December 1, 2015
It’s always a pleasure seeing Laura Berger’s work at our fairs, and this weekend you can find these delightful prints at our Chicago Holiday Fair!
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes! I also love interior design and architecture and fashion design and pretty much anything visual :)
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
I’ve been painting and drawing my whole life, but I started to focus on making make things after my dad got ill and died. It was a good way for me to distract myself and keep busy, and I painted things that felt positive to me in an attempt to work through sadness. This was around 2007 and Etsy was just starting up then. I had never heard of it and a friend of mine told me about it, and I made a shop one night at like midnight on a whim. I named it “laura george” (instead of my actual name) because that was my dad’s nickname for me. I never once thought I would actually sell something. But I was lucky enough to sell some things right away, which was really motivating for me to keep making things. There were a lot less people selling on there back then. Like, a lot lot less. There were probably like 40 people on there and now I’m pretty sure there’s 8000000000000000 (give or take).
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
I think that everyone’s creative ideas are filtered through their own unique set of experiences, viewpoints, and influences. Our personalities and physical styles of working also have an impact on the way we create and what comes out. I think the more we get to know ourselves and feel comfortable with who we are and what our beliefs are, the more our own personal style can start to gel and gain clarity. Hopefully my work is original just in its reflection of myself as an individual.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
The idea of failure is so personal. While I feel like I’m lucky that I couldn’t think of anything major, I can be pretty hard on myself so I feel like I maybe experience daily failures! Something is always going differently than you wanted or planned, but I think the key is to just keep going no matter what. I realize that may sound a little trite, but I truly have found persistence to be the only way to make progress and move past things that feel hard. That, and drinking a beer.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
I have a pretty quiet and solitary lifestyle these days. I used to work in the restaurant industry and I do really miss working with other people. It took me about 3 years of self-employment to not feel like an alien when I went out in the world and tried to talk to people — it was like I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, ha! But that has definitely gotten better as I’ve gotten used to being alone a lot. I also work all the time. That gets hard — the balance is definitely not where I want it to be, ideally. But definitely still no regrets. And a good bit of the constant working is work that I love doing that used to be my hobby, so maybe you can’t count that part as working, right?
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Chicago is so diverse and has so much good cultural stuff going on, and so much amazing food, music, architecture — I think it all seeps in there. The winters are also excellent for being super productive :)
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
Working for some amazing business owners that I really look up to (Terry Alexander and Donnie Madia) taught me so much about how to handle things like customer service issues. I also really admired their integrity with everything, and how they treated their employees.
I really didn’t have any business knowledge, though. I pretty much just google everything. “how do I do my taxes?” “what is consignment?” Seriously. I guess it worked ok so far, so I recommend Google for all of your small business education.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
There was some hard stuff happening at my job and I just got to a breaking point, so I applied for a whole bunch of shows all over the country, and I gave my notice. It was around September so I figured I’d probably make enough money over the holidays to get by, and then I’d figure out what to do next when January rolled around. I was pretty terrified, and definitely didn’t feel ready in any way. But it’s been 5 years now and somehow I’m still afloat. Leap!
What are some inspirations for your work? I think every experience inspires my work in some way. Travel, my dreams, people I meet, things I believe in or want to believe in, ideas or feelings that I’m trying to work through, things I read, food, music, colors, shapes, solitude, nature… more things. I usually just get a little picture that pops into my head and then I write it down so I can decide later if it’s dumb or if I still like it.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Mostly just keep going and make sure you’re taking some kind of action each day towards your goal, whatever it might be. Of course our goals are always shifting, but I think it really helps if you get super clear on what your current goal is. You know– manifesting ‘n shit. But seriously, I do think there’s something to it — when you know exactly what it is that you want and take small steps on a consistent basis towards that goal. There’s a lot of power in that. There’s really so much room for everyone right now — we live in an amazing time to be creative, to connect with people all over the world, and to carve out your own unique path.