Olympian Laurel Henn connects nature and community with her original print and hand-painted art


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Art often helps bring people together and connects us to each other and to the natural world. It allows us to escape to beautiful, far away places and connect with people around the world without moving at all. Olympian artist Laurel Henn has found peace and joy creating original works of art through engraving and hand painting that take people to quiet and beautiful places. It is through her works that she can capture an essence of beauty in the world and share it with others.

Laurel lived in Olympia for most of her life. His father was in the military, which meant they moved around a bit. But when he retired, they decided to move to the lovely Pacific Northwest. “I spent much of my youth in Nisqually Valley,” recalls Laurel. “I spent a lot of time in river beds or crawling through the undergrowth.”

In addition to enjoying the outdoors, Laurel was also interested in art throughout her childhood. This was largely influenced by her mother, who was a fiber artist and did a lot of sewing and quilting. “I’ve always loved creating things, whether it’s paper and pencil or things to build,” Laurel shares.

After high school, Laurel attended South Puget Sound Community College before moving to Evergreen State College to study literature. Here she had the chance to try an optional course in printmaking and book creation, and she found it to be really familiar and enjoyable. “I love to sculpt,” she says. “I love that instead of spending hours on a piece and ending up with one canvas, you can put in all that time and have this block that you can replicate over and over again.” Being able to create original duplicates with such ease was a game-changer for Laurel, which is why printmaking became an artistic staple for her later on.

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Laurel felt a strong connection with art and nature from an early age. Even as a child, she knew she wanted to grow up and become a professional artist. It was amazing to see this dream of a lifetime come true. Photo courtesy of the Splash Gallery

Despite her fondness and talent for art, Laurel did not pursue art professionally for many years. “I took a desk job when I left school,” she says. “But even then, I still had an art studio because of the plentiful supply of art supplies that I just couldn’t get rid of.” About 10 years ago, Laurel decided she was ready to get started on Etsy. “I had seen my friends selling things there and I knew I wanted to do something,” she recalls. “I wanted to do something functional but use my two-dimensional skills.” After exploring different ideas, Laurel came up with the concept of making her own clocks from music records.

This unique idea became a huge success. “People loved them,” Laurel says. “I’ve sold hundreds of them on Etsy.” She even teamed up with Rainy Day Records in downtown Olympia to donate hundreds of old records to create her beautiful clocks. Reusing those old music records through art was a wonderful way to give them a second chance to make someone smile. It was extremely rewarding to share his creativity and love of clocks with the world and to see them so well received. After being so successful, she was ready to move on to new projects and decided to stop making clocks last year. Rather than letting them go to waste, all remaining clocks were donated to be donated over the holidays.

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Laurel’s clocks became a huge hit after they started producing and selling them on Etsy. She would take an old record and paint it to create a base. Then she used various engraving and painting techniques to create the pictures and numbers on them. Photo credit: Laurel Henn

Now Laurel has been able to focus all of her energy on her printmaking and hand paintings. She has been to the Splash Gallery of Olympia for the past five years to showcase her artwork, which has been highly regarded by the community and other gallery artists. A few years ago, Laurel also joined the Splash Gallery Board of Trustees and is currently the Acting Principal Director. “It takes a lot of my time and I find it really rewarding,” Laurel says. “It has been great for me to stay in touch with other artists and with the processes and the art sector. “

One of Laurel’s other projects is a mural. She was approached by the Eastside Neighborhood Association to create a community mural as part of their Neighborhood Grants program. She decided to take inspiration from one of her original prints, which depicts a boy sitting in a tree reading a book. “I often come back to the themes of books and stories because it’s universal no matter what our experience with them is,” Laurel shares. Since the image was liked by many, it seemed fair to create something similar for the community wall. The mural has a special touch that allowed the community to add their own special touch. “Two other artists and I organized a few weekends for the community to come and add their handprints,” Laurel shares. The mural can be seen on the wall near the Little Chapel on Central Street and 7th Avenue.

Laurel’s art has been an inspiration to many and loved by all who have met him. She loved being able to work professionally as an artist and share her unique perspective with the world. She was honored to be chosen as the cover artist for the 2021 Olympia Arts Walk. She looks forward to continuing to discover exciting new ways to connect people and community through her work.

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The community mural designed and painted by Laurel also has a unique community touch. She and two other artists invited community members to come and apply their own handprints to the mural instead of painting flowers. Together they succeeded in making the mural even more unique and special. Photo credit: Laurel Henn
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