One of my favorite things about having a small business is the freedom of being able to do what I want. I work closely with so many talented artists, and love that they are often able to take what our customers love and bring it to life.
While working at Anthropologie, I met Emily, a display artist for our store. She was amazing and I was in absolute awe of her work. Years later, when I left to open my own store, she helped me build our first (and most memorable) display, a giant macramé piece made from driftwood I found on the beach. As we approached our remodel and expansion in 2015, Emily introduced me to her friend Lora, and the two of them helped me build out the new store. Since then, the two have worked on all Prism fixtures and displays together, making magic constantly.
At Prism, the look and feel of the boutique is really important to the brand. I have been working with Lora and Emily for years on store displays, but one day, we started discussing how cool, modern plant stands are so hard to find. It was that moment that we decided to make and sell them. We pulled inspo, talked about designs, and decided to launch our own exclusive-to-Prism collection. With details like brass and copper, these plant stands quickly became best-sellers in the boutique.
Customers loved our planters so much, we recently decided to add hanging displays for our spring windows based off of an installation I had seen in LA. Emily and Lora took my idea and ran with it, making my dream come true. And it was so gorgeous, we decided to make it available for our customers.
I’m so excited that we’ll be offering these fixtures to our customers, and couldn’t be happier to work with Emily and Lora on this exciting project. And because I know there are going to be a lot of exciting things on the horizon, I wanted to introduce you all to these amazingly talented women I am lucky to call my friends.
Read on for our interview with Emily and Lora, and be sure to shop our collection of plant stands and hanging planters in our newly revamp Home collection.
You two met working at the same Anthropologie store. How did you start working together?
Emily: Lora was brought in to help at the same opening where I met Dayna, actually. We bonded almost instantly jamming out to some Robyn tunes. We kept in touch since then but began working together shortly after I went out on my own and started my own business. I got commissioned to paint a very large mural (very quickly) for Life Is Good and I reached out to Lora to see if she was available to jump on board. Thankfully she was - we found that we work so well together and the collaborations continued from there.
Emily you went to school for architecture and Lora you studied photography. Tell us about your paths to becoming installation artists.
Emily: Throughout school I enjoyed all the various types of projects and mediums we worked with but I was never too inspired by the thought of having a career in the field. I had been interning at an architecture firm the last few years of school and just so happened to have gotten laid off a week before graduation. A friend of mine was working at the Anthropologie in Tucson and suggested I apply and talk to the visual manager about working with visuals. I got hired as a sales associate and a month into the job I was lucky enough to get the Visual Sales position. Long story short, that began a 6 year journey at Anthro. The display coordinator position really prepares you to make just about anything and over the years I began doing more and more on the side until I decided to make the jump and go out on my own.
Lora: My path was very similar. I started school in Architectural Engineering, but transferred when I realized I couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. I went into Graphic Design, but ended up with a BFA in Visual Studies. After working for several years as an apparel designer, I decided to go back to school for commercial photography. After graduating I worked in a photo studio until my husband and I moved to LA for his job. That was 2010 and I was having a very hard time finding a job. After months of no luck, I decided I just needed any job, so I applied for any sales associate position at Anthropologie. I began helping a bit on displays during the holiday, and loved working with so many different materials and I realized my array of skills in architecture and art was exactly what I needed. Several months later I was hired as the assistant Display Coordinator and was eventually promoted to Display Coordinator at a different location. Working at Anthro taught me so much and allowed me to explore many different materials and processes.
How did you first meet Dayna and start working with Prism Boutique?
E: I met Dayna at an Anthro store opening. I was the Display Coordinator at the new store and she was the opening lead. She reached out to me when she was getting ready to open Prism and asked if I could help build out the space. It was so special to be a part of Prism’s beginnings! I still remember when we installed the fitting room and hung the fabric for the first time… it was magical!
L: When Dayna expanded Prism, Emily asked if I could help with some of the building. I jumped at the chance to get my hands dirty again and that is when I met Dayna. I worked for a week building and installing shelves and fixtures that Emily had planned. I got to know Dayna well, and we had children the same age so we had the new Mom thing in common.
What was the process and inspiration behind the Prism Home plant stands and plant hangers?
L: My family had recently moved to a place with a large patio and I was having fun planning and building stuff for my new outdoor space. I love the midcentury modern style planters, but never really found the time to do build any myself. Dayna and I were lamenting about how difficult it was to find good-looking and affordable and how I wanted to try to make some. She said something to the effect of, “Hey, would you be interested in helping me design and build plant stands for Prism!?” Of course I jumped at the chance. She wanted her customers to be able to take a little piece of Prism into their home. Since I had been making her fixtures and displays for a while, it was easy enough to look at various midcentury style plant stands and put the Prism twist on it.
As for the plant hangers, Dayna shared an image of hanging plants that she just loved. We are always sharing things that inspire us even if we don't have a particular project in mind. We wanted to take the idea of the classic macrame plant hanger, play with the idea of scale and modernize it. Prism’s aesthetic is very neutral and we loved the color of the untreated leather paired with the cotton rope.
Once the windows were up we heard people were coming in off the street asking if Prism had the hangers for sale. We decided we loved the idea of making smaller versions of the hangers that people could purchase, and Prism X LOREM had their first collaboration in the works.
You also create all the in-store fixtures and displays for Prism Boutique. How do you approach a project that not only needs to look beautiful, but be super functional as well?
E: Making fixtures is probably one of my favorite parts of what I do. I love the challenge of joining form and function. I typically start with the product that need to be showcased and determine the best way for it to be displayed and shopped and at what quantities. From there I work backwards and think about materials and how to what we call “Prism-ize” the idea to achieve the aesthetic we want and how to add details to make the pieces special.
L: Emily and I really do love making the store fixtures together, and I think it comes from our Architecture background. I approach making fixtures as a kind of custom furniture project. I usually start with inspiration from a piece of furniture and then try and figure out how it can be a functional surface for the store with the right Prism design details.
Where do you find inspiration? What do you do to stay creatively inspired?
E: I always have one eye open when I am going about my day for any cool little fixture or piece of furniture - or anything I find interesting. Sometimes a cool ipad stand at a coffee shop inspires an idea for a cool bench. Lora and I also share the love for cool materials so we’ll often just pick something up we like from the hardware store and play around until we come up with a project for it.
L: I love to go to museums. I’m very inspired by sculpture and art installations. I also just love getting my hands dirty. Like Emily said, I’ll see a table or a piece of jewelry and I’ll try and figure out how to make it with my own twist. Or we’ll see a fun DIY process and play with it until we can push it to a new level. We’ll get so excited when we have our fun art days together, it’s like we’re little kids again.
It sounds like you guys balance a lot of different projects at once. Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
L: Plan, plan, plan. But be flexible. I love to do lists and tend to flounder a bit if I don’t have one. I have to juggle my Mom/Work balance also, and it can be difficult. My son goes to school twice a week, so I try to prioritize those days with things I cannot do if he’s around. Like large building jobs or on site installations. I am flexible about when I work, too. Sometimes I do a more quiet project or my invoicing at night after his bedtime. Sometimes I need to work for several hours on the weekend. Sometimes my lil guy brings his toys and his sidewalk chalk and plays in the garage with me while I sand, drill, and glue. He loves to “do his work” while I do mine and he gets to explore and play with my scrap materials and simple tools.
E: I’ve been really into the “one and done” approach this year: prioritize projects and then knock them out one after another, finishing one completely before moving on to another. This isn’t 100% possible… I usually have to juggle a little bit everyday but trying to stick to this method has really helped me get projects turned over more quickly. On the other hand, keeping flexible is good, too. Deadlines get moved, your materials take longer than expected to arrive, you get sick, etc. I made a solid plan at the beginning of the week but will assess daily to make any adjustments necessary. It’s great to have a partner to divide and conquer tasks. If you work solo, look for good opportunities to bring in some help when you need it! It can be so, so beneficial.
What made you make the jump to full-time freelance? What there a specific benchmark you wanted to hit or was it a just-go-for-it moment?
E: I had been a Display Coordinator for about 5 years and had been doing more and more side work when I began to give going full time freelance some serious thought. I made the decision at the beginning of 2015 that by that fall I wanted to go out on my own so I hustled hard that year, taking every extra job I could get, working in the evening and weekends to save some money and grow my portfolio. By August I decided it was time but it was still a terrifying jump! So thankful that I’m still going!
L: I worked as a Display Coordinator until 2 weeks before my son was born. I remember being 7 months pregnant trying to drill something under a table while the store was open and feeling like a beached whale trying to get back up after being on the ground. That moment made me realize I wanted to focus my attention on being a mother during his first year or so. I left my position at Anthro and just really enjoyed that time with him. At about a year and a half I felt like I was ready to start doing some small freelance jobs. When Emily contacted me I just knew it was the right time and person to start working with, so I said yes to anything she asked me to help with and it blossomed from there.
What is your favorite thing about working for yourselves?
E: I love that I can work in a way that works best for me as an individual. I often get a surge of energy and productivity at 8pm so I can get half a day's work in at night. Sometimes I work all day Saturday and Sunday… or work non stop 8 days in a row, but then the following week I can take some recovery time. It is a bit challenging to discipline yourself, but I try to take advantage of not having a strict schedule to get creative with how I work so that I know I am being the most productive for me.
L: I love the flexibility of my schedule. I was never a big fan of working the typical 8 hr 5 day a week gig. I also love having the ability to seek out projects I’m excited to do.. If I’m not excited about it I don’t have to take the job. This means I can really focus my energy on what I love and refine the skills I enjoy.
You balance so many different ventures, not to mention Lora is a new mom -- do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance? What do you like to do for fun?
E: Work-life balance definitely can get tricky. I feel like Lora and I try to keep our work days together fun, either by taking a few minutes to get a “fancy coffee” or putting on some mad jams on supply runs. As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of working for yourself is that your schedule is always changing but this sometimes means work creeps into every day and all of the day. I try to plan in full days off from time to time to get refreshed. I also do improv and sketch comedy which offers me a great break from work… and life, really!
L: I enjoy being active. I like taking fitness classes, hiking, going on bike rides, etc. I love nature and gardening. My family loves all those things too, so we try to keep weekends and evenings for family as much as possible. This job can be very physically demanding (building and installing) or very sedentary (graphic design, planning, sketching, detail work) so I try and make sure I get my body moving when I can. I would say my advice is don’t let your side interests disappear when you’re in the hustle. Plan time for the things that are important to you and put it in your schedule to make sure you have time for it.
How do you attract your ideal clients and customers?
E: Another one of my favorite things about having gone out on my own is being able to develop my own style and aesthetic for my work. I get most of my clients via word of mouth or through them coming across a photo of my work on instagram or seeing it in person in places like Prism. I try to bring something special and “me” to every project I do and thankfully just getting my work out there has lead to more clients and fun projects.
You’ve designed everything from murals to graphic tees - what was a recent favorite project of yours?
E: Last fall Lora and I did another project for Life Is Good. They reached out to us to create an installation that could display and showcase submissions for an art contest where kids submitted drawings of what made their lives good. The artwork was both hilarious and so inspiring. We cropped over 1,200 images, had them printed and cut into 2” x 2” squares which we then glued to wood blocks of varying heights and then assembled into a giant collage. It was such a huge undertaking and so much more work than we had anticipated but was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever done.
Do you have any other exciting collaborations or commissions in the works?
E: We do! A few installations, some fun projects for Prism, and some products/project of our own that we hope to get into an online shop soon!
You’ve recently started working together in an official capacity as Lorem. What are you most excited about for your new venture?
E: Well, beyond getting to work with another talented artist who happens to be one of my closest friends.. I really love seeing what we can create as a team. We are able to combine our strengths and balance each other out, I just have a comfort when I begin a project with Lora that we will come up with something really amazing and I will have a partner there with me throughout the process.. To brainstorm, troubleshoot, and for fun and support. Can’t wait to see what’s to come for us!
L: I love working with Emily so much. Every day I get to work with her I am excited to wake up and get started. We really do share the same creative wavelength, and it’s not often that you find that with another person. We push each other to do our best work. On top of that we just have so much damn fun together. I know that no matter what happens when we are together we are probably going to be laughing at some point. I couldn’t dream up a better work environment, and I am beyond excited to see where our business will take us.