About the Creator:
Inspired by the environment and three-and-a-half years living on a small sailboat, I spent the last of my savings on equipment, set up a screen-printing studio, and created my company Forest and Fin in 2012. An award-winning artist and self-taught graphic designer (take a look at my art here: www.laraneece.com), I designed and printed my first nature-inspired screen-printed apparel by hand using water-based inks and a manual press. In 2015, I ventured into the world of sustainable apparel design creating a bicycle-friendly wrap skirt for women. I successfully funded the first production run of the Bicycle Wrap Skirt on Kickstarter (funded in just one week and raising double what I needed - more than $20,000), which was produced using sustainable materials at an employee-owned co-op in North Carolina. This year, I opened a retail shop in the front of my screen printing studio where I sell my products and artwork alongside other quality locally made items in Savannah's Starland District. We offer good earthy vibes and promote talented local artist and designers.
The Back Story:
The story of Forest and Fin started in 2009, when I quit my job as a production editor for a book publishing company; moved onto a small sailboat named Illusion; and decided to become an artist. The name came from a line in a poem that I wrote when I first moved onto our sailboat and it has a symbolic circular meaning. Forest represents plants and fin represents animal; forest symbolizes land and fin symbolizes the sea - those two words encompass the whole world and all of the things that inspire me.
My husband and I renovated our 37-foot sailboat and sailed from Charleston, SC, to Hilton Head Island, then north to Annapolis, MD, back down to Miami, Fl, and concluded with three months of sailing around the Exumas in the Bahamas - about a year and a half of slow traveling all told. Utilizing wind and solar power, we cut back on our water usage and turned a unique mode of transportation into a lifestyle. I've never felt more connected to the earth.
Living on a sailboat for three years gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the wind, tide, weather, and my impact on the plants and animals that share these environments. While traveling up and down the southeastern coast of the United States, I saw eco-systems operating and interacting with the elements in similar and drastically different ways. From oysters relying on the tide to filter water systems in the Chesapeake Bay, to osprey in the Lowcountry of South Carolina using wind currents to hunt fish. In North Carolina, I saw a black bear on the banks of a canal in the early morning hours, and on a sail from the Exumas to Eleuthera in the Bahamas, a sea turtle as big as a Volkswagen. After a frightening experience offshore in a bad electrical storm, living more or less without heating or AC, without a refrigerator for six months, without a real shower and many other such luxuries, I developed a greater appreciation for the natural world around me.
I began screen-printing designs from my original paintings for friends and family back in 2009 around the same time that I moved onto our sailboat. Over the course of our travels, I sold them to new friends and fellow sailors along the way. After a few shops picked up my shirts, I decided to expand on the designs and develop a line of shirts under the name Forest and Fin. So after traveling on our boat for about a year and a half, Brian and I circled back to the Southeast, where I used the last of my savings to set up a studio, purchase equipment, and launch my business.
When I first started Forest and Fin, my vision was to include a range of sustainably and artistically made items (not necessarily all my own) that encouraged environmental conservation and raised money for their conservation efforts. My screenprinted designs and apparel were the starting point and a way for me to support myself while I developed my art and business. Now I’m starting to innovate in a completely different way with the launch of new products that embrace my mission on a new level.