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Inside the Designer’s Studio with Laura Fisk

The creator of memorable screenprinted characters like the Pancake Monster, artist Laura Fisk grew up on the East Coast and called New York home for 10 years. She recently said goodbye to her Brooklyn studio and relocated to Austin, TX. From across the country, Laura opens the doors to her new studio to us and shares about embracing an unfamiliar work space, making art in a new city, and creating a happy place.

How is working in Austin different than working in Brooklyn?
I love Brooklyn and New York so much, and leaving was really hard after living there for 10 years, and growing up on the East Coast. It’s a total cliché, but it came down to space, space, space. My husband and I both needed more space for our businesses (Josh just started a content development and production company this year with a business partner). I almost felt guilty when we first got here setting up my office space and studio. After working out of mostly a corner of our apartment and a communal studio it felt decadent to be able to have two functional workspaces all to myself! It’s a little slower paced here than NYC. I both like that and miss the sometime frantic New York energy.

How are you adjusting to a new studio in a new city?
Moving makes your brain work in different ways, although it’s a bit painful. It forces you to do things differently, but in the end that’s a good thing. Austin is a really creative town so it’s been great getting to know people, finding out about arty/crafty things, eating at the delicious food carts, and discovering new fun stuff. In my head I’ve always had ideas how I’d want to set up my space and now I have a chance to enact them. Joining a screenprinting co-op down here has also helped me get to know some local printers. I loved working side by side to other printers in NYC, so still having some element was important to hold on to. I now mostly print in a little house in our backyard. It took a bit to get set up, but now I’m in love with it. It’s my own world back there, and enjoy it even more than I thought I would.

What are your most essential tools for creating your art?
As an illustrator, my drawings are hand-drawn with all sorts of different pens, and I do touch ups and work on color ideas on the computer. At this point I really work back and forth, and I wholeheartedly thank the person who invented the scanner. I need a slew of specific things for printing, but for me, it’s all about the ink. I love bright colors, and the saturated color that you can get with screenprinting is amazing. It’s the reason I keep printing.

Where do you find inspiration within your workspace?
I have piles of books–old and new–that I like to flip through that take me to a new idea or for an animal photos for reference. Staring at my ink shelves does wonders, thinking what colors will work together best. I like putting images up on the wall or holding on to articles that inspire me. It’s important for me for where I work to be a happy place, with little fun things to catch my attention.

What are some of your time management secrets?
To do lists! I feel completely out of control without lists and I have them everywhere. I usually hand-write them, because it helps me remember things more, and it feels really satisfying crossing things off. I’m not the most organized person, so forcing myself to stop and think what I have to accomplish for that day, that week, etc. keeps me on target.

What advice could you offer yourself 5 years ago?
Too many things; if only there was a time machine. One, be more organized from the get-go. Set specific goals from the start–not vague–but specific plans. Think ahead more. I tend to jump head first into projects without fully thinking them through, which is something I actively work on now. Also, and this is a big one, everyone needs help in a business. Doing everything completely by yourself isn’t the best way. Knowing your limits of what you’re good at and what someone else can do for you will only make your business better.

How do you recharge your creativity?
Forcing myself to stop and do something else–which honestly is hard sometimes! I love going to see movies in a theater because I can’t do anything else but watch the screen and get sucked into the world on screen. There’s a great group of theaters here, the Alamo Drafthouse, and it makes me want to go see something everyday. We just adopted a super sweet pug, Salsa, from Pug Rescue of Austin and taking her for walks forces me to get out of the house and clear my head. I love taking classes in different mediums, even if I’m terrible at them. It’s so interesting to learn about different creative pursuit, and usually helps inform my own work, or at least gets me into different studio environment for awhile. I took a natural dyeing class last summer (at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn) and would love to take a weaving class or something in sculpture.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
This may sound like a weird quote, but I constantly keep in my head “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb,” the alternate title to Dr. Strangelove. My business and life is pretty hectic and there’s always some weird issue or situation that comes up unexpectedly. I just try to embrace the crazy and roll with it.

How do you set goals for yourself?
Setting real deadlines is key for me. I’m a natural procrastinator, and am working on trying to get things done over time not at the last minute. Setting real deadlines with hard dates helps me get things accomplished. I just finished exhibiting at the National Stationery Show, and having that show date looming in my mind kept me on track with new designs for the show. Real deadlines make things actually happen.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?
Just taking some time off, taking in a movie, or going out to dinner with my husband and allowing myself to really appreciate it. It’s when all the work makes it feel worth it.

Written by Cassie

Cassie spends most of her time at work writing things. She loves books (including comics), sketch comedy, and sci-fi. She's inspired by art and science. As a former Minnesotan, she longs for an afternoon on a lake, Grain Belt in hand. The New Yorker in her is happy spending that afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History instead.

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