In college at New York’s Colgate University, Lauren Bello Okerman studied neuroscience and minored in art. She liked the art classes most of all. “But I never really considered that art could become a career,” she says. After graduating, she got a finance job on Wall Street and worked endless hours in a suit. It wasn’t the right fit for her. So, she pivoted and decided to apply to an architecture graduate program at the Rhode Island School of Design. There, she found her calling. “Architecture combined art and science—it felt like a lifetime of exploration,” she says.
She moved to San Francisco and worked for a number of architecture firms through her twenties, doing commercial and retail building design for eight years, but still, something didn’t feel quite right. In her spare time, she would make sculptures or do conceptual model making, both processes that she loved, or she would nerd out on ski technology, reading reviews and studying ski construction.
Nearly every weekend in the winter while living in San Francisco, Okerman and her friends would drive the three and a half hours to Tahoe to spend time in the mountains skiing. Eventually, post-recession when the architecture industry was struggling, Okerman decided to give up architecture and move to the mountains. “I didn’t have a plan. I was like, ‘I’ll just figure it out,’” she says. “I needed to change direction.”
In Tahoe, she launched Folklaur Studio, her own design shop, where she built one-off custom furniture and did sculpture and illustration. A fateful carpool ride not long after would change everything. She and friend Jen Gurecki were sharing a ride to a backcountry women’s event in Tahoe when they got to talking. It was 2014 and Gurecki was starting a women’s ski company called Coalition Snow. She needed help making graphics for the skis. Okerman became the brand’s art director. “I was like, ‘That’s my dream job,’” Okerman says. “I just didn’t know you could actually do that for a living.”
The mantra of Coalition Snow was to finally give women the well-built custom skis and snowboards they deserved. Okerman, tasked with creating the visual aesthetics of the skis as well as helping in their construction, set about creating graphics that felt strong and distinctly feminine. “I’ve always been obsessed with the detail and drama of the natural world,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily need to be a landscape. You can find a lot of inspiration at all scales, from the cellular to the universal.” For the graphics, she drew the big, red ornamental poppies growing in her backyard garden, and she drew a wave of birds, flying into the air like sea spray.
“With skis and snowboards, it’s a missed opportunity to not do something inspirational or to push the boundaries. They’re just flat, empty canvasses,” Okerman says. “I was going with themes that spoke to me. You want people to see what you’ve done from across the parking lot or under the chairlift and stop and take notice.”
To check out more of Lauren’s personal work, find her on Instagram @folklaurstudio