A Creative Force From the Bay, Laura Ramie Takes on Pittsburgh

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Visual artist, educator, and philanthropist are just a few of the many titles that can be used to describe Laura Ramie. Her approach to art requires incredible technique and passion and her work elicits feelings of childlike wonderment. Whether she’s painting, illustrating, crafting, sewing, or teaching, Ramie’s generous and creative spirit is at the forefront. The following is a conversation with Ramie about her journey as an artist and her work with the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR).

Tell us about your work with the PCCR.

I work with the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, which is very natural for my personality… I have always been a saver of things. I die a little bit when things are thrown away. Any place that I have worked, I usually build my own personal Creative Reuse closet. I love the potential that comes out of having a whole lot of something… like 500 DVD cases! Or T-shirts! Or plastic lids! Or Pom poms! It is very inspiring to me to have a collection of this sort.

Painting by Laura Ramie

Painting by Laura Ramie

As well as a visual artist, I am an educator. I love designing creative projects for other people to make. That’s what I do with collections of materials. With Creative Reuse, I am the Creative Education Assistant. I started as a volunteer with them, helping facilitate programs. Now, I am happy to be on staff.

It’s also helping to reform some of my pack-rat tendencies… I know that the stop is waiting for me, so no need to take a bunch of stuff home or save lots of recyclables. I also donate to the shop often!

Being a west coast native, how has California influenced your work?

When I think of California’s influence, I think of a pair of artists that I feel a kin to. Arthur and Lucia Matthews made “decorative” art in the turn of the 20th Century. They epitomize the California Arts and Crafts movement and California Decorative Style. I love them so much. I would say they also capture Northern California specifically and the Bay Area’s beauty.

Wild West by Laura Ramie

Wild West by Laura Ramie

I would say there is a degree of sunniness and positivity in my work (not that California is always sunny and positive), but there is sometimes a more carefree feeling there… and the temperate climate might have something to do with it.

…when I create work I am thinking more about how it could benefit others or become a community project.

I think about California’s history a lot and the landscapes. I think of Monterey Cypresses, Oak woodland, golden poppies, the wildflowers, and golden hills. The colors of California and regional differences… from mountains, to coast, to desert… I find very inspiring.

I’m very proud to be from the Bay Area especially. I’m proud of where I was educated. I studied Illustration at the California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco. The lineage of that school is based on the Arts and Crafts movement. It used to be called California College of Arts and Crafts.

Mary Pickford, "America's Sweetheart" by Laura Ramie

Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweetheart” by Laura Ramie

My school taught me a great deal about craft: very fine workmanship and skill, as well as [how to be] a visual thinker. Being from the Bay gives me this desire to make unusual combinations, as well as multicultural influences [with a] little bit of a tech/innovation bent too.

Has Pittsburgh changed the way you approach the themes in your visual art?

My work has gotten less allegorical and fantastical since I have moved here. When I think of Pittsburgh, I think of it as having a more practical mindset. I would say my work has incorporated more grit… I’m a little more interested in the abstract. I’ve also been much more inspired by scientific topics. I have also fallen in love with the non-profits here, and when I create work I am thinking more about how it could benefit others or become a community project.

What kind of mediums do you work in?

Of any medium, I have done the most with paint – mostly acrylics, sometimes gouache and watercolor with colored pencils. Paint that dries quickly is a must for me because I use a layering technique. I also work digitally part of the time. Photoshop has long been a love of mine. As for other mediums, I enjoy collage, printmaking and papier mache. Sometimes I also work with fabric. I am always looking for another medium to try.

Mothagon by Laura Ramie

Mothagon by Laura Ramie

What are your goals as an artist? Do you hope to merge your philanthropy with your artistic pursuits?

I feel myself naturally shifting as an artist, and I would say my top goal is to never stop growing as an artist and person. I think it’s necessary for me to create… the challenge is making it sustainable. A chief goal is to advocate for myself and make my worth known. I feel myself shifting towards wanting to do design at the moment. I have always had a passion for design, but it was always eclipsed by my love of painting.

But right now I am finding that I actually really enjoy making info graphics and educational illustrations. A goal of mine is to merge this tendency with education or sustainability and make a viable career of it. And I can’t just do any design… I’ve found that it has to be important to me.

Right now I am making a lot of graphics related to Creative Reuse and our Climate Change connections and I find that enthralling. I never want to stop learning and developing new skills.

Do you have any current projects or collaborations?

Yes! I have recently collaborated with a Pittsburgh company, Knotzland! Founded by Nisha Blackwell, Knotzland makes handmade designer bow ties out of reclaimed fabrics. She also features artist collections. I have been honored to have my own collection.

Bowties by Laura Ramie

Bowties by Laura Ramie

And speaking of California history, my line of bow ties is called the Gold Rush Collection. They are available at knotzland.com. I hand-painted the fabrics and also sewed some of the ties myself.

I have also been working on teaching a Crafternoon at Assemble. It will be on Nov. 7, and it’s all about Microbes! I am endlessly fascinated by our microscope “frenemies.” My Crafternoon features lots of activities, such as making Petri Dish fridge magnets, 3D models of bacteria and a Microbiome Quilt… just lots of things to remind us how germ-y our world is. These projects are the start of something I’m hoping to continue further.

To find out more about Laura Ramie’s artistic contributions and to view her work visit lauraramie.com