We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren Schwind and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have always been a maker. And it almost sounds cliche but I have been making art since I could pick up crayon. Making drawings, shapes with leaves, painting, working with clay. I have loved exploring mediums and materials. So for me I felt that making art was the only thing I could do because I had no other skill. I grew up with learning disabilities so I honestly tried very hard at school but found that the only thing that came to me naturally in any way was being an “artist”. Regardless of how little support I got from teachers or even family members, I knew this was my life’s purpose. That is until I got into teaching. At first I had a really rough time but once I pushed past the uncomfortable threshold I found myself really loving teaching but not sure how to make what I do work for me since I realized that even though I was good at teaching and enjoyed it, I didn’t want to stay in the formal setting of education. So with my witchy background, my love for art, my passion for using art as a way of exploring social emotional learning, and my love for holding space in my witchy community, I started to dream up what combining all of this could look like as a creative career.
With time the pieces started falling into place. As an artist and art teacher I found myself coming across lots of similar narratives in people. This idea that a person “can’t even draw a stick figure” or that they “wish they were creative”. Obviously this isn’t the case, everyone is creative and if you can write your name, you can draw a stick figure. But it is reflective of an underlying issue and that is that people don’t feel connected to their creative selves. As a teacher and artist I feel it is important that we are able to work through these blocks so that we can connect back to our creativity as a healing and spiritual practice. This is also what really inspired me to gear my work in the direction it is now heading. Not only sharing my art but supporting individuals to make their own as a form of personal magic.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The art that I create now is mostly an intuitive sort of channeling process. I often do not know what I am doing when I get started, almost like each material I am working on is a conversation I am having with a friend. I am familiar with this person but I have no idea what we will be talking about today. If I come to the page with an intention its almost as if I am asking an old friend a question, but again I don’t know what the answer is going to be so I allow for whatever to come up intuitively. I see every mark as part of the process, even “mistakes” can be invitations for something new and surprising! And this is what I try to inspire out of others.
I haven’t always worked this way, and unlearning my once toxic relationship with art is a big part of my personal journey. It’s a part of my journey I think is important to share because I am realizing I am not alone in it. Starting from late high school and all through out college I began to work on art in a way that felt unnatural because I was so focused on making work that I thought I “should” be making. I was not making art that felt authentic to me but rather felt like the kind of art I needed to make if I didn’t want to “starve”. The narrative that artists need to suffer for their craft is not a new one, its a concept that we see perpetuated all the time in media and even art history. But the problem is that not only is it not true, (art is not meant to be an experience of suffering) but internalized in our capitalistic society can lead to a super unhealthy “lack” mentality.
The stress of academic art school and the perpetual need to make sure I didn’t “starve” post art school, eventually ended in me graduating with high honors but lots of baggage to deal with. On the flip side I was addicted to stimulants, depressed, sleep deprived, and totally lost as to who I was as an artist. I didn’t even enjoy making art unless I had alcohol or a stimulant (or sometimes both) in my system. I knew I was in trouble and that I was at the point of burn out. The problem was that I didn’t know how to get back on track so it took me a long time to find my way home to myself and eventually to art as I once knew it. My happy place.
I was living in Savannah GA for my BFA and ended up staying several years after. It was the artist community that I had post graduation that helped me find my way home with art. I was lucky to make friends with artists that helped inspire me to shift my perspective. Through workshops, working with them, or just leaning about their personal processes I was able to see art outside the eyes of academia and in the holistic world that felt authentic and at home. It was thanks to artists like Melissa Hegarty and Emily Kell, that I began to restructure how I connected with art. But it was once I started working with plants to make art, that I ended up going inward to connect back to my art again. It was through the play of natural dying that I truly started tapping into experimenting again in a way that grounded me back to my work and myself. Transforming my relationship with art and now eventually loving art again. Now I feel confidant again to dive into any and all mediums again to explore my creative, intuitive voice I had doubted for so long.
This story is not only one that has influenced my work but has become a mission for me to help others. To support other burnt out artists or people who don’t feel connected to their creative, intuitive selves because of wounds around art. We all deserve to feel good creating and we all deserve to create art just because it feels GOOD! Since relearning how to create intuitively again, I feel its important to share this relearning with others. Through all the workshops I share, natural dyes or intuitive drawing, all these are centered around bringing love and intention to the work that we create. Turing art into something that focuses on process rather than product. Art can help us process, it can help us feel confident, and it can be used as a tool for healing if we are able to frame it outside the structures of our capitalistic society and frame it as a spiritual practice.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great places in the city, and it might be surprising to those not from around here but Philly is filled and surrounded by some amazing parks. So I would have to say visiting Wissahickon park is a MUST! Some of my deepest connection to the nature of Philly is through the time I spent in that particular park. Other amazing park places would have to include Fairmount, for all the amazing trails and museums it holds. As well as Bartram’s garden which acts as a little oasis in the middle of south west Philly. One could easily spend a day a piece in each of these parks with their trails and hidden wonders.
For those who love coffee Frannie Lou’s Porch is a must! They offer great drinks and food that is both nutritious and delicious. And for the tea drinking types I would have to say The Random Tea Room since it also has a lovely outdoor space that is the perfect place to sip on their house made chai. When it comes to recommending drink drinks, I highly recommend Tattooed Mom’s. Not only are their drinks great, they have great vegan and vegetarian options for food. And to top it all off no trip to Philly would be complete without Dotties Donuts. The best donuts I have had hands down (and they are vegan!)
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?
I honestly have to give all the praise to the community that I have found here in Philly! I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many creators, artists, witches, teachers, and friends with so much talent and their own businesses. Since I moved to Philly,I have only felt inspired and supported through the community I am so blessed to get to know. I also think Philly is just a really beautiful city to grow as a creative person because how nurturing a place it is to artists. Its easy to cheer each other on rather than compete and that’s a really magical experience.
Rachael Amber shot the first image