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Artisan: A Compulsion for Color

by Deveron Timberlake; photos by Scott Elmquist

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Lost sleep, whirring brain, urge to express: She’s the one with three jobs plus a marriage and motherhood, and her need to make art is her prevailing compass.

“I feel like I have several lives,” she says, “ and everything is in service for my art work.”

Laino restores textiles — rugs, tapestries, antique fabrics — and supports herself mostly through the attentive, experienced labor involved in repairing old Oriental carpets.

She is a visual artist who works in hand-felted wool, handmade rice paper and mixed-media constructions that appear in gallery exhibitions here and afar.

And she designs pillows and ottomans of wool felt, a series of limited edition pieces with graphic shape and retro-hip sensibility and color. The items are precisely fabricated by an upholsterer in Williamsburg and sold through her husband’s Carytown store, Compass.

Laino considered going the mass-production route with the line, which eventually will include larger furnishings and custom upholstery.

She evaluated the possibilities on a fact-finding mission to the international furniture market at High Point, N.C., and decided that smaller, in this case, is better. The items may be too complex and time-intensive to replicate on a broad scale. And clients like the sense of uniqueness to the pieces, which are made of applique and reverse-applique that allows a layered effect to emerge in orbs and angles. The ottomans, gently curved cubes with bun feet, can be used as accent tables or footrests, or can function in a room as tactile sculpture wearing a jolt of brilliant pattern.

“I wanted them to be really bold,” Laino says of her designs. “I am attracted to color. It’s second nature to me. I wanted them to have that punch because they are small pieces with simple lines.” She envisions them in homes where clients collect art and studio furniture and share an appreciation for strength of design and execution.

She avoids following trends, she says, because trying to second-guess what people will buy has a way of deflating the purity of the creative process. “I’m basically making what appeals to me and hopefully it will appeal to somebody else. People seem to love them,” she says of a recent surge in interest and sales.

“I’ve been making art for most of my life, and I feel really lucky to do a lot of different creative things. It’s a balance of several worlds and can be a little chaotic. But I can bounce back and forth between projects and keep from feeling stale or getting stuck on something. Every artist finds inspiration and connections in odd ways, and things cross over in unexpected ways.”

Laino doesn’t know where all of these pursuits will lead, but is willing – even required – to follow her creative impulses through their various incarnations. Can joy be far behind?

Linda Laino has a Web site at www.lainoart.com.

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