Lauren Tester is a staple at Arrow Creative. Not only is she our wonderful retail and membership coordinator, but she is also a studio artist! On days where Lauren is not behind the retail counter, you can find her creating hand forged jewelry in her elegant, cozy studio. Since Lauren is such an integral part of the Arrow team, we asked her some questions so everyone could get to know her a little better!
Can you tell us a little bit about the moment you realized you were an artist?
I always loved creating and making, but I never thought of myself as an artist until college when I fell in love with jewelry making and started exploring the arts again after hyper-focusing on academics.
How did you learn your necessary skills?
I was lucky to be employed by another jeweler for about 7 years where I learned the ins and outs of running a jewelry business, as well as how to create and design. I learned everything else through trial and error and watching lots of YouTube videos.
Are there specific opportunities or challenges that focused your career?
Lauren Brook was actually the result of my diagnosis of Anxiety and Depressive Disorder. I needed focus during a particularly rough episode, and my mom suggested making jewelry. Turns out I liked it and was good at it. Mental health struggles can make working tough (or impossible), but this kind of career lends its self to being able to take a moment to rest and recharge. I'm grateful for that.
Who do you consider as your most influential mentor?
My boss at Kitzi Jewelry, Karyn Turnage, was incredibly instrumental in starting my career. She always encouraged me to branch out on my own, something most bosses don't do. I'm so grateful for her support.
Artists are extremely resourceful and often create multiple streams of income. How do you generate income to support yourself and artistic practice?
Wholesale, wholesale, wholesale. I always encourage artists to branch out into selling with retailers. It requires diving into your pricing and figuring out how to continue to sell without a loss, but it's so worth it.
Do you have a creative hour, or a time/ place/ or activity that inspires your creativity?
I love having my studio at Arrow! It's been so beneficial for my work life balance, and getting to work and chat with other artists throughout the day is so fun. Artists tend to work alone in their own little bubble, and letting people into your work is incredible helpful.
What compromises have you had to make in order to succeed (ie: location of studio, driving a lot, not doing something you really want to do, working seasonally etc) Has it been worth all of your effort?
Being a working artist means giving up a lot of weekends for events. It's rough to miss out on things with friends and family, but worth it when Monday rolls around and you get to take the day off!
What do you love about being a creative in Memphis?
The incredible community we have. Artists that support each other, organizations that facilitate the arts, and patrons that want to buy local. It's so amazing to see!
Snapshots from Lauren's studio here at Arrow!
To learn more about Lauren and her work, stop by Arrow's retail marketplace on Thursdays from 10 - 4 and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 - 6, where you can find her smiling face checking out customers, creating the perfect reels for instagram, or hanging some of our amazing galleries. Her studio is always open while she is there, so you can browse her work and take home some Lauren Brook pieces of your own!
You can also check out her website at https://laurenbrookjewelry.com/