Photograph of Laia Riera Sanjaume painting
ST: The bursts of colors in Laia Riera Sanjaume’s artwork matches her warm and open personality. She’s an explorer of all sorts and you can see that in the various talents she has and from the many places she has lived. From painting to textiles to being an art workshop leader, Laia shares her joy for art with the world!
Laia Riera Sanjaume (LRS): Hi Scribble Town! I’m Laia Riera Sanjaume, I live in Helsinki, Finland. Originally I am from Barcelona, which is very close to the Mediterranean Sea. Ever since I was a small child I loved drawing stories. I consider myself very lucky because my parents always encouraged me to develop my creative skills and they have been very supportive. They are both linguistics and writers so you can imagine as a kid, it was fantastic to read as many books as I wanted to from their library and get inspired! When I am not drawing I paint on canvas, or simply I make sketches for prints. I also enjoy reading, doing Yoga and just chatting with friends around food.
ST: You move between Barcelona and Helsinki. What brought you from place to place and how have the different environments affected your artwork?
LRS: Some time ago, while in Barcelona, I met Jere and we fell in love. He is from Finland and we decided to work together as independent designers. Finland inspires me through Nature especially with silence from the woods that I am not used to. It reminds me of the summers when I went traveling with my parents. It’s an open door to new dimensions.
13 shamans by Laia Riera Sanjaume
Yes, Barcelona is “home”. Although, funnily, I realized it only after having lived in Winchester, Antwerp, Madrid and now in Helsinki.
Actually, each of these cities have been a bit of a home for me. Home is our comfort zone. Therefore, we tend to get relaxed and less observant to what surrounds us and to ourselves. In order to draw, to imagine new scenarios, it’s necessary a good dose of investigating.
In my case this can be through reading, traveling, being a foreigner in a new land…getting excited when meeting friends, being fascinated by the colours of the sky, trees, and hearing for the first time another language other than your very own. Whenever I move away from my country I feel like I am suddenly awake. And at the same time, whenever I return I see my city through renovated “lenses”. It is very motivating, indeed!
At the present, I like to see Helsinki as a temporary place where I get to know myself better and where I explore new tools to express my inner world. For instance, as a result of this, I changed from watercolor to oil painting, a technique I haven’t been using for years. Right now I am working on a series of prints for the clothes Jere is designing and we will make together.
Hands in Hands by Laia Riera Sanjaume
ST: It’s true, each environment brings out something special in us. It seems like your Finnish winter is welcoming you to get more acquainted with more of your inner self. Even in the darkness of winter, your paintings are so vibrant and imaginative! What medium do you paint in? How did you discover this medium that suits your imagery so well?
LRS: Thanks a lot! Yes, in fact, the oil painting enables to create vibrant colours , bring texture to emotions and the expressions of the faces. Usually, I am a bit chaotic when using the medium. When I work on paper I treat it with tea and coffee because it gives it a yellowish and warm base colour. I guess I discover mediums when trying to capture the right emotion when I start drawing and I am working my best to register it accurately. Actually, it happens through the work itself. Work brings inspiration and more discoveries. For instance, in my studies in Fine Arts in Barcelona University, or as Fashion student of the Fine Arts Academy of Antwerp I did research a lot!
Let me orget about today by Laia Riera Sanjaume
On the other hand, every single day is a new beginning so you can always get surprised by a new twist in your own working process.
My favourites are Écolines, a never ending number of inks, water colours, oil painting, golden lacquers, glitter, bitumen judaicum paint…just to mention a few. During my short stay in Winchester School of Art, I mainly did etching. Since then I use the hard point tools just to scratch the paint off, or just to add details. Finally, to mention Collage or Mood Board as ways to get build up a new project.
ST: You are a true explorer! You experiment and are inquisitive with mediums and textures. Now I’m so curious about your ideas. How do you come up with the themes for your series?
LRS: Normally, I start because of a feeling that later on will evolve into a story. A short story if you want, or an open story. Sometimes it takes a month before I finalize a painting with which I am more or less satisfied. Sometimes it takes me only one day. It can also be that I feel so happy when I finally come up with the exact idea of the painting that I need to paint it not to forget it. Other times, it can be as well, that by drawing I shake away negative moods that will bring on new topics to explore.
Painting by Laia Riera Sanjaume
When I was a little girl I had a lot of imagination. In fact, my teachers throughout the years almost assumed I’d be a writer. My first years of life were a bit uneasy for my mother, because of a sad event. Since then, the act of drawing is perhaps like going to an invisible shelter where I instantly get immersed. I can be there for hours and hours and hours. Drawing is a very powerful tool for me. In truth, there are many times that first I write down the stories and slowly I begin to “see them” in colours, shapes, and volume.
I couldn’t say what it comes first as, haha. Indeed, I am fascinated by the power of emotions and how these change our bodies and minds. How, as well, we change thanks to the effect of communicating to the ones we share our life, our present, the earth , ultimately. These are the essential themes I care about mostly.
Years ago I started focusing on memory, identity and transition. Since then folk culture, beliefs, myths ,storytelling are also my main themes of research. I love borrowing books on these topics from the public libraries to build up an atmosphere. Then, when the atmosphere is ready the working hours just flow. As well, I am very interested in women dress and how did the fashion history changed because of the historic events and how these affected womanhood.
All of them witches by Laia Riera Sanjaume
ST: Congratulations on joining Armuseli’s “made by artists” group! When you make your scarves for Armuseli do you keep in mind the size and shape?
LRS: Yes, I do have to be very careful with the size and the shape of the scarves. Since the print adapts to the shape of the scarf. And it had been a challenge for me, a very positive one! I did struggle a little to fit the original painting into the required size. Itxaso Torrontegui is a textile designer and a graphic artist. I admire her colourful prints. One day, my friend asked me to collaborate for her new project.We worked together in Madrid as designers for a clothes company. We met as colleagues at work and we are now very good friends. Armuseli “made by artists” is Itxaso’s initiative which brings together art, textile and fashion designers. The result is a variety of small and unique collections of silks printed scarves. I am so happy to belong to Armuseli.
In this case, each artist has assigned a theme to be inspired by. It helps a lot, specially if there is a deadline. The print had to be inspired in Winter flowers and Frida Kahlo figure. Personally, I love Frida Kahlo art, so it was a lot easier to get started! Moreover, I had been truly inspired by the winterish forests from Finland. Actually, I took the chance to research a lot the tradition in graphic printing and textile design in Finland. Soon Armuseli will launch the website so you can give it a look; and the scarves are already on sale. It is wonderful to see your painting in a scarf in the streets.
After Hour by Laia Riera Sanjaume
ST: Oh how exciting that we’ll get to wear your beautiful designs! Another congratulations on your recent exhibition in Spain! What is this series of work about? Hope I can see them in real life one day.
LRS: Thanks! The paintings that are exhibited in the art gallery Espai [b] of Barcelona are a series I did prior leaving Barcelona including some painting from a new series I started in Finland.
The gallery Espai [b] has been showing my works since 2011 and I am very happy to be chosen as one of their artists. This group show revolves around the small format edition concept. For instance, the previous show was focusing on the idea of the face and the portrait.
Faces by Laia Riera Sanjaume
In my works, faces are one of my strongest points, and as I said women’s dresses from different ages throughout history. I did a series on this topic for the gallery.
ST: In some ways it seems like you are a social historian in the way that you document people in context to time. It’s really fascinating!
You are a textile artist, fashion designer, painter and illustrator. Wow! How do these industries support each other in your artwork. Is there one field that you feel more comfortable in? Adventures all around!
LRS: Haha, wow, said like this…The best thing, for me, in this is precisely that drawing and painting are the common denominator of these fields. In addition, they can merge perfectly well and blend into each other. There is a very little separation from these disciplines, to my eyes honestly. The fact that an illustration can be on paper, and can be converted to a beautiful print on a dress, jacket… it just gives me only more freedom as a creative.
When I design prints I rely on the imagery which fuels my painting, illustrations, and vice versa. So, it’s like just different chapters of the same novel. The adventures had been and are very enriching. I have been a former product designer for a clothes and accessories brand in Madrid. There I used my skills to sketch and develop embroideries, prints and garments. It was my first real job after my long studies. It was lots of fun!
When traveling to India or Hong Kong for field work, I always had with me a very small sketchbook and a mini water-colour box. My bosses and co-workers taught me how to be myself as a creative at the same time I was a designer inside of a team. On the other hand, I also had the opportunity to teach graphic techniques to young students. And I feel very grateful to transmit to them this knowledge and share with them.
Header by Laia Riera Sanjaume
When I worked for Inditex as a graphic designer I drew on paper or on the computer all day long. Although, I would say that the permanent adventure is to work as an independent freelance artist. It’s an incredible one and I hope it will be until I am very old. And to be able to collaborate for projects like Dear You / Kära Du, Armuseli and so on.
Nevertheless, I am fortunate I could apply my knowledge and real vocation in a so called “office” job. To answer to your question, the field I feel more at ease, is painting. Wait a second, drawing. Uhm I can´t simply divide these two!
ST: Indeed, drawing and painting for you are inseparable. Your vibrant nature seems like it could be easily excited in the best possible way. Is there a place you find yourself feeling especially inspired to create? If you’re feeling stuck, what do you do to get yourself in the mood to create?
LRS: One of the best places for me is the living room table, instead of the one in the studio…ahem. I know it sounds strange, but it is where I quite usually start to sketch or write ideas. You’ll find me there because it is a very lively place with strong energy from many different people that have lived in the house or passed by there. I like to feel surrounded by the sounds of people.
After a cup of coffee I automatically put the radio on the background, or long tracks of Jazz music, or anything from Ane Brun, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Patti Smith, The Knife and many others; depending on the mood. Then I move to the studio room and I prepare the big table to paint with all my tools. I like to create a big mess first. Although in the end I need to see nothing else than the table and the paper or the canvas. Definitely with a never ending list of music!
Laia Riera Sanjaume’s working table
Nowadays I am designing together with my partner our first clothes collection and parallel to this I am painting new series. In order to combine these two tasks, I separate the table by imaginary lines. Then I also like to pin all the images I had been collecting, from postcards, to sweets wrapping papers, to a simple found object like a fabric tape…I pin them into a board. If not I tape them on the wall itself. Every now and then I separate myself from the current painting. It is important to take distances. I look upon this map of images on the wall and I try to match them with my mental map. As I said before, the right atmosphere to create is crucial!
When I get stuck I go for walking, running or seeing friends. It usually works wonders.
ST: Sounds like you know how to take advantage of space and appreciate all the corners of your home. Creativity needs air to grow! Just wondering what are the 5 most important things in your life right now?
3) To achieve goals, from the tiny ones to the huge ones.
5) To continue learning
ST: Thank you Laia for sharing with us! Your stories, feelings, and beautiful depiction of faces give me a lot of inspiration! Scribblers, please have a look at Laia’s website http://laiaillustration.com and keep up with her adventures on her blog http://lairisars.blogspot.fi.
The fox, myself II by Laia Riera Sanjaume