Liz Lau Finds Vulnerability in Creativity

The Eye Creative, Issue 13, September 2018 In the back of a dusty warehouse in Sydney’s inner west, jewellery designer Liz Lau sits with golden afternoon light filling her cosy studio space. Sketches, prints and a fish mirror hang from the walls, and the only giveaway that this was once a toilet block is the cracked white tiling, and its proximity to the garage turned living area. Liz Lau Studio started last year, after a trip to Asia and an existential crisis. Liz now creates uniquely handcrafted jewellery pieces to wear around your wrist, neck, ears or pinned to your favourite jacket. “I’m an all or nothing person, so I threw myself in completely to create a brand and have since never looked back. I had imagined scenarios of making and selling my work for such a long time, that to be actually living it, is the most satisfying feeling I have ever felt. Working for Liz Lau Studio is working to live my childhood dream.” Hustling to make her childhood dream a reality, you’ll often find Liz at one of Sydney’s weekly markets, music festivals and creative events like Finders Keepers. These markets have become a place to meet more creatives and connect with local communities. Joining the fray of small businesses has brought a new kind of appreciation to Liz’s world, and she’s started finding ways to support local Aussies wherever she can. “Since I have moved into Sydney’s Inner West, I have been fortunate enough to be within walking distance or a short bus ride away from most of my suppliers which are all small businesses themselves. I do have some suppliers from other states, but I make sure to support fellow Australian businesses. Jewellery purchased from Liz Lau Studio is also supporting other Australian endeavours and I wholeheartedly believe in putting back into our grassroots economy.” With a background in Industrial Design and a keen interest in fine arts, Liz’s jewellery mixes the two, with laser cut designs and hand painted charm. Her latest mini-collection examines the female form, exploring the balance and flow found in the artwork of Henri Matisse. My mini collection, Freedom, was aptly named, I was going through a big personal and work change while I was drawing them. Feeling crushed by living and working under the same roof, I was completely deprived of social and visual stimulation. Those drawings came about when I began working from a library, waiting to hire out a studio space for work. I drew out those designs and hashed out their details all from a table in Chatswood Library. When I was waiting for those designs to be cut and sent back to me, I was busy moving my home studio into a shared creative studio. Those pieces represent a huge and liberating change in my life and as soon as I began making them in my new studio I felt such a sense of freedom. To an outsider’s perspective, they may just be jewellery, but there is so much unseen behind every creation.” The unseen process of creating – imagining, drafting and designing is an inherently vulnerable one before a product even makes its way into markets. This vulnerability and imperfection is a huge part of Liz Lau Studio, where acrylic bodies of all shapes and sizes are celebrated. Finding time and space to foster that vulnerability didn’t come easy for Liz, who much like a lot of us in our early twenties, found out the hard way that life doesn’t always play out like your favourite coming-of-age film. “I had a very idealistic view of what it was to be an adult. I thought that things would fall into place and generally, you would know what you were meant to be doing. I have come around to the fact that no one is a finished piece, everyone is a work in progress and it’s been very refreshing to see that. Everyone can relate to being a frazzled mess but not everyone will willingly express themselves that way. It seems to me that we place so much importance on portraying an image that is put together, yet true connection actually begins when you show fractures and vulnerability. I grew up in Australia, as a woman of Asian descent. There is such beautiful diversity in our streets, yet this was never reflected in our media. I’ve experienced racism and sexism, albeit those instances were not hugely traumatic, they were enough for me to distance myself from my culture and anything that was stereotypically ‘girly’. As I became older, I began accepting myself for who I was. I now cherish being Chinese and a woman and an Australian. I am and identify as all three of those things, as well as being my own person.” The new understanding of what it is to be a woman and all its beautiful and confusing implications found its way into Liz’s designs. Attaching a pair of hairy legs to their matching feet, she admits ‘I always get the legs and ankles mixed up,’ before setting aside another set of uniquely crafted hoops. “In this day and age, there is criticism for everybody and every body. My first range of jewellery was that of body parts dislocated from the body. I have depicted hair and wrinkles, something that we strangely shun, all in the midst of red manicures and pedicures to represent the polished exterior. When people see my work and wear my jewellery I want them to feel a connection to it, so I aim to create pieces that can evoke such emotion. Liz Lau Studio has been, in a way, a healing process for myself. I am creating a platform to represent what I craved seeing when I was younger, and I believe what a lot of other people do as well.” Social media can be a haven for creatives looking for inspiration and representation, and Liz credits much of her drive to following fellow designers online. Not all of her inspiration comes from scrolling though, and with a healthy love for adventure, you might run into her next time you visit the great big city of Sydney. “Generally, doing things that are out of my routine will inspire me even if they are mundane. I love being a tourist in my own city, there are endless places to explore. Just last week, I discovered a beautiful marble staircase leading to a hidden little library in AGNSW (Art Gallery of New South Wales) even though I have been there countless times. I am a person who is easily moved and inspired. So, even just scrolling through my Instagram feed I will find the drive to make work that is on par with all these talented creatives. Instagram is a great tool to use because you curate exactly what you want to see. If you want to be inspired creatively, follow some kick-ass creatives and it will encourage you to make.” There’s inspiration everywhere for Liz and after listening to The Alchemist, she’s hooked on all things audio learning. Finding it the perfect way to get the romance of reading a good book for those who can’t sit still for long, podcasts and audiobooks have led Liz through some of the defining points of the last year. Her top recommendations? The serialised Criminal crime podcast for when you’ve got a bunch to get done, or Queer Eye’s Jonathan van Ness giving us all warm hearts and deep thoughts with Getting Curious. “I’ve also become very interested in astrology, which is something I never thought I would say. It is easily cast aside as a bunch of nonsense but the more I research into it, the more I have understood who I am and why I act the way I do.” Wanting to follow Liz’s path to creating and designing? She gave us some invaluable tips to help kick start your journey and stand out from the crowd of creators. “Every market is generally worth a shot! Weekly markets are always a great start-up to receive instant feedback. Make sure you are aware of the types of people that frequent those markets so that you can gauge if your product will resonate. Pay attention to the comments of people viewing your work. Their words are invaluable advice. On pricing, take your time to price appropriately. Your customers are not just purchasing the raw materials, they are purchasing your time and service as an independent artist/designer. It is very easy to undersell yourself and it is something I struggle with. During my school years, it was impressed in us that you cannot sustain yourself by creating. There was much more emphasis on subjects that were not art, design or performance. If you are smart with your skills and nurture them, you are able to make a living out of anything you want. Carve that niche for yourself. It took me a while to live this, but it is important to not let what others view as success belittle what you see as success. The exchange of knowledge is so powerful, especially for us artists and designers trying to figure out their place for their work. After all, there is no manual for any of this.” You can check out Liz’s jewellery on her website, and follow her updates on Instagram at @lizlaustudio. Check out her Events page to find dates and locations to see her incredible, diverse and encouraging work in the flesh!

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