STUDIO TOUR: Artist Lauren Fensterstock

Tucked in one of the most unique buildings in Portland lies the home and studio of the talented artist Lauren Fensterstock. We had a funny way of meeting: I literally showed up at her door one day wanting to know more about the person living inside. She wasn't home, so I left my information and crossed my fingers hoping someone would contact me. Well, a few days later she did, and after talking I came to realize she was an artist (her husband too!) and was gracious enough to let me come hang out on a Friday afternoon to photograph her in her studio. 

Her work is stunning and has a tendency to transport you into a sort of magical, dark fairytale. With textures so rich and deep, you kind of just want to crawl inside her work and explore every nook and cranny. Using all kinds materials from sea shells found along the shores of Maine, or paper cut into the most intricate and detailed forms, she creates incredibly visually stunning and texturally complex pieces.

Read below for Lauren's Q&A:

How would you describe the type of artwork you create?
Sculpture and installation. My recent work explores the ways that we use nature as a metaphor.  Our ideas about nature speak volumes about how we understand man’s place in the world. Over the last few years I have been looking at gardens, but recently I made a switch to caves.

How does your process begin? I notice you typically sketch out your ideas. Is that the first step?
I would say that I normally start with reading and research.  Books get me excited and because what I read can be abstract, making becomes a way to understand intangible concepts.  I will usually turn an idea around in my mind for awhile—which means a lot of pacing and mumbling to myself—then I will make a drawing, and then finally move on to making something three-dimensional.  

How do you land on a particular material to make your ideas a reality? It seems like a lot of experimentation must take place to get the perfect look and feel.
Usually, I’ll start by drawing a sketch of the way I want something to look- without worrying about how to make it. Then I will experiment with materials until I match my vision.   I spent several years working almost entirely in paper, plexiglass and charcoal.  Right now I am branching out into a broader palette.  I spent about six months just making material samples for the new cave sculptures, before executing any final pieces.  I am interested in the conceptual aspects of material. Beyond their appearance, things have meaning. Materials impact us culturally, physically, and emotionally.

What is your favorite piece so far?
Hmmmm… I think my favorite piece is always “the next one.” I am always on the chase, and that hunt for the perfect thing is what keeps me going.

How did your childhood influence you to become an artist? Did you come from a creative family?
My parents were both in business, but enjoyed art. They took us to museums and to see music performances.  

What is your biggest inspiration right now?
I have been doing a lot of research on artificial garden grottos. I find these spaces completely fascinating. They are meticulously constructed to become a mix of natural and cultural experience.  There is something emotionally messy about grottos. That feels honest to me.

What is the most peaceful moment of your day?
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga at Lila East End Yoga in Portland.  The classes can be extremely challenging physically but so peaceful emotionally.  Sometimes I really just need to get rid of a ton of energy before I can settle down and focus in the studio.  Also I find it hilarious that I spend part of my day making shapes in a room full of random people and no one finds this strange.

Do you have a daily ritual?
It’s funny, when I was working fulltime I had tons of rituals.  I got up at the same time, got the same coffee at the same coffee shop, and peppered my day with a specific set of choreographed events. When I transitioned into being in the studio full time, I was obsessed with figuring out a new daily system.  I tried a many different patterns, but about six months in, I realized that the beauty of being a fulltime artist is that I don’t need a system.  Every day is new and each moment I can decide and undecided how to spend my time. That was an amazingly liberating discovery.

What are your top 3 sites or magazines you visit often?
I am a terrible insomniac, so I spent many wee hours reading the Huffington Post and the New York Times on my iphone. Other than that, I am not a very faithful magazine reader.  I just follow whatever links my friends put on Facebook! I usually get my “reading” done while I am working in the studio, so I spend a lot of time listening to NPR.   I also have an audible account and am always deep into at least three books.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully just right here.  Being an artist can be scary. There is not much security and it can be difficult to plan ahead.  Every day that things seem to still be floating feels like a blessing.  I just hope I can keep making it work and keep evolving.

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