Laura Kirar is a multi-faceted designer who clearly moves to the beat of her own drum. Never a trend follower, she is known for the unique motifs, angles and textures in her work. This is most evident in her recent collection for Baker Furniture. Getting tapped by Baker Furniture to do a furniture collection is no small feat, but having four Baker collections on her resume is indicative of the depth and breadth of Laura’s creativity and talent.
After meeting Laura at High Point Market, I was intrigued by how introspective and analytical she is. When talking to her, you get a sense that she is not only listening intently, but that she is using all of her senses to take in information. With this ability to observe beyond the obvious, it’s no wonder Laura has found extraordinary success in the world of design.
In part I of my interview with Laura, you will have the pleasure of meeting her for yourself. No doubt you will be equally as impressed as I was!
Karina: I love the story of how you obtained your ex-hacienda in Mexico because it was really one of those “This is my destiny!” moments. Can you share another big moment in your life that completely changed the trajectory of your career?
Laura: I’ve had quite a few moments in my career where I was completely conscious that what was happening was potentially transformative – One of the most memorable was a meeting with Kohler Company in 2003 to pitch my first collection for Kallista. I was super nervous – probably because I was aware that what I was presenting was not just a project but a potential partnership. The meeting started about 8 hours after it was scheduled and I was emotionally exhausted from being “ready to pitch” all day. When the meeting commenced I spoke for about 20 minutes to what seemed like an unsupportive audience. But then, when I was finished talking and was sure that I’d bombed, the Chairman of the company, Herb Kohler, smiled and said he liked my work before leaving the room. It was that moment that I knew I was starting down the path that would change my career. From then, I would go on to license with 4 Kohler owned brands and I now have 15 different licenses that I actively create new collections for.
Karina: Was the evolution of your career from artist to interior designer to product designer a purposeful evolution, did opportunity come knocking, or was it a little of both?
Laura: Well I think it’s important to note that my career as an artist had barely started in Chicago when I began making sculptures that blurred the lines between functional and non-functional objects. My first post-graduate work was drafting and designing furniture and rescaling the Christian Liaigre line for the US market for the Holly Hunt Company. Even though I had studied sculpture and interior architecture, my focused work in the beginning was designing product. It wasn’t until much later that I incorporated interior design into the creative practice I started in 1999. In designing custom furniture for friends, and friends of friends, potential clients found me and then people who wanted an environment, not just one object. So it really was an evolution into interiors.
You’ve said in the past that you never know where your inspiration will come from. How do you channel your energy while you wait for that “aha” moment to strike you?
Laura: I think that I am always open and always saving and filing ideas away when I have them – I travel, I take a lot of photos, I sketch a lot, I write down ideas I have when I dream – I try not to force it. There’s nothing worse than feeling uninspired and un-original. I’m very careful to screen where my inspirations come from, especially now that there is so much shared information and imagery online. I never want to copy, I never want to be a creative lemming – so I am in a constant state of evolution and reinvention and largely a rejection of trends. When I see something in print or online – I think “take note, it’s already over.” I really believe that is true. When you consider how long it takes to practice a technique and perfect something original, then how long it takes to put into practice and produce a really good idea and then sell it…it’s a long time if you’re authentic! So, I don’t follow. I do my own things and hope that people get them. Sometimes I’m ahead of the curve and sometimes I nail the timing perfectly…either way I keep it pure and mine.
Karina: Even though you love designing product and collecting art, you gave away almost all of your possessions when you moved to New York, Is that your way of creating balance for yourself?
Laura: That’s such an interesting question. The time you mentioned – of giving everything away and for a moment having nothing but the necessities – was incredibly liberating! And it was a long time ago! It did free me to start a life in New York – literally devoid of baggage – and to build a career and relationships there. And I’ve just recently had a similar experience, moving from Brooklyn to Mexico. Although the purging was not nearly as complete – this time I moved with two 40’ containers and not two suitcases – I did give away many things that I thought I needed. Moving can be difficult. Uncluttering can be stressful. But the feeling you get from giving things away to people who are excited to have them is the best! In creating a new studio and a new life in Mexico, I predict more of that material purging in my future. I think that the freedom will make more mental and emotional space to make new work and art. And there’s always room for that in my life.
Karina: On that same note, what are 3 things you can’t live without and why?
Black pilot pen for sketching – always ink/never pencil
My IPhone (whatever the newest version is) so I can photo, work and be in contact wherever I am in the world
FERAL liquid matte lipstick – I feel naked without lipstick and this one is vegan/cruelty-free and lasts all day
Tomorrow we will get to know more about this incredible designer. Stay tuned!