Looking at Lori Herbst’s work is a wonderful journey through time and space. She works primarily with vinyl fabric (yes, you read that correctly) bringing color, shape and texture into a realm many would never have imagined. Working out of a basement studio in her home, often with music blaring over the sound of her sewing machine, her ability to move from the abstract to images of social icons brings her a diverse audience on Instagram and throughout the Creative community.
We relished the opportunity to talk with her about her process and her inspirations! Not to mention, where does all this incredible glitter vinyl come from?!
Roominate (R): What inspired you to become an Artist? How did you get started?
Lori Herbst (LH): The Christmas after my son was born I received a sewing machine from my in-laws. My mom had taught me to sew when I was a child and, being a perpetually busy type, yet at home with a baby, I was looking for something to do. My husband, who is a High School drama teacher, was in need of some costumes, so I created a couple for him. I soon found myself hired to teach costuming to the kids! When they did exceptionally well, I made them tote bags (from glitter vinyl) as a reward. I quickly found myself wanting something more challenging and longer lasting. At the time I was researching Medieval Bestiary and found images of a Byzantine St. Christopher Doghead icon. It inspired me to make a four-foot reproduction in upholstery glitter vinyl. I was hooked.
(R): Speaking of which, how do you acquire all of this fabulous glitter vinyl?
(LH): If you can believe it, I started out buying a lot of it at Jo-Ann Fabric! But then I started to buy these boxes of remnants online, and a box would come with lots of scraps of leftover vinyl. Now I buy a lot at Fabric Empire here in Los Angeles.
(R): Are you still using the same sewing machine?
(LH): Oh, goodness! Can you imagine?! I’m afraid I don’t think it would be quite up the task of all the vinyl. Now I have a big industrial sewing machine in my workshop.
One of Lori’s pieces inspired by Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon, with a tiki twist! Featuring our BAM6 Gold frame
(R): What is your creative process like? Where do you begin and how do you deal with blockages?
(LH): These days, much of what I’m making is for art shows and commissions, so the gallery or customer determines what the piece will be. That’s very different from creating something from my own inspiration. Thus, it starts by researching the subject matter. I want to know as much as possible about the history inspiring the requested material. (I love research, so I’m not sure if this is particularly helpful or just fun for me.)
If I’m choosing a subject for myself, I’ll choose something that has my attention: when Bowie, Prince and Mary Tyler Moore died; watching horror movies during Halloween; my never-ending love of Sci-Fi. I like the idea of using modern materials and mythology in a kind of classical format. Portraits give us a good glimpse into the ideals of a given time and I love that. When I get blocked, I go back to those basic tote bags for a bit. It allows me to work on autopilot until I reach a breakthrough.
An example of the vinyl bags Lori creates when she's blocked
(R): How has your style changed over time?
(LH): When I began, I looked at a lot of different artists’ work to help me figure out my direction. I based a lot of my methods on Bansky, Shag, and my lovely friend Paul Frank. My husband, Chris Shary, is a Punk Rock artist as well as a teacher, and he helped me tremendously, especially as it relates to shadows. He gave me so much support and encouragement. Now that I have experience under my belt, I’ve developed my own techniques and style, bringing to my pieces a photo-realistic feel unlike before (at least I hope so!).
(R): What would you like people to know about your work that they might not be able to tell simply by viewing it?
(LH): It’s touchable! I am such a tactile person – I want to touch everything. I think that’s part of the enjoyment of my pieces; you can run your fingers all over them. They’re also washable!
(R): Do you have a favorite piece?
(LH): Ironically, I hate each piece as I work on it and then it becomes my favorite for a while.
(R): What is your studio/workspace like?
(LH): My workshop is in our basement. My parents, husband, and son helped me put it together, and I love it. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter and I have lights everywhere. No one minds that there are scraps of vinyl and thread everywhere. I can listen to podcasts or blast music, and I don’t bother anyone. (It has to be a bit loud to be heard over the sewing machine.)
A look into Lori’s workshop
(R): So, let’s say you’re working on a piece like the one you’ve done of Prince, or Bowie, when you’re working on a vinyl portrait of them, do you listen to their music?
(LH): Yes! Of course. It comes back to sort of the research aspect and the desire to really capture the character authentically. I like to immerse myself in the subject as much as I can to pull as much as possible from the inspiration. I think that comes out of starting in costuming! Especially if you’re working on period costuming; you want everything to be as authentic as it kind of can be and I think that immersion into the subject really helps!
A gorgeous Prince portrait, framed in a now out of stock ornate pictureframes.com frame.
(R): What do you see as your biggest achievement as a Creative? What are you most proud of?
(LH): I’m really proud of creating my own medium. I’m sure there will be others who will follow and surpass me, but I taught myself, and I’m proud of that.
(R): If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?
(LH): Unique, classic, new.
(R): What advice do you have for emerging Artists?
(LH): Use social media all the time! Give thanks and apologies when they’re due. Have other interests in your life.
(R): Who are some of your favorite Artists creating today? Who should we check out?
We should point out that Lori listed so many Artists that we were truly astounded that she can keep so many names in her brain! We have included them all below, but you can also see the art of many of the people listed below at Icons Group Art Show.
(LH): Jason Adams, Amy Watson, Scott Aicher, Cory Toomey, Sheila Cameron, Robert Taylor, Heather Alexander, Emily Connell, Otto Tang, Karl Alvarez, Marissa Soto, Chris Crowell, Alan Snodgrass, Sarah Banning, Jayadeva Dasa, Christine Benjamin, Oriana Small, Emily Shur, Haleigh Buck, Sam Shary, Jennifer Finch, Andy Finkle, Shal Mines, Sheila Cameron, Chris Shary, Perry Shall, Art Fuentes, Johnny Pop, Paul Frank, Shag, Mike Guerna, Derwin Scott, Ellen Schinderman, Andrea Ruygt, Cyndee Guerrieri, Kevin Herdeman, Garrett Immel, Greg Jacobs, Parker Jacobs, Rich Jacobs, Jenny Ross, Noemi Romero, Naomi Romero, Atiba Jefferson, Bonnie Robinson Stewart, Ashley Richards, Scott Reynolds, Heather Reynolds, Sara Jerzykowski, Lisa Johnson, Tim Kerr, Jeff Lamm, Jamie Pina, Dave Naz, Lance Morris, Travis Millard, Matthew Lineham, Porter McFadden, Bob Medina, Lance Morris,……and so many more! (My walls are very full.)
(R): How do you go about selecting a frame for one of your pieces? Do you have a favorite picture frame?
(LH): My choices vary a lot. I really like big, ornate, over-the-top frames, but I also love the floater frames when space is tight, or I’m going after a more modern look. My two favorite picture frames are/were the Bamboo Gold frame and the Skull and Cross Bones frame (that I completely bought out. More, Please!).
A piece by Lori, featuring Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, in the above mentioned Bones frame.
(R): We love what an advocate you are for our more unique frames. But have you used our printing options?
(LH): Yes! My son, who is a photographer, had one of his pieces printed, stretched and framed for a show recently. It’s my favorite piece in our living room.
Photograph taken by Lori’s son, framed in our FT22 Turquoise frame
Not only do we love Lori for her stunning work, but as you have seen, we also love her for her unique, ornate framing choices! She does an incredible job of picking large, heavy frames and fitting them perfectly to their subject. We’re always excited to see what piece of pop culture Lori is going to memorialize in vinyl next, and what frame will go along with it. You can see more of her work and follow along over on her
Instagram. You won’t regret it!
Have an Artist you’d like to see us spotlight? Tell us in the comments!
Written by Roominate contributors Sarah and Cheryl