We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Verdugo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
This October, I will be 24. It is difficult to envision what the end result of my career will be, but I do know what I would like to accomplish. I make decisions and try to navigate my life with this in mind; to be a person that the 5 year old version of myself would look up to. I want to be catalytic in diversifying craft and making craft more accessible to underserved communities that do not have creative spaces to thrive in. Ultimately, I am determined to leave a positive impact on this world in the process of pursuing my career as an artist. I will be finishing my undergraduate work in Applied Design next spring, and plan on going into the Furniture Design and Woodworking Graduate program at San Diego State. I intend to use my “fancy piece of paper” to be a professor. Since high school, I have wanted to be that one teacher/educator that played a pivotal role in helping a student have a breakthrough. Sometimes, all you have to do is show that you believe in them and their abilities. Lastly, I want to travel as much as I can especially to teach workshops or participate in shows outside of the United States. There is no doubt that I will still be creating studio art furniture into the last days of my life and I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds as I explore new materials and mediums. It is a brave new world!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My artwork ranges from studio art furniture and sculpture to upcycled cardboard portraits. I am always excited to work on new projects, especially designing new pieces of furniture. I worked 7 years at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts and have started my own career as a multimedia artist/woodworker. It was not easy but I consistently jumped at any remote chance I had to be more involved at the Maloof Foundation. I was a volunteer (while working 2 other jobs) then finally after 3 years, was able to be a paid intern. I pestered Larry White for 8 months, to learn woodworking from him, after he made the mistake of letting me drop into a female veteran woodworking class that had an open spot because of a last minute cancellation. He finally gave in. I was sanding for the first year and assisting with things like patching the roof, pouring cement, painting the outside of the studio and even helping install large scale sculpture. Eventually, when he knew I was in it for the long haul, I was allowed to work on his pieces of furniture and learned how to make his infamous ceramic ‘bird bags’, after I had developed some skill in those areas. Balancing being a full time student, working multiple jobs and assisting Larry has been difficult but a necessary step in my development as an artist. I learned from my mom growing up that if I work hard and am determined, I can do anything. I can confirm that it takes several years of hard work and dedication to your craft in order to start seeing your dreams take shape. But, I rest easy knowing that the blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it when I get to spend the rest of my life doing what I am passionate about.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
When I am back home, outside of the historic home of Sam and Alfreda Maloof, my favorite place to take friends is The Back Abbey or Pizza n’ Such in Claremont, CA. The Back Abbey has some of the best imported Trappist beer and homemade beignets. Pizza n’ Such is a local favorite and has the best pizza in the area. It has been there over 30 years and when you eat their food, you know why. Can you tell I am into food?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shoutout goes to my mentor, Larry White, who has played a significant role in why I am pursuing art. He was Sam Maloof’s first employee in 1962 and has an art career himself that spans over 55 years. He works in furniture, clay, sculpture and painting which has given me a solid foundation in experimentation with other media outside of woodworking. He took me on as his apprentice in 2017 and since then, my life has been completely changed for the better. He once told me, “Every moment is laden with positive and negative. We can choose from the heart or the head. It dissolves into our future of moments. They build the architecture of who we become.” I am grateful for the knowledge and experience he has afforded me and I hope to be as great a mentor someday as he has been for me.