We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Shrewsbury and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Laura, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?

My parents were older folks, and immigrants. I am a first-gen American. They were very focused, and very fearful of life without financial security. My family learned that I had an innate talent for drawing and painting when I was 3 years old.

As much as they were pleased by my abilities and talents, they refused to believe it could ever amount to anything more than wearing a beret and selling my artwork on the streets of Paris, dying of starvation in a garret. 

My mother and father didn’t live in the present, and were therefore quite ignorant of the countless opportunities available to a creative person with strong visual art abilities. You must remember…the Internet didn’t always exist, and in those days, living in a small town, there was no way of knowing how big the world could be. 

So, obedient daughter that I was, I did what I was told. I pursued an infinitely more practical career as a costume designer, as live theatre is well known for producing millionaires.

In 1994, I moved to NYC. I ended up working in wardrobe for professional theatre and dance companies in NYC: Ballet Hispanico of NY, the Metropolitan Opera, the Public Theatre, New York City Ballet and many show on Broadway.

 I was lucky. They were some prestigious gigs. It was an interesting career, and I learned a lot, but ultimately it was like being a eunuch at an orgy; you are always supporting/ facilitating/ watching others create, while you cannot.

My creativity struggled. It banged on the doors and floors and ceiling of my mind. I was lonely. I was an alternative rock and roll girl among musical theatre lovers and ballerinas who listened to classical music all day. I was constantly communicating with my co-workers and yet there were very few moments of real conversation.

I knew something was missing, but I didn’t know what it was. I tried to fill with void within me with NYC nightlife. But the sun continued to rise and I could never make the night last long enough. I knew something needed to change.
Over and over again I’d given myself career goals, and over and over I’d achieved them. But the sense of satisfaction in those successes eluded me. In 2016, I decided to say goodbye to NYC and my theatre career. I was moving to New Orleans.
Originally, my plan was to open a small storefront and curate a cool selection of mens and womens rock-n-roll inspired fashion. I didn’t want to design. I didn’t want to make anything. I was tired. I wanted to chill out and have a normal 9-5 type schedule like everyone else in the world. I wanted to have brunch, and not have to run off to go do a matinee and a night show.

The storefront plan didn’t work out; there were growing pains. I had spent 25 years in NYC, and I grossly underestimated how long it takes to re-build your support network. It was VERY slow going.

And then I got a neck rash.

I love bold statement jewelry. My skin, in the heat of a Louisiana July, does not like wearing jewelry. It’s always been a battle.

Undaunted, I began experimenting with embroidered appliqués. Low and behold, I found a soft, comfortable, and stylish solution. And thus, Weapon of Choice New Orleans was born.
 I dove head-first into creating collections of jewelry and accessories made from lace and embroidery, repurposed vintage jewelry, paint, gold leaf, semi-precious stones, chains and fabric.

Art, to me, was always something highbrow and lofty, that usually hung on walls. It has taken me a very long time to feel comfortable calling myself an artist. And yet, here I am, making wearable art. I have honestly never been happier. I work all the time, constantly toiling away in my studio, but I am madly, passionately in love.

Now that I have finally found my purpose in life, the path that brings me endless joy, I am desperate to make up for lost time. I am so very grateful to New Orleans for giving me the time and the space to find myself, to recover my true self from the rubble and debris of the expectation of others.

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.
Weapon of Choice New Orleans: glamorous wearable art for rockstars. My pieces are hand-made, and often one of a kind or very limited quantities. I hand paint, stitch and bejewel each and every item in my New Orleans studio. I layer my work with esoteric meaning and symbols.

Esoteric meanings? What’s all that about? In other words, if you are interested in the occult or esoteric symbolism, Christianity or Western mythology, there’s something there to help you to build your own persona talisman, as it helps you more fully express who you really are, on the inside, And if you’re not interested in all that, you still have a super dope item of wearable art.

If you like what I do, you will REALLY like my work. If you don’t like my style, there will be zero chance that I can talk you into it. It’s highly polarizing work and that’s how I roll.

Intentionally unisex, my pieces are for girls, boys, and everyone in between. Weapon of Choice New Orleans stretches and expands the framework of masculine accessories and what a man can wear for evening. In my work, glamour is easy, comfortable, and quick. It usually fits into a sandwich bag, and slides into a purse or carryall.

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.

It’s New Orleans! Where do I even begin?!
The French Quarter is probably the most famous New Orleans tourist destination, so let’s start with lunch in the Rex Room at Antoine’s. This private dining room’s emerald green walls are hung with photos and jeweled crowns, sashes and scepters from the Kings and Queens of the Krewes of Mardi Gras’ past

The walls of this venerable restaurant are slathered in old New Orlean’s history, and there’s plenty to pique your curiosity and feast your eyes while you enjoy their signature $0.25 lunch special cocktail. Lunch is a taste of the grand Creole culinary traditions that made New Orleans the gastronomic paradise of the South.

Wandering the streets of the French Quarter, soaking up the sunshine, listening to jazz float through the streets, people watching, shopping…time flies. It’s still America, just better. Let’s stop by Muriel’s and grab a drink, and i”ll take you up to the Red Room….or the “seance room,” as it was once called. On the way up, we’ll pass a  tiny table for one.

Muriel’s restaurant is just off Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter. Every night, the staff sets a table for its guest of honor….a ghost!

Speaking of ghosts, the French Quarter is full of them, and, if you believe all the rumors, witches and vampires, too! Curious? Let’s take a walking tour!

There are walking tours of our above-ground cemeteries, and there are spooky tours of all the things that go bump in the night. Tour guides are very knowledgeable and informative, and we can learn about the Vampires (maybe?) in the attic of the Ursulines Convent, the terrors of the LaLaurie Mansion (so scary Nicholas Cage and his family moved out a few months after they bought it), and maybe we’ll even see the gentleman with the top hat who likes to drink outside Lafitte’s Blacksmith bar.

The French Quarter is fun, but you’re traveling with a local, so let’s leave the tourist spots behind and head into epic dive bar territory. We’ll swing by The Saint in the Lower Garden District.

It’s been tamed over the years, and now  there are more college students on the weekend than cool weirdos, but on weeknights we can still find local characters.
Hungry? Let’s walk up the block to Lily’s Vietnamese Cafe for the most delicious spicy fried tofu you’ve ever tasted. If all vegetarian food tasted this good, I’d be a vegetarian yesterday! Everything is fresh and full of flavor at Lily’s.

Time to stretch our legs. Let’s stroll over to catch the St. Charles street car, the olive-green line that’s been in continuous service since 1929. At a mere $1.25, it’s a relaxing way to view all the beautiful mansion on St. Charles Avenue while we head uptown. Our stop? Oak Street.

It’s a cute neighborhood that feels like a completely different city. Oak Street hasn’t changed much since the 1960s, and a lot of building facades looks straight out of a black and white movie. There are antique bookstores, comic book shops, thrift stores, antiques, rock and gem stores, and of course, bars and restaurants. 

One of the most famous is the Maple Leaf Bar, home of local legends The Rebirth Brass Band. Jacque-Imo’s is an Oak street institution, a quirky restaurant with incredible food (their savory alligator cheesecake is to die for). But there’s also a killer vegan bakery and hot yoga…just like everything in NOLA ….a bit of a binge and purge!
Still wanting to get into trouble? Let’s head in the opposite direction and experience the greatest dive bar in Louisiana, Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club. What can I say? It’s like Vegas….what happens at S&J’s stays at S&J’s!

Good morning! Feeling hung over? Let’s get some breakfast at the Camilla Grill! It’s an old-fashioned style lunch counter with sassy waiters and great food. Ready for some culture? Let’s head to New Orleans Museum of Art and check out the latest exhibit. Nestled like a jewel in beautiful City Park, the Museum has lovely grounds to get fresh air and see some beautiful sculptures. Some of the oak trees in City Park are over 300 years old. They provide cool shade on even the hottest summer days. It’s a wonderful place for a picnic and maybe even a little nap. 

Next, let’s head over to the Backstreet Cultural Museum and check out the Mardi Gras Indian suits….incredible wearable works of art, and stories of the long history the Mardi Gras Indians have in New Orleans. Bead, feathers, and THOUSANDS of hours go into the making of a single suit, only to be worn once and never repeated! It’s an amazing tradition.
Tonight, we’re getting a little bit dressy and hitting Preservation Jazz Hall to listen to some virtuoso musicians do their thing!

Is all this walking wearing out your shoes? No problem, let’s head to Magazine street and go shopping! It’s almost 5 miles of shopping and restaurants. Antique malls, taxidermy shops, corsets, high-end vintage clothing, fine jewelry, clothing, and of course shoes. Tonight we’ll go catch a show at the magnificent Saenger Theatre, which dates from the Great Depression and is a mable and crystal encrusted palace of show biz! Afterwards, lets go see what’s happening at the Roosevelt Hotel…another blast from the past that’s fancy in a 1940’s retro Hollywood film kind of way.

Let’s add some spice to our day and explore the Marigny and Treme neighborhoods. Bring your swimsuit! The Country Club has a wonderful bar and restaurant, plus a huge pool/hottube/sauna. For a small fee, you can swim and sunbath all day.

The Marigny and Treme neighborhoods were called “back o’ town” by locals back in the day…they were the first neighborhoods to be built outside of the French Quarter in the 1800s. Let’s go catch some fun burlesque shows, a punk band or whatever the night holds over on St.Claude at the Hi-Ho Lounge and the Always Cafe. It’s the East Village of New Orleans, and there’s always something weird and fun going on.

Feeling a little…unclean….after last night’s shenanigans? Let’s go tidy up at Spa Atlantis and enjoy some healthy drinks/snacks. What to do this afternoon? Let’s hit Jackson Square and check out the Cabildo. There’s still so much to do and to explore.!.The WWII Museum is epic and incredible, and it’s easy to spend 9 hours there and not even realize it. We haven’t even made it to Kermit Ruffin’s Mother-In-Law Lounge! There are so many music venues, shops, bars, museums and cool little hidden gems…..you’re definitely going to have to come back very soon.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?

TEACHERS!! Huge! Huge, massive thanks to Linda Soderquist, Gwen Schulman, and Bernard Rosenberg for my early art foundations. The love and respect they gave me, the nurturing of my abilities….they were the first adults to truly encourage me without agenda. Irene Bale, the grandmother of my childhood best friend, and first adult to take my interest in sewing seriously. My mother, for her love and support. She rarely understood what I was on about, but she loved me and encouraged me, and that’s what is remembered.
Thank you to Broadway, and the costumes of great designers like William Ivy Long and Willa Kim. I steamed and pressed you every day on B’way, and in doing so, I began to understand your design choices and why/how things were made the way they were. Thank you to Karinska,  the great designer and costume shop head of the New York City Ballet, whose incredible attention to every tiny detail influences me to this day. Maintaining your costumes and headpieces was like taking a master class in construction and design.

FRIENDS: Erik Bergrin, Laura Clarke, Alexis Interiano, Titus Childers, Paul Komoda, Langley West, My muse and patron of the arts, Morgana Madden, who spoke my truth into existence when I didn’t have the vocabulary. And all my clients and patrons!

Website: www.WeaponofChoiceNewOrleans.com

Instagram: instagram.com/weapon_of_choice_nola

Facebook: facebook.com/WeaponofChoiceNewOrleans

Image Credits
Titus Childers Photography

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