We have always admired the eloquent and evocative work by Australian watercolour artist Lauren Cassar of Mirador. With our mutual love for organic cotton, we launched the process of a collaboration to sit alongside our first collection of sustainable swimwear. Both designs are representative of the simple rewards of Summer, expressed in warm painterly tones. We spoke with Lauren to learn more about her art and her creative motivations.
Story photographed by Tasha Tylee.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I grew up in Tasmania, south of Hobart in a yachting town called Kettering. I spent most weekends on Bruny Island sailing around on our little yellow yacht, Shiloh. Both of my parents are very creative and let me run free. Luckily the Virgo in me fueled my self motivation as I never had any pressure to achieve anything, except to be myself. I was always encouraged to make the most of my differences, and took to the subjects I loved in school - art, design, english, psychology and music.
That sounds idyllic for nurturing a creative outlet. Is this where you draw inspiration?
I am deeply influenced by the landscape I grew up in, I feel honoured and privileged to experience the natural wonders - exploring and immersing in the bush and the ocean. However, Tasmania has a heartbreaking colonist history, so I’m still coming to terms with my relationship to the land. It requires constant self reflexivity and probably a journey that will continue on forever.
When did you start Mirador and what was your motivation behind doing so?
I started Mirador in early 2015. Sarongs had been on my mind for a long time, I saw them as a large canvas, although they hadn’t moved from traditional aesthetics in the Western world since they were introduced in the 1940s – this frustrated me, as we have seen swimwear be refined year after year. I kept waiting for someone to pick up on the idea, and then I decided to stop hesitating and give it a go. You know when you are travelling and you have this clarity, this drive? Mirador had been brewing in my mind for years, but I went on a long holiday and told my partner about the idea. Speaking about it aloud made it real. I’m not one to say I am going to do something unless I am absolutely sure about it.
What have been some of the best moments in your career so far?
The best part of Mirador is certainly the collaboration like ours, and the women I have been connected to since its inception. My community has grown immensely and I feel supported rather than in competition with anyone. Connecting with like minded makers and thinkers is beautifully rewarding. I find experiencing and sharing creativity and commitment to our own kind of creative practice is very motivating for one another.
And what about lessons. What have you learned?
I have this constant to-ing and fro-ing conversation with myself, questioning whether producing any kind of product at all is beneficial to the world. Even if I do my best at making my garments ethical and sustainable, I’m still contributing more. I grapple with this often, but it motivates me to make the most ethical and sustainable choices that are possible to me.
Your home also doubles as your studio. How do you keep focus and avoid procrastination?
I terribly miss having my own studio / work space, however, due to my masters requirements (I’m studying to be an Art Therapist) when I am studying which is 99% of the time these days, I need to be in absolute silence, so I have been on lockdown for the past two years. The move from a studio space to home wasn’t easy, but I don’t get distracted from the open and exciting wide world. If a friend is around in a shared space, I want to have fun and chat, dream up big ideas, collaborate so working from home is the only way I can focus.
Where and when do you prefer to paint?
I prefer to paint while I’m on holiday or outside experiencing some kind of view. Focusing on what is in front of me can help me simplify my creative outcomes. I don’t have to think too hard about what I should put down on paper, nature does it all for me and I just play the role of interpreter. I have been studying for the past two years so getting away and out into nature hasn’t been an easy task, so rather, I make arrangements with pots and found objects and repeat the process, just inside my studio. At the moment, I’m inspired by the simple pleasures, the ones I can give to myself while I’m so busy. A bunch of flowers, a loaf of fresh bread, spinach from my garden and I make pots on the wheel as a hobby. All of these little things are making an appearance in my paintings of late. Of course my imagination plays a part as well. Taking the time to notice shadows and patterns.
Describe how your art feels...
To create, to paint, feels like a gift to myself. I dream of only painting, all day, everyday. It calms me and has never made that crossover into ‘work’. Of course, I’m not always successful in creating an outcome I admire aesthetically, more so, the ritual of getting out my paper, opening my paint tins, filling up my jar of water, looking through my hundreds of paint brushes to find the perfect one to create what I have in mind. It all feels inherently lovely.
What role does colour play in your works?
When reflecting on colour, a memory comes to mind of a time I spent in the Northern Territory a few years back, I noticed there was a soft, pink tinge to everything around me. I looked up into the sky and saw the red earth was reflecting onto the bottom of the clouds, which was reflecting back down and onto the general tone, everywhere I looked. There is this beautiful colour called Australian Grey, which captures this scene for me perfectly and I use it in almost every artwork of mine.
Tell us about the works used in our collaboration...
I had such fun creating the Kowtow x Mirador sarong. The sarong design is a found object arrangement, zooming in on the simple rewards Summer time can give. The warm painterly tones are hopeful, and ready to embrace the body of it’s new owner. The day I painted the artwork I was gifted a beautiful bunch of tulips from my sister, they feature in there.
You also work with soft materials. What change do you hope to see in the fashion industry?
I hope to see more labels following in the footsteps of Kowtow. Ultimately, this kind of thoughtful design should be the industry’s way forward.
How would you describe your relationship with clothing and style?
I find the way I dress, and clothing in general as a tool for expression. A knot here. A tie there. I dress fairly simply, and have an admiration for garments with an interesting collar or a hidden pocket. I buy only as I need and also wear a lot of vintage.