Name: Laura Prieto-Velasco
Hometown: About 45 min drive from Philadelphia in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Current town: Chicago, IL
Job description: Designer for Hvnter Gvtherer and Instructor at The School of the Art
Institute of Chicago
Laura Prieto-Velasco founded Hunter Gatherer in 2011 to adorn the urban nomad with limited edition designs that pair ancient ideas with elegant minimalism. Raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania and armed with degrees in Metalworking and Design from the Tyler School of Art and San Diego State, Laura learned to appreciate the value of maximizing limited resources and using recycled or sustainably sourced materials. This ethos fuels Hunter Gatherer. Making each piece by hand in her Chicago studio, Laura challenges wearers to think about jewelry as a platform for thinking about history and conscious living, rather than a reflection of passing trends. Committed to these values, Laura shares these ideas with students as an instructor at the School of the Art Institute.
Tell us about HVNTER GVTHERER
HVNTER GVTHERER offers contemporary accessories crafted from precious and non-precious materials. Ranging from staples to statement pieces in a palette of rich blacks, muted grays, and weathered metallics, HVNTER GVTHERER’s line is diverse in form and designed to complement a variety of tastes and lifestyles. The handcrafted process leaves a landscape of unique imperfections on the surface of each piece that change subtly over time and reveal a distinctive, inner beauty.
What materials do you work with?
Mostly copper, silver, bronze and leather
What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around?
Ancient history, archaeology, contemporary fashion and pop culture.
What are you currently working on?
I am preparing work for my fall collection and an exciting new collaboration
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
Since most of my work is created via hammering metal by hand, I feel that each piece is born out of a small ritual of hammering to a specific rhythm in a specific state of mind.
What’s your art background?
My background is in fine arts; and have a BFA in Metals/Jewelry/CAD CAM from Tyler School of Art and an MFA in Jewelry & Metalsmithing from San Diego State University. I have been working in the genre of metals/sculpture/design/adornment for close to 15 years but have been creative my whole life.
What’s been happening in your life?
A few years ago I started a an experimental “project” to make my work more accessible and it quickly became a business. For a few years I straddled the worlds between art and design until I decided to stop exhibiting as “Laura Prieto-Velasco” and focus exclusively on Hvnter Gvtherer. It was quite liberating to be able to create work under a conceptual moniker without having my personal identity tied to it.
What’s next for you?
I can’t reveal exact details yet but I am working on my winter collection which will be a series of one of a kind sculptural leather pieces paired with a custom scent. Also in the background is another long time collaboration that is finally starting to take shape.
What’s inspiring you?
Music, subcultures, current events, technology, ancient history
Do you have any events coming up/ past events you’d like to mention?
I will be exhibiting and launching my newest fall collection this fall in either late October or early November at a gorgeous boutique hotel recently renovated and open to the public – The Chicago Athletic Association.
Is any of your work political?
Not directly, no, but there are certainly political undertones to some of my pieces.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
I create work based on my interests and inspiration and hope that the pieces resonate with their wearers in distinctly personal ways.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?
The biggest challenge is myself – trying to make work that I find relevant and interesting. The second biggest challenge is being able to support myself financially off of what I do.
How has the meaning of your work changed over time?
With the birth of Hvnter Gvtherer I have been able to create work through a lens that is less personal and more focused on *who* is actually wearing my work, and allowed me to make my ideas and pieces a lot more accessible than I ever could have imagined.
What do you dislike about your work?
If I dislike anything about my work I wouldn’t make it or put it into the world.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I took a shoemaking class and learned a little bit of the craft a few years ago but have yet to employ what I learned – waiting until the time is right!
What is your dream project?
I am living my dream project!
Are you involved with any organizations?
Closest thing to being involved with an organization is my teaching practice at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (SAIC)
Do you collaborate with other artists?
Yes, quite often! The first big collaboration I did within Hvnter Gvtherer was a collection of black cuffs stamped with text sourced lyrics by ambient experimental musician LYKANTHEA
What are a few of your favorite spots in your area?
Lately I have been really enjoying the vibrant DIY art and music culture here in Chicago. Some of my favorites are Rubicon, Club Rectum, Slow Gallery and Johalla Projects.
Favorite artists and why? People in your field whom you most admire:
I don’t tend to follow or “favorite” particular artists but there are some individuals who have greatly affected the way I think about material, form, color, space and concept such as Louise Nevelson, Isa Genzken, Iris Van Herpen and even Kim Gordon – who is outside of my field yet I often read or listen to her interviews for motivation and inspiration. More So, I tend to have “muses” who inspire me and elicit a desire to create work (I imagine) they would like to wear. These are people who contribute to creative culture/fashion in a way I find interesting, and I am lucky enough to call some of them friends. Some of my latest muses are Zola Jesus, Heather Gabel and Chelsea Wolfe.
Favorite authors, fiction:
I am not an avid reader of fiction but my husband turned me onto Cormac McCarthy a few years ago and I am hooked! Just wish I had more time to indulge in his books.
Favorite authors, nonfiction:
Some of my favorite nonfiction texts are purely technical, such as Oppi Untracht’s seminal text “Metal Techniques for Craftsmen” or politically/fact based such as artist Laurie Palmer’s recent text “In the Aura of a Hole.” Other nonfiction texts are usually philosophically or theory based. Lately I have been fascinated with Paul Virilio’s concepts of speed, technology and power as they relate to the design field.
What are you listening to these days?
Lately I have been listening to a lot of local music, mostly experimental in the genres of noise and metal.
What was the last show you attended?
I have been lucky enough to see several amazing shows over the past few weeks but the last one I attended was Oozing Wound at the Empty Bottle.
What was the last exhibit you attended?
Hiatus by Richard Blackwell at Fernwey Gallery
What was the first piece of artwork you bought/ do you buy a lot of artwork?
I can’t recall the first piece of artwork I bought in my whole life but I do recall the first piece I bought while living in Chicago – a small painting by Andrew Holmquist purchased from Slow Gallery in the neighborhood of Pilsen (Chicago)