects. The students would assist the Master Printer (and our teacher), Michael Kempson, who would work alongside artists to help them make etchings and works on paper. I met so many painters during this time, and I would ask them about what they did and how they did it. It worked out that the first thing I needed to do was to get a studio. As soon as I graduated I found a studio and I have been a practising artist ever since.

Do you have a mantra or something you live by?
I can’t remember where I read this one but it helped me a lot when I was starting out and feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the potential in painting and where to begin! It was in my first studio, which was above an old pub in Western Sydney, and I remember reading it somewhere and then writing it on the wall, “There is only what you do and what you don’t do.”

My interpretation was to do the work, one painting at a time. Each painting will be better than the last and you will learn something from everything you do.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

The actual process of making things. I am so interested and engaged in what I do, from preparing a surface to paint on, to applying the paint, to painting over something that doesn’t work, to making decisions about what to do next, or even just rearranging my studio. I love looking at something and then trying to describe it with my hands. I really enjoy everything about making work in my studio.

How do you juggle the balance of life/work?
I work all the time, and just get things done. I could probably cook and exercise more but I just love working whether it be at the studio or the flower shop. I socialise a lot and go to lots of art openings. I think I manage to squeeze everything in by working long hours and not watching tv. Life is a constant struggle for balance I suppose.

Is there anything you could do without? I could live without living in the city I think. One day, maybe soon, I’d like to go where there’s more green.


What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career so far?

My recent show is probably top of the list. I really felt so happy with my paintings, and the opening was a huge success.


Being selected as a Finalist for the Doug Moran Prizefor Portraiture– it’s Australia’s richest portrait prize and to be showing with so many other great artists including some of my good friends was wonderful.

Working with Grantpirrie Gallery as their Master Printmaker was amazing too. Also going to the New York Studio School to do a drawing course. There’s too many, and I can’t wait to keep working on more.

If you weren’t painting, what would you be doing?
I would probably be travelling right now. Like a gypsy! 

Thank you, Laura, for participating in In My Next Life. Don’t you just love her? I love the part about hoping her paintings speak to your soul. The answer is yes. YES! Flowers do so much for the soul and I’d love to be surrounded by them like that. If you happen to be in Australia, she has a show right now until the 15th at the Maunsell Wickes Gallery in Paddington. More info here.

And are you looking at the floral print on the chair? It’s from Edit. Isn’t the matching chair/skirt lovely?

Did you ever want to be a painter? What would you do if you could do anything in the world? Speak up! 

denmark + Design + Life + we do weddings + Wedding / Friday, 8 Mar 2013

Thumbelina wedding shoot

A couple of weeks ago I introduced a wedding shoot that I styled as a part of We Do Weddings. We had divided ourselves into 4 groups and each took a section of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and went to town. I was a part of “something blue” and “something new” as seen here. Though there were many ways to take “new” we took “something new” to mean a “new” fairytale. Lots of brides want to be that princess in a fairytale and we wanted to bring a new, uncheesy romanticism to the meaning. To do this we used Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina. You know I love scale, so I was all about it. Of course, there had to be oversized flowers everywhere. I even made a jumbo flower for this bride to really bring it home. This time I was partnered with Tine Hvolby, who shot all of these photos, Hazel of Think Foto, and Rikke of Gudnitz Couture, who made the lovely wedding dress as worn by Christina Michanek (remember Christina? She’s a soloist for the Royal Danish Ballet) and joined by her husband, a former dancer with the Royal Swedish and Danish Ballets. Rikke makes lots of dresses for the rich and famous in Denmark–fancy! We lucked out with a rare sunny day, which created some beautiful lighting to play with. Didn’t Tine kill it?!

Here’s the invitation I created for the wedding. Look familiar? After this, I decided to base my new 2013 calendar from it (get it on sale here).

So gorgeous.

If you’re in Denmark, check out the We Do Weddings website. It’s such a great resource for planning a wedding.

Photography by Tine Hvolby
Dress by Gudnitz Couture
Models: Christina and Sebastian Michanek
Stylist and prop maker: Brittany Watson Jepsen

Design + Life + we do weddings + Wedding / Friday, 22 Feb 2013

Something Blue wedding shoot

photography by Amanda Thomsen
I talked about the wedding group, We Do Weddings, last month. It’s the group of photographers, designers, stylists who came together to get magic done in Denmark and I was more than thrilled to be involved while I was there. We decided to stage a series of photoshoots and broke up into 4 groups. Each group took on one of the sayings from “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” and yes, we were something new. Sorry, bad joke. Of course, we were something blue. This was one of my favorite projects of all time! I got to work with Amanda Thomsen, Lina Ahnoff, and Anja of Elefteria, who just took my spot in the studio. These ladies are the best!

We took “something blue” to mean the black sheep of the bunch. The couple who does things a bit differently. So, we envisioned a couple who do things differently. This couple doesn’t plan a year in advance. They aren’t getting married in the church. They aren’t wearing white. Gasp! This couple told their friends and family to come to a party that week “dressed in blue” and bring a small dish to share.
Once their friends and family showed up for a leisurely afternoon at their blue kolonihave, the couple announced that they were actually getting married and they were the guests. The garden turned into the reception site with a simple bunting in blue strung along the bushes to frame the couple as they said their vows.  Instead of a wedding cake, a friend made a piñata in shades of blue.  Once they knocked it down, fortune cookies with personalized fortunes came spewing out as favors fo the guests. (I showed how to make the pinata on Etsy Weddings.)

Later that evening, the guests gathered in the kolonihave for a dinner made up of the smørrebrød that everyone brought. Friends had decorated the place in old wedding veils from their family’s generations. They enjoyed the occasion with simple hygge and cherished their new bond.

This simple wedding brought out the best in the couple and made it an easy affair for all. By sticking with just one color palette, they were able to focus on the people that they shared the event with.

The dresses:  The first dress from Elefteria.dk is called Anna with denim skirt, perfectly morning outfit for a wedding. The long length model Eleni, a bias cut dress in crepe de chine so soft to wear in the late afternoon and finally decorated and dressed up for the evening dinner with silk chiffon covers to give you the upportunity to change the look of the dress for any occasion.  All of them made specially for the Something Blue shoot,  by Anja from Elefteria.
I made the pinata, bunting, floral crown, and style the shoot (thanks to Amanda’s stellar blue collection!)
Amanda Thomsen took all of these photos (see her blog for the whole she-bang!) alongside Lina Ahnoff.

ballet + Copenhagen + denmark + In My Next Life + Life / Friday, 15 Feb 2013

In my next life: Ballerina

photography by Amanda Thomsen
I’m super pleased to introduce a new monthly column to Lars and it’s been a long time in coming. Let me explain. Growing up I felt like I was meant to be a ballet dancer. My mom was a dancer, my aunt was a dancer, and clearly I was also supposed to be one as well. The problem is that my ballet teacher didn’t agree. I was “too chubby” to audition for the Nutcracker at the age of 8. Now, it may seem harsh, but in all honesty, I was tubby and most likely awkward because I was definitely shy and turned bright red when anyone spoke to me. Not a great combo for a graceful dancer. My mom instantly took me out of ballet and enrolled me in tennis and cello and I continue to play to this day. Ultimately, she didn’t want me to grow up in a world where weight and appearance was a factor that dictated her life and I’m very glad she directed me in another direction. I’m also very happy with how my childhood and adolescence played out so though I still would have loved to have been a dancer (and with the right body type), I’m satisfied with the talents and skills I’ve been able to develop. No harm done!

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some jobs that I wouldn’t like to try in my next life. Enter new column. This whole internet thing has exposed me to jobs that I never knew existed. Paper floral designer? Color expert? Cupcake maker? Come on, these are dream jobs! In fact, I was going to label this column “Dream Jobs”, but thought that they’re someone’s reality so “In my next life” it is. Every month I’ll feature a different person who inspires me in their chosen profession. First up? Christina Michanek.
Christina Michanek is a soloist at the Royal Danish Ballet. She’s also a good friend of mine and my former landlord. Ha! Paul and I lived on the top floor of her house that she and her husband were renovating. You would think that friendship + landlord could be a recipe for disaster, but these two are the best. I’m their biggest fan. You won’t find two more kind and hardworking people. Part of the reason I was so sad to leave Denmark was because we wouldn’t be by them (and their adorable 2 year old). 
Christina generously invited my mom and me to attend a dress rehearsal of a brand new show at the Ballet in September at the Opera House, The Golden Cockerel (or Den Gyldne Hane), an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov that was turned into a ballet with original choreography by Alexei Ratmansky. She said that the sets and costumes reminded her of me and my jaw just about dropped when I saw them. They’re bright and bold and colorful (see below). They’re the original designs from Ballet Russes. I invited Amanda Thomsen, the awesome photographer with whom I shared a studio in Copenhagen, to come along and document the day. She takes us through from the practice, getting ready and finally the dress rehearsal with her beautiful photos.
Mom and I had a ball watching The Golden Cockerel. Though the story is over-the-top (like all operas), I loved the dancing and original choreography. There was an exotic spin on traditional ballet. I also loved the costumes. It was definitely a feast for the eyes. I tend to like dress rehearsals better than the real thing because you get to hear the banter between the director, maestro, and dancers. It’s a bit more entertaining when you add in the real life drama.
With that in mind, Christina was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Did you always want to be a dancer? 
Before I knew ballet and ballet dancers even existed I wanted to be a librarian. The library was such a magical place for me. It was like a church for stories. And I dreamed of being this superlibrarian who could tell people as soon as I saw them what they should get! 

How did you get into dancing? 
An American missionary who was dancing at Ballet West in Utah, Candice Taylor, made a little dance for all the young girls in my church congregation for a Christmas activity. Ever since she danced for us I was hooked!

Were there people along the way in your field who you admired or helped you shape the decision to be a dancer?
In the school it was my friend Ulrik Birkjær (now principal the company) who was my ‘source’ or his ambition and ballet interest just made him the one I could ask ballet questions and he inspired me to aspire higher. Still does. Apprentice years and early dancer years it was Adam Lüders, Caroline Cavallo, Sorella Englund and Nikolaj Hübbe.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
The feeling of moving in space led by my own musicality. The drama we get to enjoy! I’m a drama junkie! I’ll do a death scene any day any time. The theater magic of costumes, stage light and a live orchestra. 
Is there anything you could do without?
I could do without the judging, elbowing, never good enough chase for perfection. And that it takes forever to get in shape and four days to get out of it…that’s almost evil. 

How do you juggle being a wife/mother with your job?
I make sure to leave work at work and don’t bring it home. And if I need to take a nap before a show I do it in the living room preferably in the beanbag on the floor so it’s easy for my son to play on and around me. FaceTime helps a lot too then we can blow kisses to each other and sing songs and play games. It was a great help when I went on tour recently. 

What’s one of the most memorable moments of your career?
Some of my favorite moments… Watching a colleague on their 40th jubilee and seeing old pictures and video and sensing their love for their work and how much they are loved for sharing their talent. 
First Sylph rehearsal is a special memory too. As soon as Nikolaj [Hübbe, the director of the ballet] had left the studio I let out a little scream and involuntary leap of joy and then I got a little embarrassed cause he could probably hear me. 
Romeo and Juliet balcony pas de deux with Ulrik in Japan. I stole a moment to just soak in the stage, the music, the moment and save it in my heart and mind and it made me shiver with delight. 
Watching Nikolaj dance Apollo in a small proconsul theater, sitting in the wing so fascinated that I almost was on stage! I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind at all. 
I have a lot of favorite moments. 

I loved watching Christina dance. She is pure passion and love for the art. I’m also very lucky to call her my friend. She is beauty, kindness, and integrity. Thank you, Christina, for being letting us follow you around.
Stay tuned for next month’s In My Next Life.

Do you have a dream job? What is it? 
Thank you to Det Kongelige Teater for allowing us to take up some space in the practice room and letting us wander around backstage.

Photography by Amanda Thomsen

Life + This week / Friday, 18 Jan 2013

This week

In my daydreams of moving back to America, sub-freezing temperatures didn’t really factor in, but, of course, this is the “worst winter we’ve had in a long time”, says everyone all the time. That’s what Denmark told me when I got there, too, so I’m starting to sense a pattern here…

Our new home is nestled against the beautiful Wasatch Mountains in Provo, Utah and for all of you who think that Utah is in the midwest, it might help to clarify that the Wasatch Mountains are the Western most part of the Rocky Mountains.* Denmark is probably the topographical opposite of Utah and more of the equivalent of Iowa so we’re a bit overwhelmed by the grandness of it all. One day I was on a road trip in DK and someone pointed out the “highest point” in all of Denmark. I honestly, did not know where they were pointing. It looked like a sledding hill.

Anywhoo, enough about the weather, this week we settled in a bit more into our new place, spent an hour and a half at the Social Security Administration and are now eating from silverware and not plastic spoons and forks. Here’s to the weekend!

photo from my Instagram feed @houselarsbuilt

*I worked together with a friend from Utah at Anthropologie in Rockville, Maryland for 3 hours a week for a year a few years back. Our manager called her “Midwest” in his Southern drawl. I guess 3 hours a week doesn’t buy respect.