Selvedge with designer Lauren Porter
After a long-haul flight, Lauren Porter’s winged creatures seek antique tools for their stopover spots. A nightingale perches on a pair of scissors, a swallow swings on an embroidery hoop, a coal tit rests on a metal key and a wren admires the view from a hammer. The birds seems very content with staying there for a while, so we can fully appreciate Lauren’s beautiful craftsmanship.
Her life-sized ‘British Birds’ fabric creations – from a sweet little wren to a chunky barn owl – are the result of many hours of researching, designing, making and modifying. “Birds make such wonderful shapes and movements. I was drawn to the challenge of capturing something of their character in a simplified way,” says Lauren. “From a sculptural perspective, I was interested in the way they balance, and I wanted to capture the delicacy of their legs and feet.”
But it’s how she manages to convey the vagaries of her tiny subjects that sets her work apart. Despite the fact that her birds are prone to flit and change quickly, Lauren freeze-frames their facial expressions and poses.
“I love to watch birds and the way they move and interact with each other,” she says. “Their expressions are so fleeting. Sometimes, I will rework a piece over and over again until it captures the expression I intend it to have.” But capture she does, with soft sculptures that range from animated to restful or playful – all with the tweak of a beak or the tilt of a head.
To begin with, Lauren selects a photograph to work from. “I tend not to sketch. I prefer to let the pieces evolve as I go along,” she says. For the bird’s structure, Lauren makes a wire and polystyrene armature and pads it out with wadding to achieve the desired shape. Fabric is then sewn directly into place. Take a close look and you’ll see lace embellishments, blanket stitch embroidery and gold-leaf detailing – finishing touches that enrich and elevate the design.
As for the objects the birds perch on, Lauren is always on the lookout for something that catches her eye. “I love antique tools and the history they carry of what they might have been used to make in the past.” Natural beech bases and hand-blown glass domes are used to present many of her sculptures – unobtrusive elements that support, but never overpower the birds themselves.
Lauren’s passion for nature and art is reflected in her career choices. On top of creating artworks, she also works in horticulture and as an art therapist (currently in a special-needs secondary school, where she sees students for one-to-one sessions). “I am like a school counsellor; however, I use art materials to help people communicate. This is client-led work and can range from role playing and storytelling to painting and drawing.”
Lauren enjoys the variety in her working week. “I love the combination of making my own work, art therapy and being outside with plants. In a way, they all inform each other and the skills all transfer.”
Plants are an important part of her home life, too. Lauren’s North London flat is surrounded by foliage. “We live on the edge of a disused railway, which is now a nature reserve. It’s like a leafy vein, pumping oxygen and wildlife into the neighbourhood,” she says. “From every window of the flat we look out onto trees. It’s like living in a treehouse.” The perfect place for watching birds.
To find out more, visit www.lauren-porter.com.