The Designer

Lauren Lee’s ‘Posey’ blooms

By Evan Thomas


When Lauren Lee, 22, enters La Salle Flowers she cranes her neck and stares at some little succulents on a shelf. Some are stubbled and soft, some show off sharp spines, some bloom in pastel. Her favorite plants sit at opposite extremes, the ones that can stoically cling to life through droughts or insouciant owners, and the kind whose existence is snuffed by a single day of neglect.

Lee is fascinated by the ephemeral. To her, there’s something poetic about wearing a thing whose existence is transitory. The flowers that snugly fit in Posy, a geometric prism-like silver boutonnière that Lee funded through Kickstarter and created as a class project, probably won’t be here for long, which is all the more reason for passers-by to stare.

The stylish contours of her gray scale outfit can make Lee appear unnerving, but she’s convivial, quick to smile and easy to talk to in the rare way that compels people to be themselves seemingly without effort. Her hair is an almost spectral shade of blonde, cropped to a sharp bob that frames her face like a corona.

“I wanted to create something small and beautiful,” Lee says. “It’s as simple as that. Flowers to me, they’re poetic. They’re romantic, so I was kind of wondering why we can’t wear ephemeral objects all the time.”

Art and design have always been a part of Lee’s life, but they didn’t emerge as a contender for her profession until recently. “I was really interested in art throughout high school,” she says. “But, it wasn’t until I got to UIC that I really discovered what industrial design was. I’ve always been interested in furniture and whatnot, but I didn’t know there was a field for it.”

Posy is versatile to accommodate more than just live fauna. The geometric shape is also adept at holding feathers, twigs, anything that can fit in the prism. “I wanted to come up with a new way, a new archetype of jewelry, and that’s how I came up with Posy,” Lee says.

Craighton Berman, Lee’s professor in entrepreneurial product development, sees Posy as the apotheosis of a designer’s first step. “Her project really exemplifies a great first independent project,” he says. “She found a way to mass produce an object, but in a low quantity and locally to keep things in control. By not having to craft each object by hand, she can see a path to scaling the project, and by choosing a “luxury” item, her price point is able to be higher.”

It is not all production and pricing. “It’s an amazing idea,” he says. “A beautiful object on its own, but a platform in that each flower or feather she inserts into it completely changes the design.”

Lee’s inspiration isn’t confined to one medium; her muse is omnipresent. “I’m really interested in the space between art and design, that kind of hazy almost sculptural, functional object place,” Lee says. “I can draw inspiration from anywhere like paintings or furniture or any functional object in everyday life.”

Kickstarter seemed like a natural fit for Lee; Posy surpassed the original goal of $1,001 and netted $2,867, with each contributor of $143 getting a Posy of their very own. “It’s turned out to be a really great start-up point, just in terms of getting funding for doing side projects, things that aren’t necessarily job-oriented,” Lee says. ”I think doing side-projects means that you have an opinion, basically, an outlet for doing what you want, and Kickstarter is a good place for doing that.”

That kind of quantifiable success and validation can mean a lot for someone who is still studying. “As a designer everyone wants to work for themselves, and I think this was really inspirational, that we can actually do it and make a profit off it…I’m actually thinking about continuing it on a website and selling them. Some of my teachers have told me I should.”

What does the future look like for Lee? She’s not exactly sure, but she knows where her passions lie. “I’ve always been interested in fashion but I don’t know if that’s the route I want to take, so I’m trying to pave this other path for myself in-between the two. I’m still figuring it out.”

edited by Alexis Castanos

photos by Tamarah Webb

 

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