Five-Dots is a Cincinnati-based online publication that hopes to open a conversation between artists/craftsman and the public about their work, process, ideas, concerns about their community, and workspace.
Made in Cincinnati vendor and fine artist Megan Bickel helms this project with partner and photographer Cassandra Zetta. They release a new interview with a local creative, artist or maker each month on their site including — this interview with Lindsey Estes of Lucca Laser Workshop.
Lindsey Estes is a machinist, designer, and business owner based out of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Located on Main Street, within the heart of the Over-the-Rhine revival, is Lindsey's small (but huge with heart) shop Lucca Laser Workshop.
Growing up in her fathers machine shop, Lindsey had the opportunity to experience all of the sensory wonders of working with machines and wood. Lindsey grew to want a career combining the day to day labor of wood working and machining with her desire to make love-filled objects. From there, she grew a graphic botanical business aesthetic that is as true to its material and function. Each and every piece in her shop is created from natural wood and recycled paper. From the packaging to the tiny details inscribed on the back, it is all created by her. Long hours are spent designing, engraving, sanding, scrubbing and packaging every item.
Five-Dots: How long have you been in this studio?
Lindsey Estes: I’ve been in this space for two years and I’ve been in business for about four.
F-D: What did having a store front in OTR do for your business?
LE: It has done a lot-- it has helped me grow exponentially. It's more so just people seeing me and stopping in from having stores around here. The store front has allowed me to have a lot more visibility and has created a way for other businesses to see just what they can do with laser cutting and design. There is so much custom availability with what I make and do. Also, being downtown has changed me and my direction. I like to have a little bit for everyone, I like for everyone to be able to walk in, get a little something, affordability is important to me.
F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
LE: I just found this space. I didn’t initially intend on having a retail location, but when I found the space and I saw the orange doors, I just fell in love. It’s funny, a week or so before looking at the space I found this journal that I had when I was little. In it I had written that I wanted three things: to be an artist, a mom, and to own a store. I found this spot and figured ‘fuck it! I’ma open a store!”. So I just got started from there.
F-D: What about the layout of the space? What about it helps you work?
LE: The layout helps me stay motivated and focused. I mean, I love having the windows so that I can see outside. I like being in an area that stays relatively busy throughout the day. I encourage everyone to try to have a studio outside of their home if they can. I worked out of my home for a long time but I think that having a space outside of the home has really helped me. I mean [especially with having a retail space] I have to make work to sell, but I also have to make work to fill this shop. I have to stay motivated. And at the end of the day-- it’s nice to have a place to make work and then immediately be able to put it on the floor and feel that sigh of relief.
F-D: Has the location of the studio influenced your work in any way?
LE: Yes. So, laser design is not rapid prototyping by any means, it just isn’t that quick. But it allows me to create a lot of stuff a lot quicker than most artists or makers. It allows me to make beautiful things faster, and thus I can make them more affordable. Also, living in an urban setting opened up my mind to product lines because I want something that everyone can afford. I feel like on Main anyway, [Main Street, a street with a dense population of galleries and other creative enterprises] we really try to maintain a level of affordability; and I think that is really important in the art world. Because at the end of the day, most people don’t collect or purchase art because it is just too expensive.
F-D: Can you describe a typical day for yourself in the studio?
LE: Coffee first. I usually start by taking my dog on a little walk around the city. I usually bring my dog here, then start by sitting at the computer and planning my day: I like to first check on all of my clients and website, just to make sure everyone is being taken care of and orders are being fulfilled. Then I usually try to spend a little bit of time organizing; just so I can clean up my mind and workspace a little bit. Finally, I move onto working on whatever needs to be done that day. It can be graphic design, sanding, scrubbing, packaging, the whole nine yards.
F-D: Does having a space that’s open to the public daily force you to be a little more put together?
LE: Yes! Of course I think that it’s important for me to keep ‘back here’ [ the workspace] as straight as possible and I always keep the store front clean, but occasionally it becomes a massacre back here and I have to reign it in.
F-D: Do you work on client work first and then play around with experimental stuff later? What is your process look like there?
LE: Experimental stuff always happens in the heat of the moment. I’ll be working on something important and then I will just get it in my head that I need to make this. . . turtle keychain. . . or something. But it's mostly just whatever needs to be done first.
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
LE: I feel like I work with a lot of natural products because it makes me feel better that they will break down over time. I love geometric designs and references to botany and varieties of wildlife. But overall, just sticking to wood and paper are my most important elements.
F-D: What mediums do you work with? Or is there any new material you’d like to work with?
LE: Paper and wood. There is an eight foot laser cutter that I’d really like to get in here so that I can make some furniture in the future. So that isn’t a new material. . . but I’ll be able to work with some new designs.
F-D: How much does an eight foot long laser cutter run?
LE: Like $150,000.
F-D: Good Geesh!
LE: Yea. . . And I do plan to expand my retail. I’m potentially moving over to Findlay Market. My plan is to create a one-stop laser shop. Ideally [the customer] would be able to come in, pick whatever item they’d like cut (cutting boards, signage, trays, etc), choose a design, and then come back in a few hours and have a custom piece.
Five-Dots interviews are co-published by Made in Cincinnati in an effort to expand awareness of local artists and their craft. Interviews by Megan Bickel. Photos by Cassandra Zetta.