FK chats to the lovely Stephanie Lawson Taylor, from her Gold Coast shop Canvas.
Tell us a bit about Canvas, your community art space and espresso bar.
Canvas is a community artspace and espresso bar, dreamt up by resident artist and owner, Stephanie Lawson. It’s a great place to indulge the senses in amazing organic espresso, fresh flaky pastries, breathtaking art on canvas & a stunning collection of craft, designer homewares and furniture from around the globe. Inspired by the urban pace and atmosphere of hole-in-the-wall espresso bars of Melbourne’s laneways, with their crate seating and takeaway-style service, Canvas keeps it real. Canvas encourages relaxed communal dining-in ’round a big old wooden table, or grab a wooden crate outside and watch the world go by. We represent artists and craftspeople from around the corner and around the globe. We source where possible from farmers, craftspeople and businesses who pride themselves on creating unique, ethically and environmentally responsible products. I’ve been told its like sitting around in my living room, the locals feel comfortable enough to drop in just to say hi… sometimes we’ll barter fresh coffee for fresh fruit and veggies, and we recycle our coffee grind to a local permaculture farm. I also teach drawing here at canvas… currently I am about to start a drop-in & draw program and a project-based open class round the big ol’ table. (info on the website)
What is your background and what lead you to where you are?
I have a love of interiors and craft equally, and that’s really what’s driven me to create a studio/store in ‘canvas’. I wanted clients to be able to feel a whole ‘design’ space, enjoy art and great furniture and gifts, even if they only walk out with a $3.50 espresso and a $1.00 postcard, they’ve had a sensory experience. My background… After graduating in first place from a Visual Arts and Graphic Designs degree at Queensland College of Art (Griffith University) many years ago, I began working for international swimwear label Voodoo Dolls. Doing everything from designing fabric prints to directing sunrise photo shoots, my passion for art direction was born. I then headed overseas, working internationally as an Art Director between catching sets at Puerto Escondido, Mexico, fine-tuning my Spanish in Costa Rica and falling in love with Paris. Finally settling in London, I entered the world of creative media as Art Director for Shape Magazine UK. Too much work and not enough creativity brought me home to the country I am most passionate about, Australia. And to the beaches of the Gold coast and the cane fields of Northern NSW, a personal haunt of mine.
With Canvas, I wanted a space that would inspire a local creative community, and drive people to want more culture and sensory quality in their lives, whether it comes from the smell of freshly ground espresso, the crunch of a flaky almond croissant, some great tunes from one of our DJ sets, or diving into the deep, vibrant color of one of my latest artworks. I knew the space needed to be fresh, open and airy, but still have cosy corners for coffee sipping. Great books on the shelves, stacks of eye-catching, well-designed crafts and art pieces at realistic prices and loads of quirky furniture and homewares that make you want to make your own home a little more chic, modern or creative. A space I could work, create, teach and inspire others in… and that’s how Canvas espresso was born.
What labels & product do you stock and what are you always searching for?
We love Robert Gordon tableware, we stock cushions from Curio & Curio, t-shirts handprinted by Wellspotted, handcrafted bowls by Husque, handmade ceramics and jewellery by local craftsperson Caroline Conochie, stunning silver jewellery by Darrel Sumpter, as well as gorgeous and indulgent books by a range of small and large Australian publishing houses. Of course we stock lots and lots of lovely one-off Stephanie Lawson crafts and original artworks, made right here at Canvas.
Artistically I am heavily influenced by 1950’s architecture, interior design and graphic design, and culturally inspired by an eclectic mixture of Scandinavian, Latin and Californian lifestyles. Oh and I’m completely obsessed with chairs a few of which we sell at canvas. My art draws on retro color palettes mostly inspired by the 1970’s interiors I grew up in and organic shapes inspired by the likes of Charles & Ray Eames and Robin & Lucienne Day. The bold strong areas of color throughout the store are inspired by the work of Mark Rothko and the color studies of Josef Albers.
What has been the most successful aspect of your store?
The sensory experience! People smell the freshly ground coffee or the warm pastries from down the street, then they come on in and discover all the amazing artists we represent and its just one big visual feast!
What is the design & art scene like on the Gold Coast?
The Gold Coast is a young, energetic city and is evolving with a strong underground culture. Design and art have filtered into our everyday culture. There’s a lot going on right now- the Gold Coast Film Festival, the Bleach Festival, and ongoing art/craft/vintage markets popping up everywhere. So there are loads of shows, new spaces, studios and lots of fresh work out on display. The Gold Coast has a lot of young artists so a lot of the art here is raw, but always impactful.
What inspires you about your surroundings and what other aspects about the Gold Coast do you love?
At canvas, I’m inspired by great coffee when I arrive at work, but mostly throughout the day it’s the great compliments I get from shoppers and clients. People respond to colour, it’s in our biology and unfortunately, most ‘beach-inspired’ design is whitewashed, natural and bland. I’m here to bring back colour in a big way, with just the right amount of control and chic.
What advice would you give to others wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Read as many national and international design mags as possible, then incorporate trends into your own style. People these days are wanting to connect to local craftspeople, don’t be afraid to tell your story in words or through your work.
What are your hopes for Canvas in the future?
I’d love to expand somehow so I have more teaching space, room for a sewing machine permanently on my desk, and I’d love to be able to rent space to other artists to keep the canvas vibe fresh! we want to represent more locals and to expand the current craft trend as much as possible. Oh, and to get people to buy more yellow homewares & mexican chairs… it makes for a happy home!
All the specific details
Shop 7/2221 Gold Coast Highway
(enter on Lavarack Road)
Gold Coast 4218
ph: 0415 051 475
Open Mon-Sat 6.30am-5pm
Open Sun 7am-5pm