Making Visible the Invisible: Meet Artist Lauren Aczon

Written by Artie The Panda

When Lauren Aczon’s parents gave her office supplies to play with as a child, she transformed them into mini works of art. In fact, she still has the drawings, hole punches and color-coded dot labels she created as a kid.

Mapping out an artful life.

These days, Lauren channels her artistic talent into hand-crafted 3D nautical charts and historic maps. Drawn to the unseen layers of the ocean, her paper portrayals range from the Scottish lochs to the Cancun coastline to the Hawaiian islands. The artwork featured at the top of this page is a depiction of the San Francisco Bay Area in 1974. “I just love the classic typeface and line styles from that period,” Lauren says.

Stories beneath the surface.

Lauren enjoys working on commissions that have a personal connection. One family requested a 3D chart of the Aegean Sea as a surprise birthday gift for their sailor father. Another patron commissioned a chart to celebrate a rock climber’s favorite bouldering spot at Palisade Head, Minnesota.

Framing with care.

Lauren’s process is painstaking. She builds layer upon layer of paper and craft foam, cutting the paper with an X-Acto knife and the foam with a hot wire cutter. She frames each work in her Oakland, California, studio, using Frame Destination’s UV glass to protect the intricate work. “The glass you offer lets the work shine through so crisp and clear!” Lauren says. That makes our day.

See More of Her Work.

As a globe-trotting panda, I enjoyed perusing Lauren’s artistic maps from all over the world. You can do the same by visiting Neptune Maps, Instagram and Facebook. Don’t miss my Q&A below, where Lauren shares her perspective on the artist’s role in society, her most important art tool and more.

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Lauren Aczon…

1. What is your background; how did you get started?
I have always been an artist. Recently I bought a business from someone who was aligned enough with my goal that I decided to run the business as is for a few years to learn the industry, then start substituting my own content.

2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?
I think artists have an opportunity to invite people to slow down, get closer and take notice. We play a unique role: to bring lightness or introspection to topics that can be heavy and impersonal; to make personal or singular what feels global, immense and collective; and everything in between. My own artwork likes to bring viewers closer in order to notice and wonder.

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?
It came from a large book titled In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney. In that book, Northwest artist Sarah Nauman reminded me that people aren’t just what they do or images on a page. They are energy; we are all energy.   

4. What ways does your work reflect your personality?
It is multi-layered, carefully composed, comprising parts to make a whole. The presence of maps and travel imagery evoke my own wanderlust, yet everything is oriented toward the fact that I am grounded in myself, no matter where I’m going.

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?
Of course I do, and I’m not sure that I ever overcome them! I take a break, drink a hot beverage, call my mom, or take a walk with a friend. Then just keep going.

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)
Masking tape.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?
I want to create a series of houses in Oakland, rendered in multiple layers like the work I already do. There’s some pretty compelling stuff happening with housing in Oakland. I think it’s the right moment for this project, which I have been formulating for many years now.

8. What is your favorite paint color name?
I don't know about favorite, but there's a paint color name I'll never forget. A few years ago I was browsing colors for our spare bedroom and came across "Lauren's Surprise" — a pale blue — which tickled me simply because my name is Lauren. I was new to Instagram at the time, and posted of a photo the paint chip thinking it was cute; when, lo and behold, everyone read between the lines and thought I was pregnant! (I was not.) The likes came flooding in! Needless to say, we ended up picking "Fleur de Sel,” another pale blue.

Lauren Aczon

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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