Springboard Series: Anne Marie Herrera, Upcycology Lab

Anne Marie Herrera and her husband Luis Laya co-founded Upcycology Lab as a creative outlet for their repurposed, redesigned home décor, accessories and art. SpringBoard is ArtWorks business development program that targets artisans and creative entrepreneurs.

How did you learn about ArtWorks’ Springboard course?
Everybody in Cincinnati knows about ArtWorks; you see the murals, you see the pigs. My daughter did a design for one of
the pigs last year, and her pig was exhibited in front of MiCA on 12th and Vine.

I was working full-time, and I was in desperate need of doing something for my creative path. Springboard was an incredible experience. You go there with a very fuzzy idea of what you want, and they put your feet on the ground and show you what it takes to run a small business.

You just made your debut at The Spotted Magpie during Second Sunday on Main. How did it go?
It was great exposure for our first collection. We’re from Venezuela and we don’t know the city very well, and that’s why I took Springboard in January. I studied with the owner of Spotted Magpie, Shannan Schmitt. Shannan later came to me and said, "Let’s do something together," and so we did.

What type of work do you do?
Our work isn’t what people would normally call “vintage.” We rebuild things from item people don’t use any more. We find them at vintage markets, on the street, whatever. People toss a lot of things and we reuse them, rebuilding things from these items people don’t use anymore. Our products are well-designed, very well-done.

What are your most popular items so far?
It may be too soon to tell, but lamps are most exciting for us right now. Lamps are like sculptures—they are statement pieces, beautiful, you can make them very complex or very simple. We love making and designing them.

What have you learned in the last few months?
We owned our own business in Venezuela, but it’s very different here. When you come from another country, you have to be very open-minded at first. Everything you learn is absolutely new. There’s nothing that’s related to your previous experience, although that previous experience is very useful.

For me, it’s always difficult to expect anything because I don’t know a lot, but several people have approached us with ideas about where we should be exhibiting. I didn’t expect that, but I like it—people are relating to our products.

What skills from Venezuela have you brought with you?
We’re very good at doing what we do because we come from a country where buying things is difficult; the best thing to do is to use what you can find and fix it up. That’s how we know how to do what we do. Our disadvantage there is our advantage here.

I still don’t expect anything, I’m just watching Upcycology Lab grow, and I’m very happy to be part of it.

Repurposing and reclaiming materials is a popular trend. What sets your work apart?
We really design our products and think them through. Our finishes are very high-end, and our work is very contemporary and modern with a slight industrial look, like something from the '40s or '50s.

We do several styles, but the characteristic of our work is a well-finished, well-designed, clean and modern look. Being from Venezuela, if we paint furniture, for example, it’s colorful because we’re from a country that uses color. We’re not into neutral. You can have a neutral environment, but then you need a piece that “pops”—and that’s one of our pieces.

We believe that life is colorful. Neutral is soothing and relaxing, but life should be exciting also.

Interview by Robin Donovan