Louesa Roebuck is a breath of fresh air. If you’ve ever had the joy of getting to spend time with her, you’d think the exact same thing. She is wildly creative and always, always, always creating. You may have seen some of her beautiful monoprints hanging on the walls in our Shoppes and her book, Foraged Flora on our coffee tables and shelves.
We’ve been obsessed with Louesa for years — and we’re excited to finally share her story, her passions and her creative journey with you. Read our inspiring conversation with Louesa below.
You do it all. Tell us about your creative profession. What are some ways you currently create?
That’s extremely kind and generous. Most of the time I feel like an eccentric hippie of a certain age who happily lives in Ojai and works in alternating rhythms of sprinting and laying about (with Curtis and Scrap). As a Leo sun, Sag moon and Pisces rising, I believe in dashing and then napping in the sun, but I don’t see myself as other’s see me…like all of us. That is also how I create. In periods and spurts of very prolific days. Days where I/we create a healthy body of art, writing, design or public time (speaking engagements, workshops, installations, events, trade shows, etc.).
Then wonderful restorative days or weeks of rest and observation. I look to nature and deeply believe the fallow periods are just as important to a creative life as the active periods. Think of a garden. It’s not all about the harvest. I’m very focused on my visual art at the moment. Exploring new techniques, mediums and visual narratives. Reveal to follow.
Can you dive into your art making process? How did you get into this?
I think we are all artists. As a child I loved animals, nature and beauty. It just turned out I had some natural talent and incredibly inspiring and encouraging parents. They both believed in me as an artist, even in suburban Ohio where that was not encouraged much. I went to RISD when I was 17, which was an honor. But ultimately it was too one dimensional for me and I dropped out. I needed more stimulation and intellectual engagement and I’m really expansive in my interests. It also was the mid 1980s and beautiful moody landscapes were not encouraged or in vogue. Art school is sadly very about trend and I was not into Basquiat or geometrical compositions. I did however fall in love with printmaking and learned a few tricks! I also learned I needed to avoid toxic pigments and solvents, so my work uses ALL water based, non-toxic materials.
I spent most of my adult life in the restaurant world (culminating at Chez Panisse) and then I kind of accidentally got into the fashion world, but mostly because I love textiles). It’s been a very non-linear path, thank goddess.
We know you’re also the brilliant author behind, Foraged Flora. Tell us about the inspiration behind this book.
Wow! Again how generous to use that word and love the book!!
Im so terrible at short answers! Moving to California from Ohio I felt as if I had come to the garden of Eden, “The Promised Land,” like so many travelers before me. I got lucky and started work at Chez Panisse five days after moving into a pre-gentrified Oakland community. I also got lucky and fell in love with the sublime, pristine and expansive landscape of West Marin, and then decided to live there. I began bringing the natural beauty on my paths (both on foot and by car) into my shop in Oakland (August 2005-2009), then lost that shop in the crash of 2008. So I started being scrappy and doing my Foraged Flora work with my wonderful Bay Area community who believed in local and seasonal living.
It just made sense and resonated — and I humbly think it is vastly more beautiful than conventional agribusiness floral industry work of uniform blooms, lengths and the obsession with spring. Let’s embrace all stages of life and the intelligent beauty of imperfection with a informed attention to details and subtlety. A deep love of place, whatever your place on the planet may be. Mine right now is California.
People like Todd Selby, Michael Pollen, Michelle Obama, Carolyn Murphy, Alice Waters, Sylvan Mishima Brackett, Evan Cole and more saw something in the work, believed in my mission and gave me many chances to have a bigger platform. Jenny Wapner from Ten Speed Press was wonderful and asked me to do a book (with Sarah Lonsdale of Remodelista), shot beautifully by Laurie Frankle… and I said YES, of course.
We shot in 13 different locations in California with other creatives we admired and greatly respected, kindred spirits. It’s truly a labor of love of California and SLOW ART. It’s been the most fulfilling collaborative creative project of my life and I still hear every day from some sweet person all over the planet about how its moved or inspired them! It was recently translated into Mandarin, super cool!
Can you tell us more about foraging? Why do it?
I have always loved gathering “hunting” for treasures, collecting, looking for hidden beauty and magical natural moments or creatures or objects. I never thought flowers or flora would be a medium I worked in. In fact, much of the floral “industry” bores me to tears and is so environmentally suspect, artificial and toxic, it’s actually ugly to me.
When I moved to California and worked at Chez Panisse, Erica Tanov and I then had my shop, August. I commuted a lot from West Marin to Berkley or Oakland. I fell madly in love with the landscape of Northern California. Both the wild hillsides to Mt. Tam to the seashore and the more domesticated and cultivated neighborhoods both offered abundant flora gifts, all year round.
Fennel by the road, bay trees on Mt. Tam, wild brambly roses, jasmine, passion vines, magnolias, persimmons, citrus, and on and on. All I had to do was bring them inside and create installations and flora sculpture. And I could create in the scales I prefer and love, which are HUGE and tiny.
You care deeply about our earth, our environment and living sustainably. What are some ways we can all contribute?
I think a good mantra to try and live is, “Do no harm.” Get educated and involved. Know what’s in season like you no know tomato, strawberry, persimmon season. Be gentle. NO agribusiness. [Keep it] local, seasonal and organic. NO flying flora in from across the globe out of season. NO floral foam (it basically never breaks down in our oceans). Don’t buy unless it is from a local reputable grower, just like we are learning to buy our food from the farmers market (in season and locally). Know your farmer!
If its seems too good to be true, say cheap peonies in November, then something is off (i.e. they came from New Zealand flown across the globe). Or if the roses are crazy cheap and uniform, then they were most likely grown in another country with agricultural poisons not legal here by underpaid farm workers (mostly women). Cheap often comes with some price you don’t see to the environment and the workers, including floral workers.
Forage and glean when and where you can. There is beauty and abundance all around us, we just have to train our eye to look differently for it.
Now moving on to your home. We were lucky enough to spend an afternoon at home with you in Ojai. How would you describe your living environment? It’s pretty magical.
We are so lucky and I hope thankful enough daily. I think my cottages and homes have had many common threads in California. I prefer small modest, hippie art filled compounds, with views of mountains or sea and a connection to the outdoors. Place and sighting above fanciness, not precious or overdone.
We live in a very modest part of town and we rent. I think because we can’t rip down walls, paint, and wall paper everything, replace lighting etc., we intuitively layer with what we find to be sexy, earthy, opulent textiles, ceramics, animistic objects, fetishes, bones, feathers, our sacred objects that are mostly found covering shelves, tables, walls, most surfaces. Curtis and I have accumulated these treasures over the years – unusual, primitive, animistic, antique, odd, colorful. Little offerings and vignettes everywhere. We also love folk art and antiques. Curtis and my family have both been in America for 13 or 15 generations, so we have some of those very old American things. Lots of books of course.
I do have a wonderful photograph of Joni Mitchell in her Laurel Canyon home at the piano signed by Jim Marshall (that’s a fav thing). She’s a big muse to me. Outside art is [also] a great love of ours (always with a sense of humor and intuitive wisdom).
We don’t like super conventional furnishings, more tribal, Bedouin, native way to lay about. Lots of pillows – lots of Japanese ceramics and incense. Miximalism without garish luxury, defiantly not minimalism. I’m not a big fan of modernity.
I think as we age, our homes get more idiosyncratic, layered, more tribal, more weird, more colorful. We also believe in moving every 5-7 years. Redo your house, get rid of stuff. We are sentimental but not about the things most people are sentimental about. And we do not own or watch TV.
What’s a typical day like for you, Curtis and Scrap at home?
Wake when we want, green tea in bed, usually jasmine with honey and dark hippie chocolate. Reading and then meditation. Some day we hope to spend hours in mediation like David Lynch or Ram Dass, but not yet! Check in with our damn devices, (dream day would be without devices). Do some work. Make a big plant based early lunch, sometimes sadly it might be 1pm. Afternoons can be working at home either administration or creative or out in the world with clients or in LA. We go to LA about once a week. Farmer and the Cook almost every day we’re in Ojai. Moon gazing.
We are gypsy, so a lot of the month we are on the road: Northern California, LA, NYC. Walking, hiking, yoga, hot springs, or beach at some point. Dinner at home with organic sake with spiked local organic seasonal fruit. In the warm Ojai summer, we have most of our meals outside. Either on the deck, outdoor eating under the bramble, the mockingbirds nest, or the studio which is outdoor/indoor with a roof and open to a mountain view. If out to dinner usually, Japanese, vegan Thai. Bed early.
What’s your favorite room at home and why?
Outdoors! Followed by bed. We love bed and I love to cook, so the kitchen is groovy too.
What’s one thing at home you can’t live without?
I can never pick one. Green tea, dogs, curtis, Japanese incense, CBD, cashmere, art, shells, bones and feathers.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I think if you are open to the world, inspiration is everywhere. In the sacred and the profane, the beautiful and the ugly, the big moments and mostly the small moments.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received?
Love, observe and learn from nature. She is the best teacher (and we are nature). My dad taught me too look more deeply and with more concentration at the natural world and all of its creatures that aren’t human — to try and not see everything through human eyes (he was part Cherokee). And be fierce. My mom taught me to love balance and domestic beauty. I taught myself to try and listen, follow my intuition and heart as much as I can.
“Seeing is Love” – Guillermo del Toro