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Studio ceramics and digital graphics, custom-made works and luxury leather goods, one day in Luxembourg and the next in Paris. At the intersection of art and craft, Lea Schroeder, who creates from the Creative Hub 1535° in Differdange, is everywhere and touches everything with a quality worthy of the biggest design brands and the sensitivity of the smallest studios.
Few places are more artistic and authentic than the South of Luxembourg. Filled with culture, the region's cities protect their history while mixing art with it. With its high chimneys covered with graffiti known all over the country which overhang factories running at full speed, Differdange is no exception to this rule.
The sun is blazing. The sky is blue, the masks are coming off and so are the coats. A beautiful day is brewing at the Creative Hub 1535° – a sort of House of Startups with an industrial look, where Luxembourg artists of all kinds can set up their studios. Its three buildings blend in perfectly with their environment.
Their tenants feel like fish in water, inspired. Lea Schroeder, whose studio is located at the end of Building B, is one of them. She is an artist, a designer, a graphic artist and, surrounded by photographers, architects or painters, she meets the needs of clients from the Grand Duchy, Paris, Brussels and the four corners of the world.
A studio at the intersection of art and craft
In front of her office, Lea welcomes us with a big smile and gives us a tour of her studio. The decor is raw and minimalist. It's a large room made of wood and white walls, separated in two by a clear cabinet to create a boutique and a workshop space and with a completely glassed-in facade overlooking the outside. The sun's rays illuminate it and bring out the multi-coloured tones of her artwork, a wide variety of which – lamps, vases, flowerpots, scarves, scarves, candles and more – are displayed.
"That's my logo", she says as she watches us observe the two black and neon green oval shapes that abut each other to form an abstract design and recall Lea Schroeder's L and S. "What do you see? I drew eyes, but most people see breasts! (laughs)" She has a light-hearted sense of humour and is as open-minded as she is talented.
Lea invites us to sit down for a while. Slightly stressed as we approach our interview, she doesn't like having to sell herself. She prefers to let her art speak for itself. "I am a graphic designer, but not only that. I am passionate about crafts and the revaluation of handmade and local creation. So I started selling my creations", especially in ceramics and textiles.
In addition to marketing her free works, Lea also responds to "requests with personal and symbolic values". The belly prints of pregnant women, which she calls "love prints because we keep the imprint of the life that has grown inside" and which she colours according to the feelings of the future parents, are an example.
However, her clientele goes beyond just private individuals. Many companies call upon her for collaborations. "I also work a lot on communication tools. I do websites and all graphic design for print, for web or for products. I illustrated a brochure for Grosbusch, a book for the MIL association or an album with a booklet for musicians." Her offer reaches "from a logo to a 360° print".
Lea Schroeder reveals what she is most passionate about in her work.
When it comes to graphic design, there's nothing Lea doesn't do. She is called upon for every form of design. Since she was a child, she has "always been a jack of all trades". "I had to be busy all the time. I started doing creative activities like knitting, painting and modelling at a very young age. I was curious about everything in life." Art was always a given for her. Despite this, she first took a different path.
Learning about luxury in Paris
"In high school, I didn't take an artistic orientation because I thought it might close the doors to other professions. I took a scientific baccalaureate, thinking that if I started with that, I could always do art." The path to medicine, however, pushed her even further toward design: "It was going to the other extreme that I thought, 'No, no. My soul is really calling me to the other side.'"
"I find that in the world of luxury, you can really marry art and design well."
So it was decided. Lea was going to take the risky path of art rather than a conventional profession. And her school was already found. "By coincidence, I came across Créapole in Paris, which offers seven different design departments in the first year of the Bachelor's program". "You can discover what design is in different environments: industrial design, graphic design, fashion, transportation… and everything related to the world of luxury. And that's what really interested me: art design for the creation of contemporary luxury. I find that in this world, you can really marry art and design. A piece of jewellery is a bit like a work of art, whereas creating a vacuum cleaner, for example (laughs), is much more technical. There are fewer possible interpretations."
So at the Créapole design school, Lea pocketed a Bachelor's degree in Art Design and Luxury Creation, then a Master's degree in the same field. Finally, she went to Milan, to the Creative Academy, "a school of the Richemont group that focuses on luxury accessories such as watches, jewellery and leather goods" and enriched her training with a second Master of Arts and Design, before returning to Paris where a first unique position was waiting for her.
"After that, I worked at Lancel. I loved it. It was a great life. A great professional experience." But above all, it is a big name in the fashion world. She knows this and is proud of it, but when it is pointed out to her, she reacts with modesty. "It was an exceptional opportunity. To arrive at the same time as a new artistic director too. We created a new brand image. We reworked the iconic designs, created a new collection. We had an internal prototyping workshop: as soon as we made a drawing, we had it in volume. That was really great."
But after 5 years spent within the luxury leather goods company, she decided to start her own business. "I had an inner calling that pushed me to create other things, in my own signature. I wanted to explore what I could do without the constraint of staying within a DNA, a brand image." Having started as a freelancer in 2017, Lea then returned to Luxembourg in 2019 to set up her studio.
Letting her creativity run wild
The Creative Hub was her first office space. They were, however, located in Building A. A building in which Lea continues to rent a space to offer a separate service that will soon be born. In order to tell us about it, she decided to take us on a tour of this workshop, "still evolving". "I just moved in, it's
2D vs. 3D
Lea Schroeder has no preference between manual (3D) and PC (2D) creation.
On the way, she tells us about 1535°. "What's good here is that we feel understood by others. Sometimes, when you're independent, you feel like you're a species apart. What is also very beneficial is that we can make collaborations between us." Her latest project is an example: "The architect Anouck Pesch approached me about the Red-Rock-Trail. It's a trail through the entire mining basin where, starting this summer, you can plan your walk and reserve a lodge to spend the night. In our case, it will be an old worker's house in Lasauvage. She asked me to create the decorations, which will all be in terracotta, like earthen frescoes that refer to the history of Luxembourg."
Even though she feels at home in Differdange, Lea has kept a pied-à-terre in Paris, which she considers her city. "It's the city that saw me grow up, that taught me about life. Then it's also the inspirations… The whirlwind of a metropolis, I need it. It's good to be quiet here, but sometimes it's too quiet for me (laughs). Then sometimes I find Paris too crowded, so I come back. I find my personal balance that way."
"My studio is more intimate than if I invited you to my home."
Lea's second studio is indeed in full swing. Amidst shelves displaying works each more colourful than the next, a large family worktable is the heart of this brick and wood-walled space, more rustic than her new studio. Recently, she felt "the desire and need to share the creative experience with the general public through workshops". It is in this cosy studio that smells of life and breathes art that she will welcome them. "My studio is more intimate than if I invited you to my home" smiles Lea.
"Starting in June", she will share her passion with those who wish to do so. "I wish to offer art as a service. It is a service to the human being because I find that there is a need to return to creation, to the real, to touch, in the real world, the one opposite to the virtual world. My offer is intended for active adults who are connected, but in fact disconnected from themselves in order to accentuate the awareness of the present moment and create connection within a group, while making new encounters. This service will also address companies for a team-building experience in a separate, custom-made capsule. Working with your hands makes you happy. It is in the nature of man since the beginning of time. It is an innate source of happiness."
Lea grabs a ceramic sun, takes out her brushes and starts to colour it. She enjoys it as much as a child in the middle of a colouring session. "People often tell me that art is expensive, but that's because the value and knowledge of craft has been lost. It's important to re-educate the public about these crafts", she explains. "That said, I don't like to put a price on pieces and define a material value…" She doesn't like to boast about the quality of her work either. This is confirmed when she is asked who are the most prestigious clients she has worked for.
Lea Schroeder wants to offer art as a service.
Back at her new studio, she explains that she "always remains confidential about their identity". Still, she pulls out her smartphone to show a collection of accessories she made for Jägermeister. "I made t-shirts, leather jackets, all embroidery, embroidered designs with gold thread. Dresses and hats too. I sourced the looks, outsourced the production and delivered the finished product."
If collaborations with brands are important to get known and attract more clients, exhibiting in international galleries is even more important. But this is not always easy… "It's always a big investment. You have to have the budget to finance the trip, the accommodation, the transit of the works, their insurance, the expenses of stand, the current expenses on the spot… It is necessary to choose the showcase projects. You have to show yourself to sell, but also sell to show yourself. (laughs)"
Fortunately, associations such as "De Mains De Maîtres", co-created by the Chambre des Métiers, allow Luxembourg artists to exhibit in the Grand Duchy as elsewhere. "The Chambre des Métiers is taking a stronger stand for the art professions that are trying to come out of the shadows. De Mains De Maîtres was also an exhibition that encouraged me very, very strongly when I was lucky enough to win the Public Prize in 2018."
So one can only admire Lea's humility when you know her entire background. She, whose second passion, yoga, reflects her mind set – that of "not worrying about the future and living every step of the way to the fullest" – has her main perspective on being happy, traveling and "sharing the experience with as many people as possible." She is currently preparing three exhibitions: "the Expo Craft 3.0 as part of Esch 2022, the Easter exhibition at Studio Mobart and a collaboration at the Valentiny Foundation in June".
For the rest, she hopes to have a positive impact on her country. "Luxembourg is a bubble and everything works within that bubble. I think it takes a real open mind to get out of it. Those who have gone to live abroad have it. Some come back and want to burst the bubble. Me, I want to put more colour, more movement, more energy and motivate people to go further."