We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Cadenhead and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
When have I not taken a risk? Apparently, I have been doing that for most of my life. My childhood wasn’t easy. I love my parents but they had a hard time understanding me. I learned early on how to stand up for myself and for what I loved, which was art. My parents are both left-brain thinkers and very traditional. They wanted to see me in ballet or cheerleading, but that wasn’t me. I noticed early on how much I enjoyed coloring and drawing. I would always get lost in my drawings and would make up stories about each character. I spent the majority of my childhood on my own (I am an only child). As I got older, I noticed (I’m sure my parents did as well) that I really excelled in art. It was the only thing that could hold my attention. I also have ADD. What was I saying? Lol. I remember in middle school I signed up to be in band class. I love music but wind instruments weren’t my thing. I don’t know why they made you choose, but your only options were to join in band class or art (I hope they changed it). I decided to take a risk on my love for art, and I ended up telling my band teacher I was going to follow my passion to the “art side”. He was very angry and told me I wouldn’t make anything of myself doing art. Well, I proved him wrong! I think that was a turning point for me in my young life. For me, art in high school was my most favorite and creative time of life. I loved being around like-minded people and just getting into the flow. When I create, I forget about all the struggles of life and I just focus on that very moment. I’m sure this is how others feel when they are in their flow regardless if it’s art or not. Once I started getting acknowledgment in high school, my parents knew this was going to be more than just a hobby, even though they didn’t fully understand it. As I got closer to finishing high school, I chose a college that was as far away as possible but not out of state. At that point in my life, I had really no idea what I wanted to do. I knew I loved art and thought to myself, “perhaps teaching would be fun?” After about a month, I ended up wanting to do something different. I had a difficult time learning in large class sizes, and also the newfound freedom didn’t help. After 2 years and almost flunking out of college, I made the risk of telling my parents I wanted to go a different route. A route that I could really focus my energy on just art and make a career of it. After extensive research, I presented the idea to my parents. The good news is they said yes, but under one condition, that I can’t fail or drop any classes. I was determined to show them that I could do this. I chose to go to a non-traditional college, The Art Institute of Atlanta. Again, this risk was a big life change but I knew it would enhance my life. And to my delight, it did! I was so grateful I got the chance to restart. I’m happy to say this type of college is what I needed to succeed. It was hands-on, small classes, and always geared towards art. I did have a hard time finding my style in college. I think it wasn’t until it got down to graduating and another designer friend (Alona) who encouraged my “youneekness” to come through. My style was very different from most of the student’s work but it was mine. I did graduate with a successful portfolio and got an award for academic excellence. I was so proud of myself! I have this picture from my graduation ceremony with my dad. He was smiling from ear to ear. Unfortunately, my mom never got to be with me at graduation. She passed while I was finishing college but I know she was with me in spirit, guiding me through, and still is. About a month later after graduation, I got a call from Low Temp Industries, who had attended our portfolio show. They called me in for an interview. I was excited but nervous. Honestly, I couldn’t remember the company (portfolio show was one big blur). I really liked what the company created. They installed kitchen service equipment and their design division created signage for schools to help engage students. The pressure was on at the interview. They told me that they had a meeting with the superintendent of a school down in Perry, GA the next day. If I said no then they would have to cancel on her. The process would be meeting the client, finding out what she was looking for, getting the specs of the project, then design and present it to her in the upcoming week. Side note, if she didn’t like you or your work she wouldn’t hold back. Yikes! I remember sitting at the interview table and thinking to myself, do I take this risk (job)? I just graduated, never had a real client before, and do I have it in myself to produce this at such a tight deadline? Also, I forgot to mention that I was competing with another amazing designer who I graduated with. I decided to go for it! She didn’t go with my design for that school but she loved my work. She wanted me to come back to design another school for her district! That was my most memorable job. I loved that I got to design environments for kids. They would enjoy my graphics and my creativity. I stayed with the job for almost 3 years. What I loved most was that I had the freedom to be as creative as I wanted to be as long as it stayed within budget and spec details. I’m so glad I took the risk for my career path. Fast forward to about 3 years ago. I began a spiritual journey to really learn who Laura is. Last April, the company I was working for ended up merging with another company and let go of all their part-time contractors. While at Fiserv, I enjoyed the work but never felt like I was filling my true purpose. For most of my career, I have had the opportunity to work for myself. I would do most of my designing at home, much like everyone has been doing since the pandemic. I’m blessed to have been able to do that. Windows opened for me to learn how to self-manage which led to wanting to become an entrepreneur. I gained the flexibility to allow myself to be a mom and have a work-life balance. I have been able to be here to watch my “still” little ones grow up. After April, I started training to become a virtual assistant but quickly realized a few things. I didn’t want to work for other people. I wanted to be that person who runs their own company, much like the clients I would have sought after. As I tried to force it to work, I felt in my soul that this wasn’t the right path for me. When I thought about what I wanted and enjoyed most, I always came back to creating. How I could share that passion to help others? I know I wanted to leave a positive mark on the world, and I guess now you can say a colorful paint splatter! This brings me to the present day. The universe answered and I am able to fulfill this passion/dream. This by far is the biggest risk I have ever taken, owning my art studio and creative space. On days that I question myself (because it happens), I have enough evidence in my life to show me that everything always works out. This feeling inside me has never led me down the wrong path. It hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s the one that is meant for me! I’m so happy to be doing what I love and sharing my passion for creating with Atlanta.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
This one is a little harder, as I’m in a transitional time of both my personal life and career. What I’m most proud of is what I’m creating right now. I’m creating my own business from literally the ground up by reworking the property’s layout to fit my vision. I’m excited to see this old property transform into a thriving creative space. The biggest thing I need to overcome and I’m still working on is getting my self-doubt out of the way and just going for it. I touched on this in my previous risk answer but I want the world to know that I’m following my passion. Art saved me and I see that throughout my own life. No matter what anyone else says, you should always trust yourself and listen to your soul. Even if it does seem impossible, it’s not. I like to compare life to hiking a huge mountain or canyon. You see what you have ahead of you and it seems unreachable. If you just take life one step at a time, sooner or later you have accomplished it. Then you can look back on it and feel proud that you didn’t give up.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I like to keep things off the beaten path. This place is my guilty spot, but I love Revolution Donuts. They have the best donuts and coffee. I love their vegan options. For lunch, I love visiting Mezcalitos in either Oakhurst or Grant Park. Since we are in the area, I also love going to Oakland Cemetery. Great history, green space, and beautiful Magnolias within the cemetery grounds. Afterwards, we would go to Java Cats to get some kitty time and coffee. Next up, we would venture to some cool parks, I love being in nature. Piedmont Park is always a win, I love taking my kids there to just run wild in the big field, or maybe something a little smaller such as Candler Park. I actually went to a Sol Dance event and I loved it so I would make sure there was an event like this going on. For dinner, my top choice is to go to Decatur Square. I love that little restaurant Calle Latina, they have the best sangria. To top off the night then we would head down to MJQ for a little dancing and fun! A few honorable mentions within the city limits include the Tabernacle (outstanding concert venue), taking a tour of the varied street art lining the streets and buildings, and heading to Lake Claire park for evening drum circle events. I could go on and on about events the city neighborhoods have, but my favorite time of year is during Halloween. The Little 5 Points parade would be a must on the list of things to do!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Yes, I have few people I would like to recognize. My parents Marina and BJ for giving me the tools I needed to achieve my goals. I can’t thank them enough for that! I love you guys so much. Donna Ferguson, to keep the story short, has been a grandma to me since I was little. She knew early on my talents and did what she could to foster that love for creating. She has and still believes in me and loves me for the person I am. I’m so grateful for your love and support. I’m glad you are here to share this new journey with me. To my girls, I know you ladies are too young to understand, but I couldn’t be any more proud of you two. To Autumn my oldest, I’m so excited to watch you grow in your own artistic abilities. You inspire me every day, especially when you create. You do it with such ease and your color theory is on point. I can’t wait to see how our new adventure fosters you as an artist. I’m thrilled I can give this to you! April well you are still very young but I love the bond we share. I’m not sure yet if you will be more on the artistic side but you sure love to get messy so I wouldn’t be surprised! Thank you ladies for loving and helping me strive to be a strong, independent, creative momma!