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Fiber artist Laura Lyon is helping save the earth by rescuing one piece of junk at a time.
And she is doing it in a bright and sunshiny place also known as “Beatrice,” her retail shop located in the heart of downtown Lexington.
Beatrice is full of items handmade by artists who use recycled materials in their artwork. Lyon, who creates her own line of custom- made sweater coats from recycled sweaters and fabrics, exhibits and sells her work in her shop as well.
“Nothing in my shop says ‘Made in Mexico’ or ‘Made in China’,” she said. “There is a mixture of one-of-a-kind art.”
Beatrice opened in March of this year and it came to be after a leap of faith for Lyon.
“I’d never worked in retail so there was some fear in the belly,” she said with a chuckle. “But we’ve done very well here.”
A resident of St. Clair County, she chose to locate her shop in Lexington because she felt it would be supported there. “You don’t really find another store like ours in Lexington,” she said. “This community supports the arts and we’re excited to be here.”
Lyon earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in 1991, but ended up working in the sales industry for many years. Her first job out of college was as a sales representative for the Port Huron Times Herald and that led to a long career in newspaper advertising sales.
“I have an art degree and even though I worked for corporate America, I always stayed in the arts by attending fiber workshops,” she said.
When she left the paper in 2005, she had earned the title of advertising sales manager. She said early on in her career she felt she was using her graphic design skills at the newspaper by helping clients with their ad design, but eventually she saw the industry changing and felt it was time to pursue other interests.
She dabbled in other working environments for a number of years before deciding it was time to go back to her artistic roots and begin creating and working for herself.
Her idea for creating sweater coats came after she received sweaters from a family member who had passed away. She wanted to create something to help keep alive the memory of her loved one in a new and useful way.
Though she makes good use of her art degree when selecting various fabrics and colors to coordinate in one of her sweater coats, Lyon didn’t grow up knowing how to sew and to this day, she creates the coats free-style.
“I don’t sew with patterns,” she said. “I just see and cut and sew. I love the fiber arts and the design was just a continual process of experimenting.”
After creating her first few coats, friends and family encouraged her to sell them on the art show circuit and she found herself frequently down in the Detroit area.
“People thought they were cool and I ended up in Detroit at art shows,” she said, noting that the more she sold, the more she knew she was onto something.
“Another reason for opening my own shop in Lexington was I got tired of being on the road to the art shows,” she said. Being in one place – she has a workshop in the back of her shop where she now creates her artwork – allows her to sell her items in a stable environment.
Lyon feels good when she is able to give back to the community and she has been able to get involved in a number of arts-oriented volunteer projects in both St. Clair and Sanilac counties.
Additionally, she has been able to offer other artists who create upcycled art the opportunity to sell their items in her shop, as well. And, she said, customers are digging the whole concept.
“It makes them feel like they are being good to our earth,” she said. “Instead of junking up our landfills, we are saving the earth one piece of junk at a time.”