feature: lauren strybos of from tree to sea October 14 2018, 0 Comments

Lauren Strybos of From Tree to Sea is a Calgary-based ceramicist with a passion for the environment. Through her previous role as a wildlife biologist, and countless travelling adventures, she has gathered infinite amounts of inspiration for her hands-on, earthy and minimalist creations. We talked to Lauren about what influences her pieces, how creativity is interconnected with nature, and what we can do to positively impact our communities.

Wildcraft: Hi Lauren, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi there! I am a ceramic artist based in Calgary, Alberta. I work out of a communal creative space called Workshop Studios in Inglewood, home to over 30 practicing artists. In addition to running From Tree To Sea Ceramics, I currently work at Plant, a beautiful shop in the same neighbourhood and help teach Date Night (think wine + messy wheel throwing fun!) at our studio. I spent several years working as a wildlife biologist before discovering my passion for clay, and I like to think my love for nature flows through into my work.

WC: How did you find yourself interested in ceramics?

Several moments throughout life contributed to my eventual love for ceramics. As a child, I was completely enamored by polymer clay. I would save up my allowance and run off to the art store to buy stacks of Sculpey and Fimo, and then I’d spend hours making tiny sculptures (mainly animals) to give to various family members. Fast forward to years later, when I attended a local yoga festival where I ended up making a very wonky, lumpy bowl at a pottery demonstration tent.

Although it was a magical experience, that chance encounter with clay lay dormant in my memory. Then in January 2015, as part of a ‘things to try in the new year’ list I made, I signed up for a local 8-week pottery class and fell into it wholeheartedly, sharing peeks of things I created on Instagram and gifting a lot of it to family and a few friends. When classes ended a couple months later, my love for the medium continued. I moved north of Toronto, and through quite a bit of scouting I eventually found myself working out of a fully equipped studio with the freedom to make whatever I wanted. That first year was spent practicing, figuring out my style and most importantly, all the techniques of the process that I learned from the studio owners. I carry these with me today.

WC: Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?

I find that I’m inspired by the processes and patterns found in everyday life. Things that may not seem related, but I’m drawn to translate into clay. Most times, something will catch my eye – be it a colour, a form, a texture. I’ll start to develop an idea in my head of how it could potentially be applied to a ceramics piece. Occasionally, I’ll sketch my idea out on paper so it doesn’t run away, but usually I can keep it in my head long enough to start working on it. I generally prefer simple, organic forms, and am a huge advocate for letting the warm tones and slightly gritty texture of the raw clay shine through. My palette and designs change with the seasons, an ebb and flow of the seasons, switching from bright, colourful work back to calm, muted neutral tones. I’m honestly not that interested in sticking with one style of work for too long.

WC: As a wildlife biologist who’s passionate about conservation, what would be your advice for individuals wanting to start making a positive impact in their community?

Most importantly, educate yourself! Your everyday choices make a difference in the health, happiness and future of yourself and your community. Small changes to be more deliberate in how we consume can make more of an impact than you think, and there are so many resources available today to help people be better informed on how they can live more sustainably and earth-friendly. People often question how they can make a difference as just one individual, but they most certainly can. A tiny little list of some things you can do:

  • Shop local / support small businesses – invest in someone’s passion
  • Shop at farmer’s markets when you can, or buy local produce
  • Think about how your food / clothing / products are packaged
  • Avoid fast fashion if you can! Ditch the mall and go thrifting – it’s the most fun and a great way to source unique pieces that can be re-loved
  • Make a conscious decision to fill your home with only things you truly love

WC: What do you feel are some connections between supporting our environment and taking part in creative practices? Why is this important?

It’s hard to find creatives that aren’t in some way inspired by the natural world around them. You are influenced by what you observe and feel around you; this then informs your work and further connects you to people who appreciate the same parts of life that are explored in your creative practice. Not to mention, the base elements of so much creative work (e.g., woodworking, ceramics, painting) begin with something sourced from nature and our beautiful earth deserves all the credit. In a way, creating work and buying handmade help to strengthen our relationship to the earth.

This is so important because the strongest urge to want to protect or preserve something comes from caring about it in the first place. Nature not only teaches us about form, beauty, texture and pattern, but also about cycles, movement, and changing with time – lessons that are applicable to creative work and life in general. Hopefully this resurgence in slow living and slow made work will help positively influence the way we treat our earth going forward.

WC: Artisanal work seems to be growing in popularity. Why do you feel that is?

When I began making ceramics, it felt as though this push towards more artisanal work was still fairly new – Instagram was just starting to become more popular and as more people began to share their passion for creating with their hands, others followed along and realized that it was something they wanted to do as well. You get to build a relationship with your materials, with the process. Creating teaches you so many important lessons of patience, of being forgiving when things don’t work out, of letting things go, to lean on traditional methods of making. Especially in a slow, time-invested medium like ceramics.

I think people recognize the love that goes into a handmade object, the tiny quirks that give it character, and a connection back to the mind and hands that made it. There are so many people who have a creative spark inside of them, and they’re looking for a way to feel creatively empowered. It’s insanely satisfying and exciting to finally finish a project, to take a step back and see what you have created with your own hands. I know that it brings me so much joy to be in my home surrounded by work I’ve made myself, my friends have made, and other artists I admire so much.

WC: What is your favourite Wildcraft product and why?

The Geranium Orange Blossom Face Cream is wonderful! Alberta is insanely dry, so I try to moisturize and hydrate as much as I can – this lotion does the trick. The smell is also really lovely and subtle.

WC: What do you see for the future of From Tree to Sea?

In the beginning of my business, I always thought getting my work into stores through wholesale accounts was the ultimate goal – and I’m happy to say my work is now part of ten beautiful shops across the country. However, in the next year I’d love to focus on creating more for my own webshop, exploring some ideas that have been laying dormant in my sketchbook, and taking more time for hikes and camping next summer.

More about Lauren, her adventures and one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces can be found here.