((L-R) Lori and Lisa Lubbesmeyer create collaborative art through a process of building over each other’s work, layer upon layer | Photos courtesy of Lori and Lisa Lubbesmeyer)
For identical twins Lori and Lisa Lubbesmeyer, they say opening a business together was tantamount to locking themselves in a room together until they learned to get along.
“From outside appearances, it looks like we live this amazing life, it looks idyllic, but we have had some major hurdles as family and in business,” says Lori. “There were many times when we thought this wasn’t working, and almost gave up. But thankfully, we have worked hard enough at it that here we are approaching 23 years. It feels like it’s getting easier, and that is tremendous.”
“We started working together because we had so much conflict in our relationship that we didn’t want to spend time with each other. We genuinely didn’t like each other,” says Lisa with a laugh. “So we literally shoved ourselves into a room over the past 23 years until we figured it out. The phrase ‘go to your room’ rings true for us. Now, it’s easy to imagine that we could be doing this for another 23 years or more.” Lori adds, “The fact that we have made it this long working together is pretty amazing and important to me.”
In working through and overcoming their differences, the Lubbesmeyers, who co-own Lubbesmeyer Art Studio & Gallery in the Old Mill District, say they have learned invaluable lessons that carry over into their creative work and their relationships with others too. “One of the big things that I am continuously surprised by is that even though Lori knows me better than anybody in my whole life and vice versa, it’s never a good idea that I make assumptions about what she is going to do or think or say, or how she sees the world,” says Lisa. “It is a challenge for me to be mindful of that. That is usually what gets me into trouble in working with a family member. I have learned so much in this lesson in terms of being a better person in the world. If I can’t assume things about Lori successfully, I have no business doing that to anybody else.” She continues, “The richness and wonderful thing about that is that if I’m doing it right, I get to meet people for who they are and where they are, and just listen and appreciate instead of running on assumptions. I’m so grateful to have had this lesson by working in such a close relationship; I don’t think I could have gotten it in any other way.”
Lori agrees that avoiding assumptions feels like a foundational philosophy to them both at this point. “Lisa said it: If we make false assumptions, it impacts our familial position and the business. It’s incredible how deeply this impacts us. Because we’ve learned this lesson the hard way over and over again, I think it’s one of the things that helps us to be good at what we do with our clients and the people coming through the door, because we translate this to everybody. We are just kind of open to what each person presents. I cannot underscore enough how big of a challenge this has been for us.”
When it comes to making plans, however, because they work together and have spent their entire lives together, they know each other so well that they tend to think alike. “We assume that we can do things that are basically ridiculous and maybe not even wise choices because we are on the same page,” says Lisa. “For example, we used to show at art festivals, and we would think nothing of knowing we had a 20-hour drive ahead of us, but we’d create up until the last minute, load the car and then start our drive at 3 in the morning to get there at exactly when we needed to in order to make our appointment.” She adds, “What would start out as a long, grueling road trip would end up a giggle fest across the country. I can think of no other situation where I could do this with anybody else in my life; even the poor judgment behind it,” she jokes. “Conversely, we’ve had major yelling and screaming fights in the car spanning across a whole state too. There is the yin and yang to everything. We keep it real here.”
The Lubbesmeyers, who both studied art at the University of Oregon, with Lori earning her degree in oil painting and Lisa studying printmaking, agree that not avoiding the tough stuff is part of working with family. “What we find, which is funny and aggravating, is when we are running into issues with one another that have to do with business or a professional aspect, invariably, it has to get drilled down to working on a problem that essentially began when we were 5 or 7,” says Lisa. “We have to drill down so far to finally get to the core of the issue and resolve it,” adds Lori. “We have had the deepest depths of grief with one another, but also the greatest highs of joy together.” These experiences, the twins agree, are what now help them work together so successfully.
Another aspect in learning how to work well together that they had to master is determining their individual roles in the business. “We might both think we are really great at bookkeeping, or marketing, or whatever,” says Lisa. “It has taken us awhile to determine what specific roles we are each best at. In our case, we had our blinders on in terms of what we are truly good at.” Lori adds, “It was ego that initially made us both think we were great at everything. In this case, letting go of that ego, and honoring the fact that one of us is better at something than the other, helped us set our boundaries.”
At their studio and gallery, Lisa and Lori create collaborative art through a process of building over each other’s work, layer upon layer. They find inspiration in nature, Japanese block print, music of all genres, the texture of leaves and grasses, the pattern of light on the foothills, ethnic designs and patterns, the juxtaposition of old and new, architectural fragments, the elegance and grace of birds, road trips — both solitary and shared — and the patterns of turned farmland.
In weathering the pandemic, the twins say the past two years have helped them home in on what is important, and they have made some changes in business and in life as a result. “Business is going great. The pandemic forced us to do things we weren’t typically doing,” says Lisa. “What that has meant for us is that over the past few years, we’ve been more thoughtful about how we spend our time, both within and outside the studio. Since we are creative, both those elements have helped reenergize and inspire our work.”
Lori says that they have been able to adapt to the conditions, relying upon the internet with a virtual gallery, and connecting with people more via email instead of face to face. “Somehow, especially in the past year, we found our new footing, in terms of how we look at what we want to do going forward,” she says. Lisa adds, “It feels like because of the pandemic, we have created a more sustainable model for ourselves regarding business and how we’ll go forward for the next many years. What we fell upon seems more functional. It feels like a healthier balance; we were putting so much time and effort into areas of our business that we ultimately realized weren’t entirely necessary. The pandemic stripped us down effectively.”
Part of that process was scaling back on their business hours. The studio and gallery, located in an upstairs loft in the Old Mill, are open Wednesday through Friday from 11am-5pm and by appointment. “Part of our adjustment was figuring out what hours are sustainable and helpful,” says Lori. “Initially, when we were all shut down, Lisa and I had to do a tag-teaming thing. We had to be careful, and thought about what would happen if one of us had COVID. We censored our hours. We wanted to be open to the public, but not open all the time.” She adds, “The hours are very mindful. And it really has worked. It has given us a lot of opportunity to just create. When we are open, which seems like ridiculously low hours to some people, we can really be present for people.”
Moving forward, the twins say that in reflecting on how they had to change and modify the way they run their business effectively, they have done a few things experimentally that they are excited about, and that could possibly help them move into other arenas of exhibiting. “We don’t know what the future holds, but instead of feeling like we were shut down and stagnant, we are actually feeling super optimistic about possible new venues,” says Lori. “In a way, we were forced to do something that we have always wanted to but felt like we never had time to do. It was like a residency.” Lisa adds, “A new level of efficiency may allow us to go to a much larger format. We have been limited by the tools available to us, but the time we have had over the past two years has given us time to explore. Part of our success as artists is that we have been very goal driven from the very beginning. With the pandemic, we really don’t know what is coming in the future.” She adds, “Thinking we can plan out our future is really not sustainable. For me, that was a huge revelation. The gift that brought me is that if I relax, the results are even better.”
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