Interview by Demitri Levantis
Interview with owner Laura Guttridge
Laura Guttridge, better known as owner of Sea of Curiosities, is a UK based artist whose ornaments and artworks take influence from the whimsical, wonderful, fantastic, and the dark and creepy. We caught up with the artist to see what she has in store for the future and where her ideas come from.
Hello and thank you for your time today. Let’s start at the beginning; where did your interest in arts and crafts come from originally?
Thank you for inviting me to talk with you. I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember, my Mum and Nanna always encouraged me to make things, paint, draw, etc so I’ve always dabbled with something creative. I’ve never been one for sitting still, my hands are always busy making something.
What sort of items/artworks do you like to create and what have on sale at the moment?
My favourite thing to do is sculpt, I love working with polymer clay and epoxy clay creating dimensional art. Anatomical hearts are something I love to sculpt, I find them so powerful and fascinating, they also tap into my love of the macabre. I’m also working on improving my sculpting skills at the moment, taking myself out of my comfort zone sculpting things I haven’t done before.
At the moment I have quite a range of things from canvas artwork, sculptures, mixed media art, and decorative pieces such as apothecary bottles, boxes, and candle holders available.
When you first became an artist, what the first thing you created?
I think my first things were sculptures and paintings at school when I did GCSE Art, from there I took my own path and taught myself a range of skills. I always struggled as an artist with getting bored with one medium and wanting to try new things, I always felt like I had to choose just one but now I absolutely love combining different skills and materials to create art.
Are there any artists or art movements that you draw any influence from?
The things that I’m most influenced by are the things I find emotive, intriguing, and beautiful. I take influences from gothic architecture, the baroque movement, and Victorian-era mainly. There’s something about the amount of detail, the intricate nature of the gothic and baroque style that I admire so you’ll often find little nods and accents in my work to those. I also find that the classical style of art has so much depth, emotion, and even a little controversy which just adds layers of fascination.
Is this your full-time profession; is it hard to earn a living through art?
Yes, Sea of Curiosities is my full-time career. I was Project Manager in the IT industry and then unexpectedly was diagnosed with cancer 2016, I was creating projects as a hobby and to keep my mind busy. I decided that I needed to make some significant life changes and that started with my work, I wanted to do something that brought meaning and satisfaction rather than doing a career I didn’t enjoy so in October 2018 Sea of Curiosities was born.
It is definitely more difficult making a living an artist as it can be so unpredictable, there’s no regular monthly income like a salaried job and the economy also has an impact, if people are struggling financially then luxuries such as art and décor take a hit. There’s also a mass production culture where some people expect quick and cheap products which of course art is rarely either of those, it can be difficult for people to understand why some art has a higher cost but that’s because usually there’s so much time, skill, material and effort that goes into what we do.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
I’ve been fortunate in that it hasn’t affected business too much; the biggest hurdle has been shipping orders as I’ve had to limit how often I’ve been able to go to the Post Office and ensuring that I’m not impacting on their safety. There’s also been delays and restrictions so it’s slowed things down but thankfully not stopped completely. The other thing that’s probably most affected are the events I had lined up, I was due to trade at some larger events this year but those were cancelled it’s disheartening but completely understandable.
Lockdown has been a strange time: it’s not much different in that I work from home anyway but it’s made me slow down, rethink and plan new projects. It’s also been a chance for me to work on some of my skills.
Did your business take off fast or has it grown at a steady pace?
I think it’s grown at a steady pace over the last couple of years. The more I’m developing, improving, and creating the better the business does. I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gone along, then again I don’t think you ever stop learning and adapting especially when things like pandemics come along!
Are most of your items fashioned from the same materials or do you branch out?
My creations are made from a variety of materials and mediums. I don’t enjoy being limited to one material or medium so I like to mix it up. I also love that being a mixed media artist gives me the freedom to play with dimension, texture, and styles. One day I can be sculpting with clay, the next I can be making Victorian-style apothecary bottles and the next putting together a mixed media assemblage and painting.
What are the biggest non-artistic influences on your work, like books, films, or music?
Music is a big part of my life, I’m a huge metal and alternative fan so I often listen to music whilst I’m working. The mood of that definitely influences my work, if I’m listening to more macabre/darker music my work often ends up the same way. I usually find I have an idea for a project I put on the music to compliment it, it helps me get in the zone and mood.
Books, TV, and films also have a huge influence, as a fan of horror, macabre, sci-fi, and fantasy these themes definitely appear my work. One of my favourite books is Frankenstein, I worked on a large anatomical heart sculpture that was inspired by the story, I sculpted it to look like a fresh beating mechanical heart that Dr. Frankenstein had been working on in order to bring new life into the world.
Is there a time of year that you love more than anything like Halloween or Christmas?
Halloween for sure, not that I need an excuse to create spooky or horror-inspired art but that time of year is like a creative frenzy! I’m also surprisingly a huge summer lover, I like getting out into nature, into the woodlands and beaches so they also inspire some of my creations too.
Has anyone famous ever bought anything from you?
Not that I know of, maybe one day, who knows!
What do you like to do in your spare time outside of your art?
When I’m not working I’m usually still being creative, I’ve recently started learning to sew and I do horror/quirky needlework too. I’m also a bookworm so I really enjoy sitting down with a cup of tea and a good book, getting lost in another world or time. Other pastimes include going to gigs, festivals, and before social distancing, I spent my spare time exploring museums or strange places.
When coming up with new ideas, do you have a special process of planning or finding materials?
Sometimes I have a clear idea of what I want to do so I’ll do some rough sketching as a bit of a brain dump, I also have a book where I jot ideas down because I get so many that I end up just having to make notes before I forget them. Other times I’ve created some of my best work by just sitting at my desk and seeing what happens, no concept or idea but I just let my hands and brain take over.
What kind of tools or stationery do you use most when making new things?
Well, it depends on what I’m creating when I’m sculpting I use different tools to make a variety of textures, markings, and to smooth areas out. Some of my favourites are silicone tipped tools and dental tools for detailing. I use a lot of paintbrushes as most of my artwork is painted and varnished but I tend to use my hands a lot though to apply materials and mediums. I’m not afraid of getting messy and at the end of the day, I’m usually covered in paint, glue or clay!
Has any of your work been exhibited anywhere, or won any awards? And is there anywhere you’d like to be featured and haven’t yet?
Not yet but it might be something to look forward to in the future.
Do you like to use unconventional materials in your art like bones or teeth etc?
One of the things I use are upcycled/recycled materials, I’m passionate about the environment and plastic pollution so I enjoy making things quirky or meaningful from what people would usually see as rubbish. I love to change a damaged, old form and make it into something new. I revamped some jewellery boxes that were unloved and unwanted into gothic-inspired cabinets, bringing new life into something like this brings me so much joy.
One of my more recent inspirations has been the environment after a trip abroad and seeing the impact that humans are having on the oceans. When I came home I felt inspired to create something reflecting this experience, I used tin cans, plastic, and other materials to create ocean wildlife sculptures that are growing into a new collection. I want these pieces of art to have an impact and make a contribution to ocean conservation projects.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
The freedom to create, I can share my interests, passions, and emotions with other people in artistic forms. My creations are an extension of me, my personality, and my life so being able to share that with the world is special, it can be daunting and intimidating sometimes but when people admire what I do it gives me so much pride and happiness.
What advice would you give any new artists out there?
Do what makes you happy, don’t try and fit into a box. Experiment, create your own style and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to try something new or do things a different way, part of the fun is the freedom to be yourself.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to mention or say to our readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and thank you for The Independent Voice for inviting me to share my little world. If you’d like to see more of what I do please check out my social media, I’m on Instagram and Facebook. You can also find all of my current creations on my website.