What’s in Your Toolbox: Lourdes Sanchez

Lourdes Sanchez is a Cuban-born artist and textile designer currently residing in Brooklyn, where she makes her painterly watercolor patterns that are equal parts geometric and organic. Her client list is a roster of awesomeness: Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Crate & Barrel and Prabal Gurung, to name a few. She was even snatched up by West Elm, who translated her art into framed pieces and pillow designs featuring painted aquatic motifs. I am so smitten with her approach to pattern design (and I am very pattern shy). Currently, I am coveting her paint-swatch-dotted canvas shown above. Read on for a peek into the life of this talented lady! — Ginny

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox?

Lourdes Sanchez: Incredible white mask liquid frisket, Arches watercolor paper, lots of wall space for mood boards, T pins, masking tape, hardware store sponge brushes, .07 mechanical pencils with 2B leads, kneaded erasers, my library, Pinterest.

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

3. Design*Sponge: What is on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Lourdes Sanchez: I am looking at the books Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts by Maude Southwell Wahlman; The Sun in Art, first published in 1962 and edited by Walter Herdeg; and Ellsworth Kelly’s Tablet. I also have a stack of vintage Vanidades magazines from the early ’60s through the ’70s that I bought in Mexico and beautifully faded old cotton Indian block-printed bedspreads and skirts from flea markets that have been piling up.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Do you have an agenda book, and do you make to-do lists?

Lourdes Sanchez: After I finish getting ready for a show or a new collection, I do a big tidy session that can take days or weeks. The books get put away, the piles of paper and references and miscellaneous rubble are sorted through and tossed out or filed away, and so on. It clears my mind for new things and gets things organized for when I start designing and painting again. I do a to-do list with a big Sharpie and put it on the refrigerator door. Agenda books tend to get lost under piles of ephemera when the studio gets busy.

5. Design*Sponge: If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Lourdes Sanchez: I would love to be able to disappear and then pop up anywhere else in the world whenever I wanted.

6. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?

Lourdes Sanchez: To be honest, most of the advice I have received was mostly useful by doing the exact opposite of that advice. Even the most sincerely offered advice is only someone reporting back from their own life story. So I don’t really like to give advice. I would just say that I believe in studying and looking at everything, combined with going deep inside yourself and bringing out what is truly and uniquely in you, combined with a steady and regular practice of work so that you have the skills to realize your vision.

7. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Lourdes Sanchez: I don’t have creative blocks. I tend to have too many ideas at once, and that can be overwhelming, paralyzing and anxiety-producing because I don’t know which ones to do first in the time I have available. I make a rough list of ideas in the order I can do them, and that helps a lot.

8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Lourdes Sanchez: I don’t go out looking for inspiration as much as it happens naturally when I am doing things I love to/need to do anyway. I love going to the Rockefeller wing of the Metropolitan Museum, second-hand bookstores in any city or town I find myself in, nature books in the basement at Strand, vintage clothing stores, Brooklyn Flea, children’s drawings, high-end florist shops, found objects, the Balenciaga store in Chelsea, trees and vegetation anywhere, long walks around Gowanus with my little camera, the old markets in Yucatan, Mexico. “Inspiration” is a nonstop stream, really, that can be anywhere at any time.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

Lourdes Sanchez: I would love to have seen that of Morris Louis, as it’s still such a fabulous mystery how he did it.

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it include?

Lourdes Sanchez: Some songs in heavy rotation at the moment are Erykah Badu, “Window Seat”; Blood Orange, “Sutphin Boulevard”; Air, “Ce Matin La”; Joy Division, “Atmosphere”; New Order, “Thieves Like Us”; Ry Cooder, Paris, Texas soundtrack, “She’s Leaving the Bank” and “Cancion Mixteca”; Silvio Rodriguez, “La Gota de Rocio”; Carter Burwell, True Grit soundtrack, “The Wicked Flee.” In between, I am also listening to Jeanette Winterson reading her book Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? as an audiobook.

  1. Ju says:

    Absolutely gorgeous work

  2. holly says:

    I just love, love, love her work! It’s such a treat to have a sneak peek behind the scenes!

  3. Marlene says:

    I’m always happy for the success of a fellow Cuban artist or designer. Beautiful work, very inspiring!

  4. Sarah says:

    I have her bulls-eye rug from West Elm (which I love, it pulled my whole room together). Thank you for putting a face (and process) behind it!

  5. Jamie says:

    I love her! I find her so relatable. Her description of how she feels in her studio includes the negative parts, which I don’t remember seeing anyone share before. I love that she is unapologetic about not having creative blocks, but rather anxiety over too many ideas. Just being herself. Wonderful.

  6. Laura says:

    To echo Jamie ^ I love that she said her studio makes her feel (among other things) crabby. Art is frustrating, let’s be real! :D I feel so much pressure to live up to the (admittedly gorgeous) ideals I see everywhere on blogs, pinterest, etc. so that made me smile.
    Also, her work is phenomenal. Inspiring all around! Thank you for introducing me to this remarkable lady!

  7. Eyelashes says:

    wonderful work, 1960s and 1970s aesthetics get re-enact with a unique / current sense of color / shape proportion! A fresh / new expression is born,

  8. AC says:

    Her work is stunning. I wish I could buy one of these paintings.

  9. Mary says:

    So inspiring; so human; so talented! Thank you for doing articles on people like this! Please do more of them. (You may not receive a lot of other feedback right now because people are so busy getting ready for the holidays. But, I really hope you’ll interview more artists.)

  10. So beautiful and peaceful

  11. Rosie says:

    This is the most honest anyone has been about the emotions felt while in their studios. Love it and her work!!

  12. nona says:

    Aquatic hypnotic. Transluccent. On beauty and being just. It comes through. See the book by Elaine scary.

  13. So fun to read what’s in other creatives’ toolboxes; keep them coming!

  14. boschmaan says:

    Intense bright color for water – makes for exceptional standards. With that kind of expectation it’s no wonder that one could be a little crabby now and then.

  15. Helen says:

    The paintings are really beautiful, am I able to purchase prints? I live in the UK. Thanks, Helen.

  16. natalie alfaro says:

    Love your work!

  17. Cyn | decyng says:

    Amazing work! love it!

  18. Stacey says:

    I love her work. Love her style. I really wish there were more pictures of her studio. Creative spaces are so inspiring- as well as learning about the artist. . . always my favorite. Thanks for “What’s in your toolbox” – keep em coming!

  19. Sandra says:

    Luli, congrats and beautiful pieces. I have to visit you studio when you come back.
    Lots of Love.

  20. Lynn & Andy says:

    Lourdes! Looks awesome and gorgeous! We always knew you were a major talent…Clark told us.

  21. Sarah says:

    Really interesting interview, what a talented lady. I love seeing other people’s studios.

  22. Jeff says:

    Beautiful and honest. The creativity flows in her space and it is totally hers. Pisces energy at its most intense. Love you Luli!

  23. gorgeous work and so very inspiring!

  24. Lourdes says:

    Thank you so very much to everyone who left a comment-
    It means more to me than you can imagine-

  25. Julian Hazlett says:

    I love this. I am inspired by it very much.

  26. Joan Hermione Steele says:

    Every now and again you run across an exceptional being. Lourdes Sanchez is one of those beings. Her artistry ranks among the heavenly.

  27. Joan Hermione Steele says:

    Your work is heavenly.

  28. Joan Hermione Steele says:

    You are an artist that ranks among the heavenly.

  29. Rita says:

    Beautiful art. And such an human artist. Feeling anxious and all those feelings is such a big important part of our lifes, thanks for sharing your honesty and congratulations on your work! Rita

  30. Rita says:

    oh…just realized that you probably don’t say “human artist” in English, do you? I’m sorry for any English mistake, I meant an artist with such humanity, that we can relate.

  31. Lourdes says:

    Thank you! – I am so impressed with the generosity of the comments

  32. la nacotraficante says:

    what is that light blue/turquoise color on the wall?
    gorgeous work, btw!

  33. Lourdes says:

    The color is Mermaid Green by Benjamin Moore.

  34. Lourdes says:

    The color is Mermaid Green by Benjamin Moore

  35. Rose Duggan says:

    It may be a little late, but Lourdes – on your website it says you took a class at SVA in New York when you were working as a receptionist. Was the class fabric design, or what was it?

  36. Eva says:

    Brava! Beautiful work.

  37. Inspired says:

    I love her. Can I love her?

  38. cvjn says:

    I missed this before today, due to the holidays, I suppose. Man, I find her work staggeringly beautiful. I wish she sold prints.

  39. Catalina says:

    I felt inspired and happy reading L.S.

  40. Mags says:

    Truly inspiring and inspirational
    Pure energy

  41. Grace says:

    I love your studio it is very beautiful especially your minty green walls.
    Thanks for inspiring me with your account of what its like in studio. I
    so get that. And I love the places that inspire you and the too cool 60’s and 70’s
    mags. Best of wishes to you and your WONDERFUL art !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. What a wonderful and interesting person to read about.I can totally relate to doing a big tidy -up to clear your mind after a show, and the idea of your list of things to make/ designon the fridge instead of in a notebook is pretty much genius.
    I love it that she does not want to give advice, she is so right that most advice only reflects that particular person who gives it.Wise, talented and lovely!

  43. Angelique says:

    Very engaging and honest. It opened my mind into the world of living with the design process.

  44. Rachel says:

    I absolutely love the advice she gave for new artists! It gives me more inspiration to keep going, thank you!

  45. Mary Bonanno says:

    Lourdes Sanchez is a genius. Her work evokes such passion that as been an inspiration to me for years. I see artist’s from all over the world and I always am most captivated by the work she creates. Keep doing the damn thing Lourdes, you’re a rock star.

  46. Melissa says:

    Lourdes! I used to work with you at Emanuel AGES ago (I was the crazy receptionist. Ha.) I had always thought you were insanely talented & I’m sooooo happy to see everyone else agrees. :)

  47. msqueendeb says:

    fresh and refreshing

  48. Lourdes says:

    Thank you Mary-
    I really appreciate you taking the time to write that-
    All the Best to you !!!

  49. Lourdes says:

    Melissa! OMG! How are you? Thank you so much for leaving a comment-
    Far from crazy-you were a breath of fresh air!- the art department loved you!

  50. Beautiful work. Ah yes, the mind of a creative…….too many thoughts and ideas at once. Can always relate to that. Keep creating Lourdes.


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