Creative Spotlight: Lauren Machen and Todd Davis

“In my ideal world there will be cotton candy clouds.” – Yaretzi

826LA believes that a beautifully designed space is a safe space for a student to explore their imagination — inspiring them to write more and more. Since 2005, 826LA has been partnering with amazing artists and designers who believe in our mission:

Todd Davis first began making things with his hands out of whatever materials he could find, not knowing he would later do the same as a career. 

Lauren Machen does set design and art direction and creates immersive spaces.

Most recently, Lauren and Todd donated a cloud installation to 826LA in Mar Vista. 

What prompted the creation of The Cloud?

Lauren:  The Cloud was originally created for Redeye Reps’ group art show which was held at Space 15Twenty in Hollywood this past year in celebration of the agency’s 10 years of business. Todd and I decided to put our heads together to create a unique piece for the show. I’m very interested in creating healing immersive spaces that engage the senses so I approached todd with a few ideas. One being a huge room installation with clouds and he being the genius he is was like “what if people could actually put their heads in the clouds”. Of course I was sold.

One of the the asks was to introduce some humor. Humor made me think of laughter and the psychology behind it…when someone laughs it’s usually contagious so we decided to add in a sound element that you can hear once inside the cloud.

Todd: We came up with the idea of a cloud and through several conversations developed it into a more immersive/interactive experience with light and sound, and eventually decided to let people stand with their heads inside of it. We wanted to transport the viewer into a totally isolated, atmospheric, and sensorially controlled environment that was completely different from the world just outside.

Lauren: We asked my good friend to record his laugh, which is really catchy, and mixed in other sounds. This in combination with the pulsing colorful lights made for a trippy, meditative, amusing, mysterious and super unique immersive experience!!

Todd: Plus, with a changing audio soundtrack quietly playing inside the sphere, each person’s experience could be different from the person before. There were chimes, tonal vibrations, the recordings of laughter, and even distant whale calls.

Lauren: It was a hit at the art show. One of my favorite parts was to see Joel [Arquillos] + Meiko’s daughter underneath it with her arms up and eyes wide with excitement reaching to get in to experience it. Todd and I used to work together, but because we’re both freelance now, it was a fun and rare opportunity to collaborate—one of my favorites ever!


Where can the cloud take you?

Lauren: I wish I could have a version of the cloud in my house! It has a very special energy to it. I find the pulsing light to be very soothing to look at. Almost as if the cloud is alive and breathing. On each side of the cloud the lights pulse at different rates, like two hemispheres of the brain. The lights put me in a trance like state allowing anything extra to fall away. Its becomes a meditative space. I think in making this piece I was very much operating from my imaginative kid self. Growing up, I was always so fascinated by clouds and rainbows and wished I had magic powers … I watched A LOT of Care Bears and Rainbow Bright (Oh, the 80s!).

Todd: We wanted it to be playful and happy inside the cloud as colors shifted from pinks to blues to soft purples, and for it to be hilarious to look at from the outside while friend’s bodies stood below. OMG, you’ve so got your head in the clouds : )


The cloud offers a rotation of beautifully colored light, all changing the atmosphere in the space. How do you imagine colors effect the imagination of a student?

Todd: Now that it lives at 826 Mar Vista, I hope that it will inspire kids to look at the world around them with fresh eyes, to observe their surrounding more closely, to imagine something brand new. Maybe one person will daydream about building a ladder up to it (but they won’t because that would be unsafe), but later in life that same curiosity and ingenuity will drive them to develop a permanent and self sustaining space station that will be launched into the galaxy in search of a new planet to inhabit, and will ensure the survival of the human race. That would be cool…

Lauren: Clouds are something I think we all have imagined to be able to walk on or fly high enough to see and be amongst. They are a magical part of our sky and atmosphere and for kids I think it can be a very expansive way of looking at the world and their ideas. To think big and beyond themselves. We were able to bring something thats not really containable or tangible in nature into a space for the kids to look up to in wonder. The fact that it now hangs above the kids adds an interesting element to the life of it. If I were a student sitting in 826LA I would be so intrigued, imagining all sorts of ideas and stories about whats inside the hole of that cloud. It’s a mystery to be solved.

Thank you, Lauren and Todd!

For internships, design volunteer opportunities, or other creative inquiries, email Rachel Mendelsohn.  

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