Husband and wife team, Lab Partners have been collaboratively producing enjoyable, illustrative prints and other designs since their move to their now base in California. They founded their creative studio almost by accident when they worked together on a letterpress print to let their friends and family know about their move back in 2007.
They enjoyed the process so much that they decided to continue their joint venture as a place where they could experiment and play around with a medium that they both love.
As one member of the duo, Sarah Labieniec brings her experience from her previous positions in a creative agency and letterpress studio, as well as a long-standing passion for illustration, having dreamt of being a Disney animator from a young age.
Born in Tokyo then spending time in Germany, Hawaii, and Texas among others, Ryan Meis also comes from a design career, having been art director at an ad agency. With such varied backgrounds, we were keen to find out more about how their different influences create Lab Partners as a whole.
How has your work as a team developed since founding Lab Partners back in 2007?
When we first started LP, it was just a fun side project that we worked on in the evenings after our day jobs and we were really just doing art prints for ourselves.
We started coming up with concepts together, passing sketches back and forth and experimenting with a bunch of different things.
This really helped us develop a working process and set the tone before we started doing a lot of client work. Now that we’re both doing this full-time, which we feel super fortunate about, it feels very natural and like second nature at this point.
What have you found to be most beneficial from working together as opposed to how you have done before?
We really like the collaboration process and having someone else there to look at things in a different way and bounce ideas off of. And you have someone to share the less fun sides of running a business like book-keeping and feeding the cat, he’s quite gifted when it comes to pestering us for food.
How are the more illustrative elements in your work approached? Are they split down the middle or do each of you have certain parts you tend to work on more?
You know this really depends on the particular project and what else we have in the mix at the time. Sometimes one person takes the lead and the other helps out here and there and sometimes it’s pretty 50/50.
We’re working on this large project at the moment that has these long, almost animation backgroundish scenes, so on that one we usually have one person rough in the whole composition and then we’ll both work on fleshing out details within, like adding different animals and plants and such.
We’ll pass the file back and forth a bunch of times and in the end we’ll sit together and really adjust color and tweak little bits until we feel it’s finished. For our ‘Colors Are Magical’ print we divided the two main elements of the piece, I drew the girl and Ryan made the rainbow prism, and we just slapped them together, so sometimes it works like that too.
How has having two different backgrounds and sources of inspiration influenced your work?
Well we both wanted to be animators when we were kids so we definitely bonded over our love of old Disney and Chuck Jones movies. But otherwise we had very different experiences and interests growing up, I pretty much lived in the same small town and Ryan got to live all over the world.
I would have been very jealous of him as a kid haha. I think having different backgrounds helps us look at things from different view points and explore different types of subject matter, at least I hope so.
What has been one of the more challenging projects for you so far?
We’re working a large project with the Seattle Children’s hospital, which has probably been our longest on going project to date, and that’s been challenging not only in the scope of the work but also in who the audience is and what the artwork has to offer them.
They are adding on an additional building to their main campus so we’re working with them to revamp their entire art program so most of the art in the building will hang together stylistically and function as way finding system within the hospital.The work is going to live in the space for many years so it has to feel timeless and not only be something small children would enjoy but teenagers as well, so we’ve really had to put a lot of time into working through what that would look like.
What are your plans for the future of Lab Partners?
We’re actually in the process of figuring all that out this year, I think we want to make more personal products and art prints for sure. And definitely throw a kids book in the mix there. We’re also working on a couple of side projects, some individually and together, so where we take LP also kinda depends on what happens with those.
Either way we’re really excited about the future and we’re enjoying the journey.