Meet Laura Carwardine


Laura Carwardine designed a window installation for the Toronto Offsite Design Festival happening January 15-21st. Come by the store to see Zip Tie Tapestry featured in our window. We'll also have Umbra pieces designed by Laura available for a limited time. 


How would you describe your job and the work you to do to others?
I work as a Product + CMF Designer for Umbra. The CMF stands for colour, material, and finish, so part of my job is helping our design team find and specify new things, and then I also design products. Outside of work, I like to explore textile-related projects. Lately it has been a lot of embroidery, both big and small.
What are your favourite materials to work with for art installations and why?
I think you can make an interesting installation out of almost any material, if you manipulate it.  I used to design restaurants (my background is actually in interior design) and for feature installations in restaurants we would use everything from metal and wood to fabric and paper. If I am executing the installation myself, I like to play with materials that allow me to magnify textile techniques, because I like that you can appreciate the details better, and I also enjoy the process of creating it.


How did you get involved with TODO Festival?

I've attended the TODO Festival almost every year since it started, exhibited a few pieces in the past, and have been helping plan our Umbra x TODO exhibit at the Umbra Store for the past few years. It's been a while since I've exhibited a solo project, so I thought it was time!


What made you want to showcase your piece in the ZANE window on West Queen West? 
I think ZANE is a great shop in a great location. The pieces within are carefully selected, and feel relevant and fresh. It seemed like the shop and community would be a good fit to exhibit this installation.
What does this TODO installation piece mean to you, and what is the message you are trying to send to those walking by?
For me, this piece is primarily an opportunity to play with technique, materials and vibrant colours. I wanted to create a piece that appeared from a distance to be a soft textile, but that provides an element of surprise upon closer inspection, as the materials are actually quite hard.
Where do you seek inspiration? 
Honestly - Instagram is a big source of Inspiration. I follow lots of designers and brands, and I love seeing process and experiments. Other sources I like are old textile technique books and taking photos while traveling.
Who are some contemporary designers/artists/authors/musicians that inspire or influence you?
Here are a few that I'm inspired by at the moment:

Why did you decide to use zip ties for your window installation at ZANE? 

I've been wanting to experiment with zip ties for a while. The colours are great, and their ability to hold consistent tension is inherently very good. The tail end of them is also very thin, so I thought it might lend itself well to weaving, which turned out to be true!
What are some favourite projects you’ve worked on?
At Umbra, some of my favourite projects are actually my first one, the Pendant Triangle Scarf Holder, and one of my most recent ones - the Hoop Magazine Rack for Umbra Shift. Outside of Umbra, for textile-inspired installations, this zip tie project has been really fun, and I also like the cross stitch installation I did at Patria Restaurant. When I was working in restaurant design, I enjoyed helping with Tabule (Queen West) and Byblos.

Available at ZANE for a limited time


As a Canadian Artist, how do you find the Toronto art scene is developing?

I'm definitely more familiar with the design scene than the art scene (because I identify more as a designer). I think the Toronto design scene is growing, and becoming better recognized globally. The TO DO Festival itself is a great platform for local designers, and consistently gets bigger every year. Also, more and more Toronto designers have been traveling overseas to participate in international shows as well.


Is there a piece you worked on that you believe "put you on the map" as an installation artist?
The other larger installation that I worked on is the cross stitch installation at Patria Restaurant. That one was pretty intense - it was something like 500 square feet and 17,000 stitches over 485 hours for everyone involved. I did it a panel at a time, so it still boggles my mind to visit the full installation and remember that I did all of those stitches.


How do you find working in the art scene influences your style?

I feel like working in design and always thinking about details, trends, colours, materials, and how things look together definitely affects my style. Sometimes I think it makes things easier, but other times it can be challenging because I can have a hard time finding things that I like 100%.
How do you use style to express your individuality and self-confidence?
I like to take risks, but in a way that's still cohesive. For example, I recently bought the first silver puffer coat I could find, which is a bit crazy, but it technically goes with everything. I've also been thinking a lot lately about more of a capsule wardrobe approach to style, where you consciously curate a collection of pieces that are cohesive, but provide versatility and variety. I think fun accessories are key to this approach and enhance the variety.


What ZANE pieces speak to you? 

I was recently in the store and picked up a few pieces that I wear all the time! I got the plain silver signet ring, the Le Specs Demo Mode sunglasses (in matte stone/gold) and the Felony Case clear iPhone case with the white grid (because it looks like the grids I used in the installation, and I am obsessed with grids). A couple other pieces I've been eyeing are the Wolf Circus gold Cloud Studs, the brass Jenny Bird Ariel Earrings, and the silver Mini Discs Necklace and the silver Toggle Pendant by Melanie Auld (I'm also obsessed with circles!).