A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived

Clearly I’m not Matt Damon nor am I on any track to becoming a movie star, but saying yes has not been on my agenda for quite some time. To be fair, how could it? The last year and a half has brought out a lot of no’s. No to public outings, no to gatherings, no to civil discourse. And just when we thought we could start saying yes we were stuck with COVID in July and then the air quality was so bad in Utah that we couldn’t even go outside. Certainly not on the path to a life well lived.

living joie de vivre
Perhaps my team has noticed the shift because I recently took them on two spontaneous field trips. Here we visited the new Harmony store here in Provo, which is a real gem.

In other words–I’ve been feeling STUCK! Physically, emotionally, mentally…all the ways. You too? It doesn’t feel good. Doesn’t feel like living.

Feeling stuck as a new mother

Now, I’m also a new mom to a 9 month old. Any one with a new baby might know the feeling of being stuck. Sometimes you’re physically stuck at home nursing on a schedule or waiting on naps or just hanging out waiting on their every move. It’s constant and exhausting. It’s also emotionally draining and your hormones are playing a game of kickball inside your body. Well, sometimes it’s also a game of pool or kickboxing. Definitely some type of martial arts.

Getting outside your comfort zone to experience a life well lived

So, when I heard Matt Damon talk about saying yes I thought, THAT’S IT! THAT is a life well lived! I need to say yes more because life is too short to say no! And when even did I get trapped in my comfort zone?! And when did my life start taking the shape of a cross stitched life motto?!

As I’m typing this out, I’m realizing that I was actually really good at getting outside my comfort zone and experiencing a life well lived in my 20s and early 30s. And because of it I’ve had some really awesome opportunities…and some more frightening moments. But all experiences that made me grow.

a life well lived
The other was going up to Salt Lake to see one of our own, Gwen’s art show.

For fear of waxing nostalgic I’ll stop there and just say, it’s time to get outside of that comfort zone again. Somehow. Ha! I don’t know how that’s going to happen quite yet because we’re still in a pandemic and I still have a baby, but I am willing and more focused on living more intentionally.

Joie de Vivre means more than just a life well lived

The term joie de vivre keeps on coming back to me–I think about it all the time. I think it’s because I had a friend who told me a story of how her mom once gave a lecture to one of her siblings for not displaying enough of it. Can you imagine?! Joie de vivre! An “exuberance for life”, an “exultation of spirit”! There are few words or phrases that capture the human spirit more than joie de vivre and who wouldn’t want to live life to the fullest?! That is the essence of a life well lived!

Ideas on living a life well lived

Basically what I’m saying is that I want to feel joie de vivre EVEN THOUGH I can’t just drop everything and travel the world or whatever it is that I haven’t yet dreamed up yet. Perhaps a life well lived is experienced in the little things right now? Maybe making a little extra effort to go to a fantastic spot for a walk or hike. Perhaps it’s setting one responsibility aside to focus a bit on something that brings joy. I don’t know! Clearly I’ve got some brainstorming to do or maybe you have ideas for me? Would love to hear them!

Tell me about your life well lived. Are you living it now? If so, I want your tips. If not, what’s the road block? I bet I could join you 😉

Becoming Katie Kortman

Katie Kortman wearing bright prink and blue pands and a blouse standing by the ocean.

Meet Katie Kortman

Katie Kortman is a fashion designer, fabric designer, painter, teacher and dancing queen. She creates abstract paintings which she turns into fabric, sews into fabulous clothes, and then dances in them around her living room (and now sells them!). She is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, but currently resides with her husband and 4 children in Japan. Katie is one of 16 designers competing on Season 19 of Project Runway. 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

I consider myself an artist who loved fashion so much that she became a Fashion ARTIST! I guess at this point I’m a designer. My careers and creative avenues have changed and morphed over the years from Fine Artist to teacher, but I guess now I’m a designer! 

Katie wears a pink, red, green, and cream dress with red clogs. She's standing with her arms raised to demonstrate the dress bodice and sleeve flowiness.

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I grew up in South Florida and attended a school for the arts from 7th to 12th grade. I got to be immersed in that creative environment during my formative years and it showed me that I am most happy when I am creating. I couldn’t have pursued any other path than a creative one. My mom always told me I could do “anything I put my mind to” and I think that has been in my subconscious all these years. I truly believe I can do anything if I work hard enough! 

Katie Kortman modeling one of her outfits: a vibrant pink overjacket and pink and green pants.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

I dreamt of being a fashion designer, product designer, or graphic designer. When I got to college though…. I studied PAINTING! 

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path? 

I think the fact that my husband is in the Navy and we move every 1-3 years has caused me to constantly change what I do. If we’d lived a normal live-in-one-place life, I would probably still be a high school art teacher, because I really loved that! I like that living all over the world has caused me to try different things out and evolve so much.

A collaged photo of Katie in three different eclectic outfits with a painterly, bold background.

What sparked your interest in fashion? 

I subscribed to every teen fashion magazine in high school and ripped out ads for all my favorite colorful playful ads to inspire me. Over the years I found that the stores didn’t have quite what I wanted…Not enough color, not enough fun! So… I started sewing my own clothes. 

Katie Kortman modeling a vibrant dress and holding fabric plants in front of a pink wall

What are three words to describe your style?

Bright, Bold, Playful. 

A woman models a dress next to a red building. The dress is pink with large abstract shapes in magenta, blue, cobalt, and bright green.

What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?

I have a BFA degree in Drawing in Painting and a Master of Arts in teaching. I spent years studying color, and all the elements and principles of design. All of my art studying and training definitely influenced my entire career path! 

Katie works on a yellow jacket while standing by a dress model. Katie's wearing a pink, red, yellow, and green colorful dress.

Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now?

My main job has been my kids since I had my first 12 years ago, and I’ve had a bunch of different jobs while doing that! I was a display artist for Anthropologie straight out of my undergrad, sold paintings in art galleries, got a masters and taught high school art, owned my own hair accessories business, taught paint and sip classes out of my home while living in Bahrain, taught high school art again, became a fabric designer, and recently became a fashion designer! It’s been an evolution for sure. 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

After years of sewing, and 3 years of exclusively sewing my own clothes, I went on Project Runway. In my youth I’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, but I hadn’t spoken that dream out loud in a very long time because I never thought It could happen without a fashion degree. After filming the show this summer, I was completely driven to pursue fashion, not just for myself.  I came home and immediately began working to get a line ready to launch in the fall! 

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

Just going on Project Runway. It was a DREAM come true!!!!

Katie stands by a dress model working on a green blazer design.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations? 

They come as I work. I pull out fabrics and play with them as I sew, seeing what they want to become. 

How do you make social connections in the creative realm?

I joined Instagram purely to connect to other creatives and to have conversations about the things I was making. I appreciate having that platform for this reason! 

Editorial photo of women modeling Katie Kortman's vibrant designs.

How has social media influenced your work?

If it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have ever been “discovered,” and therefore been compelled to learn fabric design, and the casting people for PR wouldn’t have reached out to me to try out for the show! I owe so much to social media! 

Katie on a beach wearing a pink and blue bathing suit she designed. It has two pieces, and the top is a 3/4 length sleeve tankini. The bottom is high waisted.

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, and Matthew Ritchie are some of my favorite artists, and I really admire Rachel Burke of @Imakestagram, Michelle Norris of @tropicophoto, and so many others.

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

Project Runway season 19 of course!!!!!!!! And I am part of a book club so we read all different things which I love. I would stick to similar types of books if it weren’t for book clubs that pushed me to read something else! And I love hip-hop music the very most, but when I need to get pumped up I often put on Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, or the Beatles (music my dad raised me on!). 

A model wears Katie's pink overjacket with a yellow top underneath and white pants with colorful details. The backdrop is pink with yellow and pink rectangles.

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

My mom told me “You can do anything you put your mind to.” And I have carried that with me my whole life. It is so ingrained in my mind, that I have never even questioned that advice! There have been a few things in my life that I couldn’t MAKE happen just because I tried hard though, and that was very frustrating! Haha. 

What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year? 

I have a nice open studio space in my home, right off the living room and kitchen. I like to be able to work while also spending time with my family, so I always keep my space in a central locale. My creative space changes every time I move, and during the pandemic I moved a crossed the world to Japan. In my current space I have these pretty Shoji doors that let in translucent light, and I love them! I love my room to be neat and tidy, but when I’m knee-deep in projects it’s rarely that way!

Katie Kortman and her kids sit around a sewing machine and work on a project.

How do your surroundings influence your work?

My surroundings influence me only in how inspired I feel to create. Most of my inspiration comes from within, so I can be creative anywhere. But having a lot of natural light and space is really important for me to feel energized to create! 

Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you climb out of a creative slump?

I love routines and I hate wasting time. I always have projects out and ready to be worked on, so that if a moment presents itself I can work on something. I usually have “to-go” projects ready, sewing projects, and phone projects. So you might catch me at a girl’s night sewing on buttons, at swim practice cutting out patterns, or at a kid’s doctor’s appointment editing photos on my phone. No time is wasted if I can help it! I also make sure I workout every morning. I work really hard for about an hour or so, and that really does provide the energy and fuel to get me through the day! 

Katie Kortman wearing rainbow striped pants, blue boots, and a blue blazer with lines and dots.

What is a typical day like for you? 

I am up at 6 to get my kids to school, then I workout for 60-75 minutes, shower, get dressed and get my youngest to Yochien. Then I work until I have to pick up the youngest from school , and I get about 30 more minutes to work before the rest come home. After that, I do bits and pieces of work in between homework and dinner time! I often work after they go to bed as well. I try to be in my bed by 10:30! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

The internet is your best friend right now! In-person classes are the best, but if that’s not an option, there are so many places to learn. I am self-taught at sewing, fashion design, and fabric design and some of those things I learned from internet classes! 

Katie wears a blue dress with painterly yellow marks and red details. Her earrings are yellow, her headband is blue with red splotches, and she's wearing blue and green wedge sandals with red and yellow socks underneath.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

I just did a sprint triathlon on a whim last weekend (we signed up less than a week before and didn’t have time to train for it), and I loved it SO MUCH that now I’m working to actually train for one! I am looking to get a road bike, which is NOT as easy as the Townie bike I rode for the triathlon! Haha. SO that will be a skill I’m working on! I also learned to knit during the pandemic and I’m continuing to work on that skill! 

Katie poses under a sheer magenta piece of clothing.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?

I saved up money from all the blogging, IG “Influencer” gigs, and Fabric Designing and didn’t spend anything because I wanted to save it for something in the future. I wasn’t sure what it would be for, as I was saving it, but I knew I’d want to launch something in the future (I’d been saving for about 2 years). I used this money, plus some money from our family account, to fund my Fall 2021 Collection! 

A model wearing a green Katie Kortman blazer with a pink, white, and blue top underneath. She has a headdress made of fabric leaves and she's standing by a pink and yellow wall.

Is there anything more you would like to “become?” 

I feel like I’m just now becoming a Fashion Designer, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever happen. I have so much to learn and so I would still like to work on becoming a legit Fashion Designer!!!

What is your long-term goal?

I have no idea. Umm….. I’d like to do a runway show at NYFW??? I’d like to expand my business to greater levels, and have it sold in Brick and Mortar stores… maybe even Anthropologie?

Katie Kortman modeling a vibrant dress she's designed.

More Inspiration

Make sure you follow Katie Kortman on Instagram @KatieKortmanArt and @KatieKortmanClothing so you can keep up with her exciting work. You can also sign up for her newsletter here to be among the first to see her new clothing line coming out this fall!

You can also read more Becoming interviews here. If you’re especially interested in fashion, you’ll love reading about Stacey Fraser, Romy-Krystal Cutler, and Whitney Lundeen.

A woman models one of Katie Kortman's designs – a blue and purple dress– while holding a plant.

My new board member role at Nest: Part 2

Artisans in Afghanistan

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say how heartbroken I’ve been over what’s been happening in Afghanistan lately. As soon as the Taliban took over on August 15th, I wrote to my colleagues at Nest to find out about their involvement with artisans in Afghanistan. Turns out, Rebecca van Bergen, founder of Nest, was quoted in The New York times for highlighting the role of crafts in communities and nations as well as in economic development. In fact, Nest has been present in Afghanistan since 2015 and works with a network of 6,700 craftspeople in the country, 89 percent of whom are women.

I’d highly recommend reading the article (here), but in summary, it talks about how the fashion industry and its craftspeople have been forced to go into hiding since the Taliban took over Kabul. Up until a couple of weeks ago, these designers had been using their art to transform their recent tragic history. Fashion was one of the few ways that they could express themselves. Turns out, Kabul was once known as the Paris of central Asia and even before that, the center of the Silk Road, and has quite a rich design history. In fact, Vogue did a story about it in the late 1960s featuring its biggest export–goat skin coats. You can see more of the photos over here (And read this article for more insights into Afghanistan before the Taliban. SO fascinating).

The global impact of this organization is one reason of many why I’ve committed to Nest as an advisory board member. Here are some more.

Nest’s mission is three fold:

  1. Global Economic Inclusivity

Did you know that it is estimated that there are 300 million home-based workers globally? That’s an incredible number! And guess what? As an informal economy, they are underserved. Nest is focused on increasing the supply and demand for responsible handcraft, generating economic opportunity for home-based workers at the bottom of the supply chain–many of them women.

2. Women’s Well Being Beyond Factories

Here’s another fun fact: craft-based work is the second largest employer of women globally—providing a source of livelihood to those limited in their ability to work outside the home. Using universal standards for homes and small workshops, Nest is making female handworkers visible while promoting their fair access to social and economic opportunity. Can you imagine if we contributed to improving such a huge population?! This is women supporting women if I’ve ever heard it.

3. Cultural Preservation

Around the world, time honored cultural traditions embedded in craftsmanship are in danger of being lost. Nest is committed to reviving these techniques through business innovation and a shift in consumer perception surrounding the value of handcraft. It’s so crucial to preserve history, because once lost it can’t be retrieved.

How is Lars supporting nest specifically?

Nest has a US program called Makers United, with the aim of addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the growing makers’ movement by elevating makers from under resourced communities. Makers United has grown to 6 regions and is reaching 538 creative entrepreneurs to build a more vibrant and economically thriving makers movement.
100% of the donations to The Nest That Lars Built will go directly to Nest in support of their Makers United Program supporting capacity building and market access programming for US makers.
Lars is a community of makers in countries from all around the world–it baffles me that we can unite in the name of making beautiful things. I’m also aware that you are generous and interested in making a difference. I’ve seen in time and time again in the 13 years I’ve been doing this.
We’ve made a goal to raise $50,000 dollars by the end of 2021. It’s a very ambitious goal (I’m sweating thinking about it) considering it’s already September, but I’m confident that we can do it. Tomorrow we’ll share a new project that will help us raise these funds.

Please consider donating to Nest here.

Lars’ new mission is to encourage people to make with their hands AND help makers across the world be able to do the same. Nest is our channel to do so. Let’s do this!

 

Read about why I chose to become a board member to Nest here

Photos from Vogue in 1969 and scenes from Afghanistan from here

Our new collection of cell phone cases! (and discount code)

New cell phone cases from The House That Lars Built

I was gifted a yellow cell phone case a year or so ago from Casetify and and it is seriously the best. Super protective, plus a fun color. I’m unintentionally very harsh with my case and it protects it so well. (I paired it with this adorable socket from our shop and it’s extra cute.)

Bright and colorful retro vibes

I loved Casetify’s cell phone case quality so much so I was stoked to partner up with them with our first collection. I wanted to do some designs that are super current but also super Lars so lots of color of course combined with the ever trending checkerboard (we’re keeping it around as long as we can!), flowers in fun shapes, colorblock, waves, marbling and more!

Here are some of my favorite cell phone cases:

You might have guessed that the colorblock flowers cell phone case is my absolute favorite. It has that quilt thing going on that you know I’m in love with right now. But really, I might need to have a case of the day because they are all that cute.

I also love the “Call Me” in chunky letters and abstract shapes above. It’s subtle yet serves a purpose 😉

Some of the cases are transparent so that the color of your phone can shine through. Mine happens to be yellow so I love the idea of that peeking through on this one below:

Customizing your phone case

Casetify allows you to customize your cell phone case in dozens of ways. You can change the border color, the transparent color, the type of case you want, and so many other details that make it so good.

There are so many more AND AND even apple watch bands and AirPod cases. I can’t wait for you to take a look and let me know what you think.

Casetify Discount code

Casetify is giving Lars readers 15% off their order with promo code THLB15 at checkout.

If you get one of our cell phone cases, tag us with #Larsforcasetify. Would love to see them! 

If you like this post, you might also like our laptop covers post! 

My new advisory board role: Part 1

Nepal

As you might imagine, Internet was spotty, but also crucial for my job, so when the connection went down on the construction site, I hiked with a couple of others to the next mountain (people who know me now are like…what?!??!?!? hiked?!?!?! YES, HIKED!) and plugged in at the phone tower. In order to get up there, I passed a number of small houses complete with mini farms–chickens, goats, luscious hydrangeas. It was so beautiful. It was also typhoon season, which brought on spectacular views AND a constant thread of crazy rain storms. (I wish I could find my hard drive from 10 years ago with all the pictures!)

We must have made a scene because we were soon joined by a few villagers. Through a translator or hand gestures, I can’t remember, we got to talking and they shared their beautiful handiwork with me. Handmade pewter plates and textiles and more. I was floored. Their work was exquisite.

At the time I was super interested in manufacturing so I was trying to come up with ways to work together. But, like I mentioned, I was fresh out of graduate school and had recently gotten married and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark so I wasn’t in a spot where I could feasibly make too much happen, both financially or logistically–I, myself, was trying to navigate a new country, social system, network, not to mention everything that comes with marriage. I couldn’t take on too much more.

Women Makers in Nepal

What I learned in those weeks was how crucial women were to the building and heart of the the village. In fact, these women, young and old, were the ones who traveled up and down the mountain with huge baskets on their backs full of heavy rocks, the building material of the memorial that was being constructed. There was also a community center designed for the women of the village to host their individual business like nails, micro blading, and making these really cool pom pom blankets and I got to spend some time there. They even dressed me up in their traditional clothing and I felt like a super model because my normally average height in the US was now considered very tall. Ha!

The business origins

Oftentimes the origins of their businesses started from places of sorrow. For example, the owner of the micro blading business began her venture after her husband left her and she could no longer fall back on her family because they had disassociated themselves from her, which is common for the culture. They became enterprising because of the need to survive. Witnessing it for myself instilled in me a desire to be involved somehow, someday, but I didn’t know how to do so when I was also at a point in my life when I also needed to be enterprising.

Kathmandu

After the memorial was dedicated, we spent some time in Kathmandu, which was truly an out of this world experience. It was my first time in Asia and everything felt so foreign, but SO exciting–the colors, the pace, the smells. One highlight of the trip was visiting a rug factory where some of the luxury rug companies that you might be familiar with are made. They showed us how they dyed the yarns and how they turned those yarns into the intricate weavings that become full rugs. Women and men sat atop scaffolding that can lift them higher or lower depending on the size of the rug.

Family involvement in factories

What I found most interesting of this factory visit was how the children would gather in the work space after they were done with school. Sometimes they would sit right next to the parent. My memory is now fuzzy, but I want to say that I recall someone nursing their baby while working. As one who currently works from home and nurses her 7 month old baby, it feels like a privilege, but also super complex. But that’s a story I want to dive into at a later date.

10 years later

As you might know, over the years I continued to work on The House That Lars Built, the blog I had started in 2008 for graduate school (you can read more about it here). It has grown into a multi-person company where we encourage people to make things with their hands. We believe that there is a project and a time frame for every person because making something with your hands has the power to transform your well-being. And when you get in touch with your hands you tap into your soul, which is very powerful connector to your identity and culture.

Knowing this, and witnessing first hand how important the handmade economy is around the globe and even more so now than it was 10 years ago, I’ve found an organization that I have invested time and money into and will now be working with as an official advisory board member: Nest, a non-profit that supports women makers in the handmade economy.

Nest and the handmade economy

I became familiar with Nest a couple of years ago when we joined in on their 25 days of Making. Later that year we worked with 18b to donate profits from our shops for Giving Tuesday, which continued to last year. Most recently, we shared how they’ve been involved with helping some of the quilt makers from Gee’s Bend put their beautiful work onto their new Etsy shops.

As an advisory board member, I wholeheartedly support the organization in the fulfillment of its mission, vision, and strategy. I will be sharing more about the organization next week and an exciting project we are working on together. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, you can read more about our partnership and learn how to donate here.

Fall 2021 Internship Call

Fall 2021 Creative Internships at The House That Lars Built

The House That Lars Built is a creative design studio and website focused on artful living through beautifully produced original content. Our goal is to help empower its readers recognize and fill your life with beauty while also providing skills that you can take with you to your next job! We create daily blog content, content for other brands, products, a YouTube channel, and are constantly seeking new ways to create an artful living. We are looking for interns in the following categories:

  1. Illustration
  2. Graphic Design/Marketing (3 different positions: Pinterest, Newsletter, Instagram, TikTok/Reels)
  3. Shopping
  4. Crafting
  5. Content Writing
  6. E-commerce (product development and Shopify)
  7. Marketing
  8. Art Curation
  9. Interior Design (we have an extra cool project this semester!)

Click here for in-depth descriptions of what each internship includes!

Why intern?

Here at The House That Lars Built, we are passionate about internships! Brittany herself has completed many internships all around the world, and her experiences are what set her up to turn what started as a graduate project into a full-time growing business.

Things like our top 7 tips for nailing your internship will help you stand out in your field. An internship can (and should) be the gateway to the rest of your creative career. Whether or not your personal brand or your future plans align perfectly with the Lars Brand, your experience writing, designing, or illustrating for an existing brand will build your skills, portfolio, and resume.

As an ever-evolving company, while working with The House That Lars Built you will have hands-on opportunities to adjust what you have studied in a new market and changing economy. Working with a small team will allow everything you do during your internship to be seen, and your impact will be felt and noticed. You will have opportunities to utilize the skills you already have and improve in new areas.

Many of these internships listed above have a long legacy here are the House that Lars Built! Lars Alumni are part of a creative, passionate, and inspired community working to make the world more colorful! As a part of the Lars team, you will instantly have networking opportunities at your fingertips that can be vital to your career in a creative field.

In addition to our long standing internships, we are so excited to have some brand new focuses available! More specific internships such as art curation, newsletter marketing, and e-commerce were created to help you narrow down which direction you want to go in your long-term career. Click here to read more about what these new internships include.

Details on all internships

Interns will specialize in their respective category but may participate in the following:

  • Assisting on photo shoots
  • Helping with the general maintenance of the studio
  • Running errands and complete shipping tasks
  • Writing and brainstorming activities
  • participating in training meetings
  • assistant duties

Internships but can be used for university credit, in fact we highly encourage this. The applicant will need to work with your university to get it approved.

You must be able to work a minimum of 12 hours per week. We expect a full commitment to the position once you’ve accepted the position. The internship will last from until late August 2021. Exact days and times can be flexible.

How to apply

Please email hello@thehousethatlarsbuilt.comwith the subject line INTERN and the desired position. Include your resume and portfolio (can be online, photos, basically anything to help us understand your proficiency and skills) and a cover letter. We will email you back to invite you in for an interview.

Please don’t hesitate to apply! Many of our internships can be specialized to fit both our current needs and your amazing skills!

Becoming Loria Stern

In 2011, Loria Stern started attending adult education classes entitled “Medicinal and Edible Plants” where she learned about foraging and the power of plant medicine. She started combining her culinary skills with the knowledge she was learning about botanicals. All the while she was posting her bespoke creations on Instagram. In 2016 her work was highlighted in Vogue Magazine and she received over 30,000 followers overnight. Fans were asking where they could purchase her treats so she started selling them on her website. The first day she posted her treats, she received over 20 orders. Since that day, her business has grown into a successful baking operation where she employs 4 helpers with living wages. She’s still growing her business, writing a cookbook and pitching a TV show. Exciting things are in store for this hardworking woman!

Loria is wearing a floral dress and standing in a kitchen surrounded by colorful produce.

Meet Loria Stern

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, baker, business person, educator, etc.?

Well, I consider myself all of these things but more so one than the other depending on what day of the week we’re talking about. I would say I started out as an artist and maker, and then became a baker and now my daily tasks are more of a business person and educator. 

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now? 

I grew up in Ojai, CA, a small quaint town nestled in between large mountains but just a 20 minute drive to the beach. The town had a lot of nature–my childhood neighborhood streets were lined with tall oak trees. There was and still is a huge element of health consciousness and spirituality in Ojai and I think those elements absolutely influenced what I do now and the person I’ve become. 

Loria stands with her back to the camera. She's surrounded by fresh cut flowers and she's wearing a straw hat, and there are misty mountains in the background.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger? 

Of course I wanted to be a professional tennis player! That dream ended around 14 years old and then I wanted to be an artist. I guess that dream has come true except through a different medium (culinary arts vs. the visual arts).

Rolled out cookie dough with colorful pressed flowers pressed onto each round circle of dough.

Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path? 

Not really one single person, but more so a number of different friends who loved eating the foods I cooked and baked for them and encouraged me to follow this path.

What sparked your interest in edible flowers? 

I’ve always loved flowers (who doesn’t?!) but it wasn’t until I started learning about the medicinal properties of botanicals in my 3 semesters of the adult education classes that my love for combining edible flowers + botanicals with cooking and baking, really opened up an entire new craft for me. 

Rolled out cookie dough with colorful pressed flowers pressed onto each round circle of dough.Brightly colored flowers pressed onto sugar cookies on a wooden background.

What are three words to describe your style? 

Creative, happy and cool.

What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career? 

I graduated with a BA from college and spent my last year painting and drawing. I was in an art show in my final year of college and sold several pieces. As noted earlier, I also took 3 semesters of adult education classes post college– “Medicinal + Edible Plants” and learned a lot about treating ailments naturally with wild, edible plants. I also attribute my dedication as a competitive tennis player to my strong work ethic, which I think is the most important aspect of my current success. 

Loria sits cross-legged on a teal blanket surrounded by pressed flowers in books and a cup of tea.

Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now? 

I did not really have a career after graduating college in 2006–I more so worked a bunch of odd jobs to pay the rent–teaching tennis, nannying, working as an assistant, etc. It was not until 2010 when I worked my first job as a prep chef that I really learned my love for the culinary arts and that I wanted to make this a career.

What inspired you to become a baker/florist/gardener? 

My love for nature, working with my hands and discovering new alchemic combinations.

Brightly-colored flowers pressed onto green matcha cookie dough.

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why? 

I love making tall tiered wedding cakes and delivering them to the venue. It is always so rewarding.

Tall wedding cake frosted with white frosting and purple and yellow flowerscake frosted with blush pink frosting with purple, yellow, and white pansies pressed onto it. It's styled in a pink draping fabric with a vase of flowers.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations? 

In nature first and foremost. 

How do you make social connections in the creative realm? 

Many via Instagram, I’ve met some of my best friends and have found a beautiful, supportive community of my work there.

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present? 

Gah, there are so so many! Truly too hard to just pinpoint a few.

Horizontal photo of Loria wearing a floral dress and holding a tray of baked cookies. Flowers are pressed onto the top of each one.

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days? 

My father was a jazz clarinetist and music pervades much of my childhood. I love all types of music and have found there is a time and a place for every genre of music. I love documentaries and listening to podcasts. But I try to stay away from negative media as it definitely affects my mood.

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto? 

Work hard and always do your best. Hold yourself and others accountable. Treats others how you’d want to be treated.

Horizontal photo of Loria measuring sugar into a yellow mixing bowl. She's in a kitchen and surrounded by flowers and a turquoise kitchenade mixer

What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year? 

I moved to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara just one month before the pandemic began. I had to find a new commercial kitchen and employees within that time and it was extremely difficult to say the least. Looking back, I feel so grateful for the commercial baking space and my LA helpers. 

Loria stands in a field of zinnias wearing a white dress and a straw hat. She's holding a basket full of flowers.

How do your surroundings influence your work? 

So much. I realized I am creatively motivated by my physical space. I love natural light and need to be close to nature. 

Loria bends down to pick wildflowers in a meadow. She's wearing a white dress and a straw hat.

Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you climb out of a creative slump? 

Exercise is always a good idea and I have found it to be the number one cure for all sorts of slumps. 

What is a typical day like for you? 

I enjoy waking up early. I drink coffee first thing in the morning, then I’ll mosey around my backyard garden with coffee in hand. I’ll stroll up to my home office, check business and personal emails, and then the day is off and running. I usually pick edible botanicals from my garden then meet my team at the bakery. We start cranking our baking orders and then before I know it, it’s 6pm! Then I’ll come home, meet up with my boyfriend and we’ll cook dinner and watch a show.

Loria decorating a pan of focaccia with flowers and vegetables. She's shaped them into a floral scene.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

To learn as much as you can about the hobby / skill. There is so much readily available information that one can learn online that school is not necessary as long as there is curiosity, dedication and a strong work ethic.

Loria standing at the head of a banquet table full of food and flowers. It is sunset and there are mountains in the background.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on? 

I’d say tennis is my secret talent for those who are just meeting me now! Otherwise, I’m working on learning how to surf but it’s extremely hard!

Two pans of botanical cookies with pressed flowers. The ones on the top are a vanilla shortbread and the ones on the bottom are pink.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business? 

Gah, I am still trying to figure that out. I have not accepted investment from outside sources however am currently looking into it to grow my business!

A plate of baked floral shortbread stacked up. In the background there are lots of flowers scattered.

Is there anything more you would like to “become?” 

I’d like to become more well-traveled. I want to visit Japan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Sweden, and the list continues! I want to visit these places and learn about new ingredients and cooking techniques and share those with an audience so that they can live on and evolve into our current day’s food. 

A film photograph of Loria walking away from the camera through a field of wildflowers. She's wearing a white dress and a straw hat and there are trees and mountains in the background.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years? 

First and foremost, I hope to remain healthy! Secondly, I hope to open up a physical commissary kitchen with a retail space, classroom and on-site edible flower garden so that I can teach my botanical infused culinary arts to the greater community. There is so much information that I find so inspiring and interesting, I am sure others will as well.

Loria sitting on a bed with teal bedding and flowers in a bowl. She's wearing a beige jumpsuit and there's low, moody lighting.

Can’t get enough of Loria Stern?

We don’t blame you! Follow Loria’s work on her Instagram @LoriaStern and don’t forget to check out her website, where you can buy her delicious, beautiful creations!

Years ago we wrote a post about using edible flowers, and I hope that this interview with Loria Stern makes you even more excited to incorporate beautiful botanicals into your meals (like this edible flower pot).

Read more Becoming interviews here to keep the inspiration flowing!

Loria walking through a meadow of flowers wearing a white dress and a straw sun hat. She's holding a basket of flowers and the sky is blue.

All photos are courtesy of Loria Stern.

Becoming: Sarah Cambio of Flower Lane

I’m so glad that I found Sarah Cambio’s business, Flower Lane! Her work is so high-quality, beautiful, intentional, happy… I’m not about to run out of adjectives describing how much I love what she does. I loved getting to know her a bit better, and I hope you do too!

Sarah Cambio is the founder of Flower Lane; a small shop that handmakes embroidered linen crowns. Inspired by all things whimsical and nostalgic, Flower Lane delivers keepsakes that can be cherished forever. Sarah immigrated from Germany to the US when she was 11 years old. Not knowing how to speak English, she spent that summer learning before jumping into school. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. 

A light grey linen kids birthday crown with the phrase "May you find a muddy puddle to splash in wherever you go."

Becoming Sarah Cambio of Flower Lane

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?

I think I see myself as a hybrid between a designer and maker, but slowly learning how to be a business person. I love making things with my hands but also really enjoy the business side. There is so much to learn and I love that! 

Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I was born in Germany and immigrated to the US when I was 11 years old. I grew up in what many here know as a Waldorf type setting and I think that has always inspired me. When I think of Waldorf I think of whimsy things, traditions, and seeing the beauty of childhood. 

Handmade linen kids birthday crowns in pink, yellow, mint, orange, and blue.

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

So many things! I never had my heart set on just one thing and thought it would be so cool to be everything from an FBI Agent, a teacher, or social worker. 

What sparked your interest in making kids birthday crowns? 

I was inspired by crowns made from felt and wanted something similar for our daughter’s 3rd birthday. I taught myself how to sew and added my own twist; using linen, adjustable ties, wooly pom poms, and embroidering the child’s name. 

What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?

I graduated from High School with a full scholarship, attended college for 2 semesters, dropped out, and a decade later completed my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. I volunteered as an EMT for about 2 years and quit because Flower Lane was taking off–a complete 180 from what I pursued my education in.

A grey linen kids birthday crown with rainbow pom poms and the name "tillie" embroidered on it. It's on a pink background.

What inspired you to start a business?

I’ve always dreamed about having my own business and felt so inspired by those around me who were running theirs successfully. It wasn’t until we got pregnant with our 4th that I decided that this is it! 

A few months prior I taught myself how to sew with a $20 Facebook Marketplace sewing machine. It took me forever to figure out how to sew in a straight line and a circle was basically impossible! I purchased patterns and jumped right in and learned how to sew clothes while teaching myself how to use my machine at the same time.

A handmade rabbit doll on top of pink kid's clothes.
Sarah made this rabbit and these kid’s clothes when she was first learning to sew.

Once I understood patterns, sewed straight lines, and learned about fabric, I began making stroller clips because that’s what I wanted for my baby. A cute little toy that clipped onto the canopy of the stroller. 

During this time we lost our baby. I felt alone and depressed. There was a lot of grieving. I went back to sewing clothes as a way to work through my emotions.

linen clothes in neutral colors against a wooden backdrop 

In September of 2020 I opened my Etsy store with the stroller clips I worked so hard on. They were a complete failure. I took a month long break and almost quit but something was telling me to keep going. 

A waldorf-inspired handsewn doll wearing a pink linen dress. The doll has brown braids, pink cheeks, simple features, and is on a beige background.
One of Sarah’s first projects

This is when I shared my birthday crowns. Something I was holding in my back pocket until that coming January – our daughter’s 3rd birthday. They sold out the same day I posted them! 

I continued sharing, updating, and building a small Instagram community the rest of 2020. This was also the same time my best friend mailed me her embroidery machine and I started customizing crowns with the child’s name. 

Handmade Flower Lane birthday crowns

This business has been such an emotional journey for me and I’m so grateful for all the good that has come from Flower Lane. 

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

I’m really proud of how much my husband and I have learned in such a short period of time. We both come from non business backgrounds and it’s not a walk in the park. We have to be a team and work together to run Flower Lane every day while also juggling a busy family. 

Where do you find inspiration for new creations? 

If only there were a few more hours in each day! The one thing all of my ideas have in common is that they are inspired by childhood and family traditions. I want to make something that can be used again and again and brings back a feeling of nostalgia. 

Two kids wearing linen birthday crowns and playing. A girl is wearing a pink dress and white crown, and a boy is wearing a blue sweater, yellow shorts, and a grey crown. They're in a light-filled room.

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

This question had me a little stumped because I couldn’t think of any artists, specifically. I look up to people in my life not for being an artist but for the person they are. I’m inspired by people who create and live a purposeful life. 

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

I love getting lost in a good fiction book, enjoy watching The Walking Dead, and listening to 80’s rock. 

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

I have missed out on  many opportunities and wasted so much time because I never believed in myself. Either I wasn’t qualified or my work wasn’t good enough.  Stop seeking permission from others to do what you feel you are called to do. Be confident in yourself and don’t wait. The right time to start is now!

Two hands tying a bow on the ties at the back of a linen kids birthday crown. There are a few other crowns along the top of the image, and the background is blue.

How do your surroundings influence your work?

It’s so important to surround yourself with things that inspire you. I have a hard time working when there’s chaos. I like for things to be aesthetically pleasing but also functional. Flower Lane has taken over a large portion of our lower level and we had to really think about how to make the most use of our space. 

Sarah Cambio's workspace. There's a big wooden island, open wooden shelves filled with materials, and a fiddle leaf fig. Sarah's daughter is wearing pink and sitting by the shelves at a computer.
Sarah’s daughter sitting in her workspace

What is a typical day like for you? 

My day always starts with a cup of coffee, breakfast for our youngest, and checking emails. This is also when I check on our chickens; Emily, Annie, and Betsy!

Our youngest goes to daycare a couple of times a week and those are very busy work days for me. On the days she is home, she plays in her play area in my office. Lots of breaks get taken on those days. 

Our oldest two are helpful and my husband puts in a lot of hours during his off time. It’s not the most ideal schedule but it actually works for us! 

We have lunch around noon and before we know it it’s time to take our older two kids to their activities. One plays hockey and the other does MMA. We’re busy around here! 

During the summer months, dinners and bedtimes are late. Once our youngest is in bed my husband and I work a little more and then watch a show or two before bed. 

Every day is a little different here! 

two flower lane embroidered birthday crowns on a blue background

What is one skill you wished you learned when you were younger?

How to sew! It’s such a useful skill to have in your toolbox. Our oldest daughter learned how to sew at the same time I did and I love that. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

We have so many resources these days to get started on a new hobby and skill. Watch YouTube, practice, and learn from others in the field you’re interested in. Stay inspired and surround yourself with what you want to learn.

flower lane crowns in orange, yellow, pink, blue, and light blue on a yellow and pink background.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

Finding a rhythm between family and work. I’ve been a stay at home mom for almost 12 years and this is new to all of us. Learning to prioritize and understanding that I can’t do it all myself is something I’m working on.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?

I’m a big believer in not acquiring debt and knowing your numbers. Focus on one thing at a time and use that profit for growth. 

Is there anything more you would like to “become?” 

I would love to write a book someday, to be an author! I also have this random idea of owning an ice cream truck. Like a really cool one that serves waffle cones and scoops of the best ice cream. I miss the ice cream shops in Germany and I feel like we need that here! 

Jasper's yellow Flower Lane crown in a field of daisies.

What is your long-term goal? or What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?

Business wise I have big dreams for Flower Lane and one of those includes moving the business out of our home. We already work with talented individuals in our local community to create these sweet crowns and I would love to see us all together in one space someday. I would also love for my husband to join me full time.

Personally, I dream of finding our forever home. A place where we can gather with our children and grandchildren someday, make memories, and hang stockings from the mantle. It’s such a simple goal but I think that’s ultimately what drives me and keeps me inspired. 

Jasper sits in a field of daisies wearing a yellow Flower Lane crown and a striped yellow shirt.

More Inspiration

Be sure to follow Sarah on Instagram @shopflowerlane and look at her website here! You can buy our Lars x Flower Lane crowns on our shop here.

If you want to read about more inspiring creators, business women, and designers, you can look for more of our becoming essays here!

Becoming: Louise Pretzel from the Lars Print Shop

I’m so excited for you to meet Louise Pretzel, an illustrator extraordinaire and our newest addition to the Lars Print Shop!

Louise Pretzel is an illustrator inspired by vintage kitschery and the styles of yesteryear. Formally trained in the art of graphic design and traditional illustration, Louise brings a fresh take on a range of subject matter with favorite themes including decadent desserts, foraged wildflower bouquets, and nostalgic mid century oddities. She currently lives in the midwest with her husband and two fluffy dogs, where she works out of her home studio.

Meet Louise Pretzel!

What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.? 

When I was first starting out my career, I considered myself solely a designer. As of today I definitely consider myself an illustrator as well!

What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?

Hmm, definitely not an illustrator! I think at one point when I was trying to figure out what I should be, I thought being an anesthesiologist or radiologist sounded like viable career paths without actually considering the fact that I was terrible at math and science, lol. It wasn’t until about my junior year of high school where I realized that I could pursue what I actually enjoyed doing as a hobby (art and design) as a full time career. 

Louise Pretzel sits at her desk painting. The desk has paper flowers and a framed illustration of a rabbit on it.

Where did you grow up? Are there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?

I was born and raised in Southern California. Probably the biggest thing that influenced me to follow a path into art and design was actually practically living out my childhood on Neopets and Myspace, spending countless hours blinging out my pages with graphics made on a pirated bootleg version of Photoshop. Those were the days! Another big aspect that influenced my illustration style and aesthetic was going thrifting and antiquing with my mom and sister. Looking back now, since moving to the Midwest, I can say I was a bit spoiled with such easy access to so many great vintage and flea markets like the Rose Bowl.

What sparked your interest in illustration? What attracted you to this field?

Growing up I was always on the artsy side and took traditional illustration classes in high school and college. I ended up pursuing graphic design in college, since that seemed to be the “financially viable” path to take as an artist. I actually didn’t even consider being an illustrator, or even realize it was something I could be! But I would say that spark and interest in illustration was something I always had ingrained in me, but I just needed the right opportunity to allow myself to fully embrace and explore that path professionally.

What inspired you to become an illustrator?

My first job out of college was a graphic designer role, doing layouts for stationery and home decor items. We actually had two in-house illustrators, but at some point they both quit which ended up sort of forcing the graphic design team to take over the illustration duties. From there I had a lot of opportunities to create new original art, which really sparked my passion for illustration, and also provided me a space to experiment with different styles and methods of creating which was so great! That ultimately gave me the confidence to start creating illustrations on my own outside of my 9-5. 

A print of Louise Pretzel's elephant leans against a pink wall with wooden tree toys in front of it.

What are three words to describe your style?

Kitschy, whimsical, random? Haha. I am the worst at describing myself! I’d be more interested in finding out how other people describe my style!

What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?

Probably the most helpful advice that was instilled into me throughout my life came from my dad. He is a financial banker-type of guy, and he always encouraged me to negotiate, know your worth, and to walk away if the offer isn’t right. That has been essential advice to me as an artist, and has helped me walk away from a few opportunities with no regrets. And without fail, when I have walked away from those opportunities, a better one came my way! 

What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?

Having pursued graphic design in college, I think has really helped me as an illustrator. It gave me a lot of the technical know-how in terms of actually applying my art to products, knowing the essentials of typography and layouts, and being able to fully understand the printing process for setting up my files for clients. 

A print of Louise Pretzel's Rocking Horse leaning against a gold wall with pastel wooden blocks in front of it.

What are some stereotypes of your job that you wish to break?

I personally have trouble sticking to one style, it’s probably the biggest stereotype for an artist to be successful that you need to have a signature style. Maybe that’s true! But in that case maybe I don’t want to be successful. Lately I have been trying to just stick true to what brings me true joy as an artist, and a lot of that comes with trying new styles and experimenting with ways of creating. I think about having to stick to the same style for all of eternity… that sounds a bit boring! 

What is a typical day like for you? 

I usually wake up when the sun rises, fix myself a cup of coffee, and let my two little white fluffy dogs outside. My mornings are usually spent cuddling with my dogs on the couch, and catching up on email and social media. From there I pretty much just go into work mode with some breaks throughout the day! I love to take an afternoon break with some tea and cookies. Later on in the day I might do some gardening, take the dogs on a walk, fix dinner, and end with watching a movie or episode of whatever I’m currently binging with my husband. 

What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year? 

I actually bought and moved into my home during the pandemic, so I was able to set up my home office knowing that I would be spending a lot more time in it than I probably would have otherwise! I’ve surrounded myself with most of my vintage poodle collection, as well as plenty of art prints and paintings I’ve created over the years. Probably my favorite thing in my office is a vintage 1960’s student drafting table that I picked up from FB Marketplace which I promptly painted pink, and now use as my painting and crafting table! 

A collection of vintage poodles and other fun kitchery.

What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?

Actually, probably the spring garden print I created for the Lars shop! I love all the fun garden critters hiding within the flowers and foliage. I was actually inspired by my own garden for this print, which I made during the height of my tulip garden blooming, so it also feels a bit personal. This was actually my first year of being a homeowner, and subsequently, my first foray into gardening in a yard of my own. It was so exciting to see all the tulips pop up from the bulbs we planted in the Fall. I think the garden print captures that feeling of magic and excitement of seeing things begin to blossom in early Spring. 

Where do you find inspiration for new creations? 

I absolutely feel most inspired after a day of thrifting and antiquing. I always have my phone out taking pictures of the weirdest & kitschiest items I can find, as well as any amazing vintage color palettes, patterns, and typography. 

What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?

Historically, I look up to painters and textile print artists, often from the 50’s and 60’s. Artists like Tammis Keefe, Paule Marrot, and Vera Neumann to name just a few! Present day, I absolutely love the work of Emily Isabella, one of the artists in the Lars Shop! Her work is just absolutely splendid. I actually feel a bit honored to be sharing the same digital air-space as her in the shop! 

Louise sits at a desk painting a pink pretzel.

What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?

I just finished bingeing the last season of Shrill and I am pretty devastated it’s over. While I work on illustrations and client work, my go-to background noise is Married At First Sight. I’m also gearing up for the next season of the Bachelorette. Me and my friends always get together and do a fantasy league (of which I am currently the reigning champion). It’s the perfect excuse to get together, drink wine and eat more cheeses than anyone ever should in one sitting! Much needed after a year of quarantine. 

What is the most challenging part of your work? How have you, or how do you, overcome those challenges?

For me, the biggest challenges I face are finding the motivation to create new work and also imposter syndrome. I feel like those two feed into each other and create a cycle of self doubt. But when I find a moment of inspiration and I sit down and just make something that I love, I look back on those negative thoughts and I’m like “what were you thinking?! You’re amazing!”. It’s definitely a cycle of major highs and lows! 

A print of Louise Pretzel's Grasshopper leaning against a light blue wall with wooden rainbow and tree toys in front of it.

Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?

My secret talent is that I can yodel (poorly). But I always thought it would be cool if I could harness that skill (anyone know any professional yodel instructors out there? lol). As for skills I am working on, I only recently started illustrating more on my iPad, so I love learning new tips and tricks and experimenting with new brushes.

Is there anything more you would like to “become?” 

In terms of my illustration career, I don’t know what will come next! It’s actually only been about a year since I started doing my own illustration work as a daily practice and “putting myself out there” which essentially all began at the beginning of quarantine, so in that regard I feel like my journey as an artist is only just beginning, which is exciting! Outside of illustration, I have grand ideas of being able to someday move to a more rural area where I can have some chickens. 

Shot of Louise sitting at her desk from behind. The image is symmetrically composed and a corkboard with colorful notes and drawings hangs against the wall.

What is your long-term goal?

Aside from the chickens, I’d love to just keep illustrating and see where it takes me. Quite honestly, I have little to no expectations that this will bring me any great success. What is most important to me is that I keep the passion and joy of creating, always. If I can continue that, then I will consider myself wonderfully successful! 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?

Just do it! The hardest part (at least for myself) is getting that initial spark or motivation to simply begin, so I understand how it feels to be nervous about starting something new. I think the greatest advice would be to just begin and then keep moving forward, even if you think it’s terrible during the beginning, I think you often are surprised at the final result. 

A print of Louise Pretzel's Pull Duck Toy against a gold background. Pastel wooden block toys are arranged in front.

More to Love

If you loved reading about Louise Pretzel’s trajectory as an illustrator and creative, you’ll love looking at her work! You can find her prints for the Lars Print Shop here, her website here, and don’t forget to follow her on Instagram @LouisePretzel.

In addition to Louise Pretzel’s interview, you can read about more of our lovely Lars Print Shop artists and illustrators we’ve interviewed! Here’s an interview with Julie Marabelle, Becca Stadtlander, Cat Seto, Libby VanderPloeg, Amelia Giller, Justina Blakeney, Rachel Kiser Smith, and more!

Stay tuned for more Becoming interviews, coming soon. 

Pour myself a cup of ambition

Ambition

Naturally, I’ve always been ambitious starting from when I was young, though I didn’t always know what I was ambitious for. I was always a really good student, but I think the achievement of excellent grades was more to reach a standard of perfection rather than a specific outcome. Of course I knew, or at least I was taught, that excellent grades meant getting into a great college and lead to a better future and I was all about riding that train. I wanted to make something excellent with my life, whatever that was.

That drive wasn’t necessarily instilled in me by anyone in particular. In fact, my algebra teacher once asked me if my parents were forcing me to get certain grades, no doubt expecting them to be academic tyrants. It might have appeared that way because I would always spend hours trying to figure out equations. On the contrary, my parents were not strict at all and didn’t really push me–they didn’t need to. Math didn’t come easily to me so I worked at it. There was something nice about knowing there was a right answer–I just needed to figure out the best way to get there. It’s probably shocking to anyone who knows me now because I’ve pretty much given up on anything math-related.

In college I remember hearing a lecture about ambition described as a negative thing. This was news to me. I don’t remember too much about the details of that lecture other than feeling that something didn’t sit right. I didn’t buy it. But that’s kind of a motto for my life I suppose–figuring out where I personally sit with what I’m taught and then going for it.

As I mentioned, I didn’t always know what I was ambitious for so just kind of worked hard and acted upon the opportunities that came my way. I realize the immense privilege that comes with this statement–the fact that there ARE opportunities is something I’m grateful for. For example, I specifically joined the Orange County Junior Orchestra in middle school because they had announced that they would be touring France and England the following summer. I had been babysitting and saving my money since I was ten so I had amassed a tiny fortune (for me anyway 😉 and used it to go. We got to perform IN Monet’s Gardens at Giverny and in front of the Eiffel Towel and in places that I’m still shocked about now (I mean, how did they get the permits to do that?!?!). As you might imagine, the trip was absolutely transformative and informs a lot of who I am and how I see the world today.

The Burn Out

Well, as I’ve gotten older and become more exhausted/burned out in my hustling, I’ve started to realize the necessity of being ambitious FOR something. For one thing, I’ve learned that I’m not motivated only by money. If I was I’d definitely be doing something else with my life. Of course I’m motivated to build my business, pay my employees, support my family, and design the house of my dreams, etc., but the main reason I run Lars isn’t for that reason.

What are your motivations?

Additionally, though I’m sure I’d have to do more self reflection on the matter and I’m sure it’s not always the case, I’ve learned that I’m not motivated by the approval of others. I’ve gotten to a point where I feel comfortable owning my own choices and I don’t feel too much pressure to perform for others, whether it’s to make it look like I’m cooler than I am, richer than I am, more beautiful than I am. I’m quite fine with not being the best at all things all the time. Why? Because 1) there’s no such thing as being perfect 2) it’s really boring to be perfect 3) it’s too much upkeep to maintain a certain image that doesn’t really exist, you know?

Mission driven

A few years ago I decided that work is much more fulfilling when it’s attached to a purpose. I know that’s so millennial of me. My mission, our mission, for Lars is to 1) encourage people to work with their hands and 2) to live an artful life. Because when you work with your hands you live a better life and when you do it artfully, it’s intentional.

When I view it through this lens, it’s much easier to not resent work, which is something I have struggle with in the past including as recently as when I was pregnant last year. Anyone else feel super unmotivated and unambitious during pregnancy? Oooo, it’s bad for me!

Reframe ambition

Now that I have an infant and toddler, my ambition continues, but there’s less time and mental capacity. I’ll admit that sometimes I’ll have literally dozens of ideas of how I want to grow Lars and I’m only capable of working one to two hours a day, which is not super conducive to growing a thriving business (and that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it ALL day long–I just can’t implement it as efficiently as I had been). It’s been a point of frustration for me, and probably my team though I haven’t asked them directly and they probably wouldn’t verbalize it even if it was true.

Of course, I realize that childhood is short and I want to take advantage of my time with my children, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. For me, this isn’t an issue of motherhood versus work. It’s also not a “women can do it all” speech. Every woman is different and every situation is different, but I do believe my personal and professional missions can continue just as strong, but just reframed.

How? I’ve worked for years to get Lars to a point where I can have others join me and now I have a great team who I’ve had to rely on more than ever. I feel very lucky to have them and know that they also believe in propelling the mission. They’re not attaching themselves to ME but our MISSION and those are very different things.

SO! Here I am, literally writing this essay while holding a pacifier in my infant’s mouth hoping that he stays asleep for another ten minutes so I can finish this up and pick up Jasper from the babysitter. My ambition isn’t what it used to be because I’m not what I used to be. And perhaps it’s even better that way. I continue to dream and work towards my dreams. They’re different and I’m just working at recognizing the beauty in it all.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What motivates YOU? Is ambition a bad word? Tell me!

Spring/Summer 2021 Internship Call

Spring/Summer 2021 Creative Internships at The House That Lars Built

The House That Lars Built is a creative design studio and website focused on artful living through beautifully produced original content. Our goal is to help empower its readers recognize and fill your life with beauty while also providing skills that you can take with you to your next job! We create daily blog content, content for other brands, products, a YouTube channel, and are constantly seeking new ways to create an artful living. We are looking for interns in the following categories:

  1. Illustration
  2. Graphic Design/Marketing (3 different positions: Pinterest, Newsletter, Instagram, TikTok/Reels)
  3. Shopping
  4. Crafting
  5. Content Writing
  6. E-commerce (product development and Shopify)
  7. Marketing
  8. Art Curation
  9. Interior Design

Click here for in-depth descriptions of what each internship includes!

Why intern?

Here at The House That Lars Built, we are passionate about internships! Brittany herself has completed many internships all around the world, and her experiences are what set her up to turn what started as a graduate project into a full-time growing business.

Things like our top 7 tips for nailing your internship will help you stand out in your field. An internship can (and should) be the gateway to the rest of your creative career. Whether or not your personal brand or your future plans align perfectly with the Lars Brand, your experience writing, designing, or illustrating for an existing brand will build your skills, portfolio, and resume.

As an ever-evolving company, while working with The House That Lars Built you will have hands-on opportunities to adjust what you have studied in a new market and changing economy. Working with a small team will allow everything you do during your internship to be seen, and your impact will be felt and noticed. You will have opportunities to utilize the skills you already have and improve in new areas.

Many of these internships listed above have a long legacy here are the House that Lars Built! Lars Alumni are part of a creative, passionate, and inspired community working to make the world more colorful! As a part of the Lars team, you will instantly have networking opportunities at your fingertips that can be vital to your career in a creative field.

In addition to our long standing internships, we are so excited to have some brand new focuses available! More specific internships such as art curation, newsletter marketing, and e-commerce were created to help you narrow down which direction you want to go in your long-term career. Click here to read more about what these new internships include.

Details on all internships

Interns will specialize in their respective category but all are expected to participate in the following:

  • Assisting on photo shoots
  • Helping with the general maintenance of the studio
  • Running errands and complete shipping tasks
  • Writing and brainstorming activities
  • participating in training meetings
  • assistant duties

Internships are unpaid, but can be used for university credit, in fact we highly encourage this. The applicant will need to work with your university to get it approved.

You must be able to work a minimum of 12 hours per week. We expect a full commitment to the position once you’ve accepted the position. The internship will last from until late August 2021. Exact days and times can be flexible.

How to apply

Please email hello@thehousethatlarsbuilt.comwith the subject line INTERN and the desired position. Include your resume and portfolio (can be online, photos, basically anything to help us understand your proficiency and skills) and a cover letter. We will email you back to invite you in for an interview.

Please don’t hesitate to apply! Many of our internships can be specialized to fit both our current needs and your amazing skills!

Our commitment to giving

How COVID has affected our small business

About a couple of weeks into the pandemic in 2020, I realized that as a company, we wouldn’t be the same. I had already had to make some pretty drastic decisions about our small team, which, unfortunately, meant lay offs and other sad decisions. I was unsure about our future and it was the only thing I could control.

Picture Hope Coloring Book

Then the idea of a collective coloring book came to me in the form of Picture Hope: The Social Distancing Coloring Book. 60 artists contributed a coloring page to form this amazing book (yes, I proudly admit that it’s amazing!). I had had this idea of a collective coloring book for some time but it seemed like it would have the most impact if we could do it for a purpose. And it was! We were able to donate about $12,000 to various charities who have been hit hard by the pandemic! Incredible!

Ways to donate as a small business

As you can see, it literally took a catastrophe to get me comfortable with the idea that our small business could give to charity. I had always read about the benefits of donating even when you don’t think you can “afford” it so I knew I could somehow work it out, but it just never felt feasible. On a personal level, I give a percentage of my income away so you would think I would have learned that concept, but I just didn’t know what approach to take.

Witnessing that our tiny company had the support from our community to contribute $12,000 with our coloring book gave us the encouragement to keep on going. Yes, as a company we could have used every penny coming our way during such an uncertain time, but we knew that we needed to give and we were very much buoyed up by the support we were receiving to make it happen. There are so many people needing our help and we feel the responsibility to pitch in and give.Art for Coronavirus

Our Print Shop Artists who are giving

We were pumped when some of our Print Shop artists also wanted to find ways to contribute in their own way. Erin Jang, a NYC based designer, created this beautiful print and donates the profits from those sales to NYC based non-profits like the NY Food Bank. We are happy to use our platform and shop in order to make that happen and ended up matching those donations.

Amanda Jane Jones continues to contribute the profits from her Yum, Yummy, Yuck collection to charities. Additionally, she creates beautiful products on her own channels and contributes the profits to charities that she is passionate about.

The organizations we give to

During the holidays we teamed up with Love for our Elders, a non-profit focused on alleviating loneliness for the elderly. We committed to give a portion of our profits from our sales of Picture Hope for that month and were able to give $1440. According to Jacob Cramer, its founder and executive director, “This donation will help us so much as we continue to serve seniors and fight social isolation throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

Build a Nest

We were also able to contribute to Nest, a non-profit that 1) increases the supply and demand of the hand-craft industry 2) improves conditions for the women in these industries 3) preserves the culture and techniques of these hand-crafts. As a company who encourages people to make with their hands and celebrate the maker, this one lies near and dear to our hearts. Again, we were able to give $1440.

Neighborhood Art Center

Lastly, we got to hand out another check for $1440 from the sales of our kids’ art course, Great Artists! to an organization that hits close to home, literally. The Neighborhood Art Center is a local place where kids and parents can create, appreciate, and experience art. Their founder, Tallis Feltis said,

“Because of their generous donation we were able to make and hand out free Martin Luther King Day kits to our community, even though we couldn’t have a party this year we are so grateful they made it possible for children and their families to celebrate this important holiday together. We were also able to use their donation to offer another set of very low cost art classes for kids on Fridays, and we have loved being able to teach kids about so many amazing artists every week. @houselarsbuilt made a huge impact on the programming we were able to provide to the community and we are so grateful, thank you so much!!”

As you might imagine, I was in a puddle of tears upon learning about this news. It’s one thing to give money blindly and it’s another thing to hear how it’s directly affecting their organization. Jasper is now old enough to participate and we can’t wait to get more involved on a personal level.

Loveland Foundation

As a team, we’ve come to see the tremendous results from giving, which is why we are trying to incorporate it more into our work and flow. For example, for Martin Luther King Day we released a print that reads “Only in the darkness can you see the stars” and all the profits go to the Loveland Foundation, a charity that gives to people of color, particularly Black women and girls.

How We’re Helping Texas

Additionally, with the power outages and lack of water, food, and proper shelter in Texas, we are putting our Picture Hope Coloring Book donations to Kid’s Meals Houston. This non-profit delivers a meal to a family of a child for every $2 donated. Please consider making a donation for this very current need.

Black History Month

And now, lastly, for the rest of the month of February, Black History Month, we are providing our Alma Thomas class from our Great Artists! course at $10 (regularly $25) and donating the profits to The Ellington Fund. Our hope is to make this class accessible to more people because Alma Thomas should be a household name!
The Duke Ellington School in Washington, DC, where Alma Thomas lived for the majority of her life, was a couple of blocks away from my graduate school, Corcoran College of Art and Design. I passed it every day on my walk to school in Georgetown and always heard tremendous things about the talented students. The aim of this fund is to “support, promote, and empower the next generation of emerging artists, global citizens, and critical scholars by investing in their futures today.” This is truly something we can get behind.

How we’re giving going forward

This past year we discovered the ways in which we can serve and we are committed more than ever to continue. How? We plan on continuing to promote our Picture Hope Coloring Book as COVID continues to affect us. Additionally, because we have an in-house design team, we can continue to create products with specific charities in mind. We also have a new course coming out later this year and much like Great Artists! we plan on dedicating profits to it. Additionally, we can’t wait to become more hands on as COVID lets up and we have the ability go serve in person as a a team and individuals.
Some claim that giving is mainly to make you feel good, and while yes, it feels amazing to give, there’s just so much need right now that it feels impossible not to do it. I’m proud of my team who has been so on board to making this happen and constantly thinking about more ways to give back. And a huge applause for our accountant, Kerry, who has the tricky task of calculating a lot of numbers!
THANK YOU for being on board. We can do all of this because of you. It takes a community of supportive people to create a successful business AND support others on their way. We value you. Now, let’s keep on moving!
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