From pet portrait to doggy bag

Lauren Ottaway, a current MAC student, shares her creative journey that led her from paint-brush to screen-printing.

I first painted Louis the Frenchie as a gift for someone with a stocky French bulldog bursting with personality. The reaction from my friends and family for this small 30cm x 20cm pop-art style French bulldog was very positive, and I had an upcoming exhibition at Lentil as Anything so I thought I’d dedicate a portion of it to Louis.

Louis the third, acrylic on canvas, 2013
Louis the third, acrylic on canvas, 2013

I painted another four small canvases in varied colours (using acrylic) and another larger canvas with his face repeated – a bit like Campbell Soup cans. I received a lot of good feedback at the exhibition, and then sat on the idea for a little while as I thought Louis could become a little icon.

A few months ago I came to the conclusion that I wanted to quit my full-time job in marketing, and I remembered that I have always wanted to have a market stall (I might call myself crazy now though)! My cousin is a screen-printer, so I shared my seemingly wild idea about printing Louis on tote bags. She thought it could work, and she had leftover bags and material I could use, so she taught me how to screen print.

Lauren screen printing

Using my cousin’s rusty carousel and a screen with a stencil of Louis cut out using contact, we began producing flawless prints. I was gobsmacked; seeing what was my painting from one year ago on a bag was so exciting! I printed about 20 bags and tea towels, and I was addicted.

The next few days was a mad rush gathering quotes for bag and tea towel wholesalers, and everyone I know pitching ideas about what I could do and how I could do it.

I came up with two more designs – Gus the pug and Wooza the crazy cat.

The next week I found my lounge room full of boxes of bags, tea towels and aprons.

Tea towels finalLauren O Designs 2

And the next week I was furiously printing in my in-laws garage and heat-pressing each piece in preparation for the first market I had been accepted into. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be screen-printing one hundred bags I would have never believed you!

I’m not sure if this is how far Louis and his two new friends will go on this unexpected journey, though I’m loving every step.

Starting up a tiny creative business

After selling at a few markets, I now have so much more respect for people who make and sell things themselves. You have to do everything yourself, from creating tags for the products, to loading the car, setting up shop and keeping a smile on your face whilst people walk past your stall and run their hands along your products.

However, the satisfaction of people purchasing and adoring what you sell is priceless. It is a great outlet to meet like-minded creative people and also seeing what other people are doing inspires me every day. After being exposed to this hand-made community, I have decided to only buy hand-made products and support local artists and creatives this Christmas.

You can find out more about my screen-printing products here: facebook.com/laurenodesigns and see my other artwork here: madebylauren.com.au.

Upcoming markets

Blender Lane Artist Market – 110 Franklin St, City

December 10 and 17, 5:00pm – 10:00pm

Camberwell Christmas Twilight Market – The Parkview Room, 340 Camberwell Road, Camberwell

December 19th 4:30 – 8:00pm

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