Heady Culture Artist Profile: Laura Sullivan

Kathryn Blume 17 Feb 2018

Hardwick-based textile artist Laura Sullivan reached out to us recently to share some of the hemp and cannabis-friendly t-shirts she’d created, and the whole Heady team was so captivated by her work that we thought we’d share her story with the good citizens of Heady Nation!

So, please give a warm canna-welcome to Laura Sullivan!

HVT: What is your personal background?

LS: I am 25-years-old, originally from Massachusetts and I completed my undergrad in art at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

HVT: What’s the source of your artistic inspiration?

LS: I draw inspiration from nature. I started College as a freshman at NYU, and realized I didn’t feel inspired or well enough to create in a big city. I knew then that for me, everything would be okay so long as there was beauty around and woods to run into.

My media is decidedly fiber, and I have been sewing since I was 10-years-old, but I also spin, weave, dye, embroider, teach basketry and sometimes I knit. To get really specific, hemp is my medium of choice. I think my style is anything with a good tooth to it, which is fiber language for quality texture.

Two-Legged Mermaid Dress, vintage fabric and plant dyed hemp. Courtesy photo.

I like my pieces to be authentic and tactile to the marrow of them. The more natural the better. That is why I always work with natural fibers and botanical dyes. Plant and insect colors have a live quality to them that sings. It is also important to me that my pieces age gracefully, and eventually decompose, like a life cycle.

The earth is my muse and my art is earth-minded. Sometimes artists can be self-serving, and generate more things and stuff for personal recognition that ultimately amounts to more indestructible things and stuff crowding the planet and oceans. This work is not about any of that.

HVT: What’s your personal and artistic relationship to Vermont?

LS: I’ve been in Vermont only since last May, but yes we are very connected. I came to Vermont for my art, as my material of choice is hemp, and I see Vermont as a state where a hemp fiber industry could really flourish again for the betterment of people and planet.

Given that I am a botanical dyer, I am learning the local palette of colors around, from onion skins at the coop where I work to goldenrod on the side of the road. I even just completed a Vermont-themed piece last night: A two-by-three foot Green Mountain Boys flag, dyed with Vermont’s own vegetable matter. Also, I find myself really inspired by the way many Vermonters patch their clothes to no end! I’ve seen coveralls that are more patch than canvas. Now if only we can make that mainstream.

Green Mountain Boys Flag 2018, 2’x3’ All Hemp, All Plant dye. Courtesy photo

HVT: What’s your relationship with cannabis?

LS: As a child, I remember often being preoccupied with magic. My brother used to tell me to step into the loop on my dog’s leash to gain “magic powers.” I can’t count how many times I — literally — fell for this. Additionally, I would stare at plants and squirrels in my backyard waiting for some sign of communication. It was a curiosity, but it was also a knowing, or intuition — I felt informed. At some point I suppose this practice faded, and feeling invalidated, I moved on.

Invalidated, that is, until I found cannabis and hallucinogenic mushrooms. In my mid-to-late teens, it was proven: magic does exist in nature. But the sentiment wasn’t anything like “Oh my God drugs!,” it was rather, “Oh my God…Me.” I knew that. I felt it in my heart: seeds are miracles, plants are enchanted, nature is intelligent and beauty is its language.

So, in terms of creating art, this is where I believe my subject matter comes from. I must enchant the natural world and affirm it’s enchanted nature for others through beauty. Working with fibers has allowed me to weave parts of nature together in a way that has always felt just like pure, authentic manifestation.

Working with hemp fibers is what I believe to be my true reason for being. I know cannabis is our ally, and the medicine the planet herself is calling for in these times given that our major sources of monoterpenes, namely the marine phytoplankton and boreal forests, are being depleted and also that cannabis cleans soil through phytoremediation. So I am here to say, “cannabis is wholesome” and help others to see the true magic we’ve been gifted.

“Cannabis is Wholesome” Jersey 2018. All hemp, plant dye. Courtesy photo

HVT: What’s your vision for cannabis in Vermont?

LS: I’m so glad you asked! I see Vermont as having a raging fiber industry. The state is small and rural enough that I think we could share a fiber processing plant amongst all of us and return this area to its fiber roots. Everybody is interested in CBD, and that’s great, but there is so much more to this plant.

Smoke Tanned Buckskin, vintage fabric, and hemp Skirt with antler buttons. Courtesy photo

I spend a lot of time asking the earth what she is calling for, and as it turns out cotton is not OK. Not even organic cotton, sadly enough. Hemp fiber can replace wood paper and cotton cloth easily in ways that are regenerative to our loveable fertile planet.

Another thing that is totally not OK is plastic, and hemp can do away with that too. We have so many creative, beautiful untapped solutions waiting in the seeds, and did you know that hemp garments don’t generate static because they have the same net static charge as humans? We are designed to wear this stuff. I could go on and on, but I in sum I really think it’s in Vermont’s — and my favorite planet’s — best interest to embrace hemp fiber as an industry.

To see more of Laura’s work, check out her website.

Felt and plant dye. Courtesy photo

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