Our Featured Artist for September is someone who describes her journey to becoming an artist as a “happy accident”. Candie Luter is a mixed media artist based in Iowa whose path took her first from corporate America, to working in sales at an interior design firm, to finally taking creative matters into her own hands. As an artist entrepreneur, she began Candice Luter ART + HOME where her designs are brought to life by the all-female community of artists who power her brand.
Candice’s work recently caught our attention while we were curating a mixed media gallery wall for The Reach Key West. Her artistic take on nautical rope knots were the perfect addition to the framed giclées and historic photographs, adding a textural element that elevates the entire look.
We think you’re going to fall in love with the work and the artist when you read her featured artist Q & A, and make sure to check out her artist page just added on our website.
Q: KBFA recently placed two knotted rope wall art pieces of yours at The Reach Key West as part of a beach-inspired gallery wall. As an artist who has work placed at many hotels across the country, what does it feel like to see your work in a hospitality setting?
Candice Luter: It has really all come full circle for me. I spent a number of years working with end user clients as an account manager at interior design firms, so I understand the customers concerns and unarticulated needs that go into specifying artwork and decor. On the other side of things, as an artist I know how personal and vulnerable it can be in the intimate process between creating, designing, and then seeing your work displayed. Seeing my work displayed gives me an incredible sense of pride to know that I heard and understood the vision, and then executed it to their expectations. The artwork just isn’t the piece itself, but rather a piece of a much larger concept in designing a room.
Q: One of our favorite quotes for you came from a social media post a while back when you wrote about something you were starting to work on that it was “either going to be really cool or very tragic”. How much of your art making feels like that and what do you do to stay focused when things go “tragic”?
Candice Luter: This actually makes me laugh because that’s how I drive my business in terms of the boundaries and expectations I set for myself but also the other women entrepreneurs that work on my designs with me at “The Warehouse” (as we so lovingly call it). One of the quotes I’ve put in our mission statement is “Here at The Warehouse… we fail hard. Failing is necessary and obstacles are opportunities. We look to discover new ideas, new efficiencies, and new avenues to expand knowledge and experience growth”. I set the tone that I’m not perfect so I don’t expect anyone else to be, even on designs we repetitively make over and over; sometimes we just have an “off” day. I tell them that when I have an idea I don’t always know what I’m doing or where I’m going with it, but I’m going somewhere because I’m willing to try. This has fostered a community of women who aren’t afraid to take chances with their own creative endeavors because they’ve been given permission to fail; it lets everyone let themselves off the hook. We laugh at our mistakes and use it to learn from for the next time because we are in this together. And when things go tragic I usually say “I’m calling time of death on this one” and I either walk away and come back to regroup, or I throw it away and start fresh. Once I learned to go with the flow it made my life and my stress level so much easier.
Q: When did you first start to work in macrame? How did you come to creating art in that medium and are there other mediums you work in that inspire you?
Candice Luter: I’ve really only been working with macrame and cotton rope as a textile about a year ago. I made some artwork for my own home and things just took off creatively from there!
I have to say while I do love working with the mirrors— there is something that I find very calming and relaxing about forming rope into a design and pulling it apart to uncover layers and layers of texture. Since I have long had a passion for woodworking, being able to find designs that also incorporate wood elements makes my heart sing. I’m always finding out something new about how I can stretch personally as well as artistically when working with rope. I try to stay outside of the box as much as possible and even research other forms of inspiration outside of this medium for new designs (hieroglyphics, clothing, etc) to push the envelope. I don’t want rope or wood to be limited by its assumed expectations as a medium to work with and put boundaries on how it can flow and scale across a wall. I let the design drive the products, not the products driving the design.
Q: Your work ranges from small scale to large scale. What inspires you about working across a variety of sizes and what are some of the challenges?
Candice Luter: I love the ideas that clients come to me with, and I welcome projects of all shapes and sizes; it keeps me on my toes and constantly evolving as an artist. My biggest challenge currently is in the dye process. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around how to make the dye process easier on myself for extremely large pieces but my team and I are sketching out a few concepts and looking at things from all angles to see the pros and cons of each option. They always laugh at how much I play “devil’s advocate”, but that’s just how I work. I like to attack things first mentally from different angles to avoid obstacles as much as possible on the front end, some are inevitable as you just don’t know what you don’t know until you try. I’m hopeful that in the near future we can rig something up at The Warehouse that addresses most if not all of our obstacles and concerns.
Q: We absolutely love your mirror art pieces that are embellished with metal and fringe. What first inspired you to combine those textures and materials together?
Candice Luter: I LOVE gold— it’s my favorite color. I tend to get restless when I design in the sense that I’m always dreaming up the next add-on or the next variation. Adding in brass to dress it up and keeping it as an option to go a little more modern and a little less boho was a definite win for my product line. To be able to execute the same process steps in production while being able to tweak it just a little for the different types of clientele was just a must!
Q: You’re a small business owner and you’ve been getting a lot of attention from some major brands and clients recently. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your way to where you are today?
Candice Luter: Staying true to myself, which isn’t so much a lesson as it is how I can sleep at night. I’m not afraid to address concerns I have with a proposed design or to offer an alternative if I think it might give them options to consider in addition. In the same regard I’m not afraid to say “I’ve never done this before but I’m willing to try” or “I don’t think this is my wheelhouse”. I don’t set anyone up for any false expectations— everything is above board and straight up! Pivoting is the biggest “lesson” that I think I’ve learned over the last year. We are in very uncertain times and I’ve had to learn to pivot (sometimes hourly) with my schedule, design plans, deadlines, etc. Being able to let go and pivot helps clients feel very comfortable in working with me. They see that I’m willing to do what it takes to get it done and that what goes out the door is something that they can be confident in.
Q: What’s next for Candice Luter Art & Home? This year has obviously been a curve ball for everyone but what are the goals you’ve set for yourself for the next 12 months?
Candice Luter: I’m so excited for what the future holds and have the BEST team behind me that a girl could ask for. I originally started out in furniture design and have a few things up my sleeve that I’d like to take a crack at and experiment for my office/studio and test the waters on social media to see how it goes. I’m constantly reinventing myself and always looking for the next design in my head, so I have no doubts I’ll always be putting my hand to something new, it’s just making sure I have the time to pull it off! I’m very blessed with this community of women under the brand and also my local community here in my city. Everyone is my biggest cheerleader and it feels both very exciting but also very humbling.
Q: Finally, summer is about to end and while our summers all looked very different this year than most— please share with us your favorite 2020 summer memory you’ll carry with you into the Fall?
Candice Luter: This may sound strange but, we recently had a horrible natural disaster in our city (which is the second biggest city in Iowa). While it wasn’t televised in the way it should have been it was compared to a category 4 hurricane. It was complete devastation. I quickly discovered, as did about 600,000 other people, that the only thing you really had at the end of the day was each other. No internet, no cell phones, no gas, no grocery stores…nothing. What we thought were obstacles with COVID-19 was nothing compared to this. We sat at home and had real conversations, we laughed in the dark with flashlights, and for the first time I was forced to pause on work, social media, and distractions. I have to say it was a moment in time I will never forget because it made me realize and reset what was truly important and what really matters. The world could fall apart but I have my health, I have a roof over my head, and I have the people in my life that I love. Nothing else gets better than that.