Art often helps bring people closer together and connects us to each other and the natural world. It allows us to escape to beautiful faraway places and connect with people all over the world without moving at all. Olympian artist Laurel Henn has found peace and joy in creating original works of art through printmaking and hand painting that whisk people away to calm and beautiful places. It is through her artwork that she can capture an essence of beauty in the world and share it with others.
Laurel has lived in Olympia for most of her life. Her father was in the military, which meant they moved around a bit. But when he retired, they decided to settle in the lovely Pacific Northwest. “I spent a lot of my youth down in Nisqually Valley,” Laurel recalls. “I spent a lot of time in the riverbeds or crawling through the underbrush.”
In addition to enjoying the outdoors, Laurel also had an interest in art throughout her childhood. This was largely influenced by her mother, who was a fiber artist and did a lot of sewing and quilting. “I have always liked to create things, whether paper and pencil or building things,” Laurel shares.
Out of high school, Laurel attended South Puget Sound Community College before transferring to The Evergreen State College to study literature. Here she had a chance to try a printmaking and bookmaking elective, and she found that it really felt familiar and enjoyable. “I love carving,” she says. “I love the fact that instead of spending hours on a piece and ending up with only one canvas, you can put in all this time and have this block that you can reproduce over and over again.” Being able to create original duplicates with such ease was a real gamechanger for Laurel, which is why printmaking became such an artistic staple for her later on.
Despite her inclination and knack for art, Laurel didn’t pursue art professionally for many years. “I took a desk job out of school,” she says. “But even then, I still had an art studio because of the copious amount of art supplies I just couldn’t get rid of.” About 10 years ago, Laurel decided that she was ready to put herself out there on Etsy. “I had seen my friends selling things on there, and I knew I wanted to do something,” she recalls. “I wanted to make something functional but use my two-dimensional skills.” After exploring some different ideas, Laurel came up with the concept to create her very own clocks using musical records.
This unique idea became a huge hit. “People loved them,” Laurel says. “I sold hundreds of them on Etsy.” She even partnered with Rainy Day Records in downtown Olympia to have hundreds of old records donated to create her beautiful clocks. Repurposing these old musical records through art was a wonderful way to give them a second chance to make someone smile. It was hugely rewarding to share her creativity and love of clocks with the world and have them be so well-received. After finding such great success, she was ready to move onto new projects and decided to quit making the clocks last year. Rather than letting them go to waste, all of the remaining clocks were given away to be gifted during the holidays.
Now Laurel has been able to focus all of her energy on her printmaking and hand paintings. She has been at Splash Gallery of Olympia for the last five years presenting her fine art pieces, which have been well-liked by the community and other artists at the gallery. A few years ago, Laurel also joined the board of directors at Splash Gallery and currently serves as the main acting director. “It takes up a lot of my time, and I find it really gratifying,” Laurel says. “It has been great for me to stay connected to other artists and with the processes and the business of art.”
One of Laurel’s other projects is a mural. She was approached by the Eastside Neighborhood Association about doing a community mural through their neighborhood grant program. She decided to use one of her original prints as inspiration, which is of a boy sitting in a tree reading a book. “I often return to themes of books and stories because it is universal no matter what our experience with them is,” Laurel shares. Since the image has been beloved by many, it felt right to create something similar for the community wall. The mural has a special twist that allowed the community to add their own special touch. “Two other artists and I organized a couple weekends for the community to come out and add their handprints,” Laurel shares. The mural can be seen on the wall by the little chapel on Central Street and 7th Avenue.
Laurel’s art has been inspiring to many and beloved by all who come across it. She has loved being able to work professionally as an artist and share her unique perspective with the world. She was honored to be chosen as the 2021 Olympia Arts Walk cover artist. She cannot wait to continue to discover new and exciting ways to connect people and community through her work.