This year brought me a big commission for a large institution and I have spent the last five months making 'Better Together'. It was really a dream project for me!
I was asked to create a piece utilizing T-shirts from Epilepsy Awareness campaigns and any other materials I wanted to use to create this 36x48 inch piece. I got started in early January 2022 embroidering some of the flowers and the bird, and I have just completed it in mid-May. Below you will find a link to the Youtube video which compiles many clips over hours and hours of making, compressing 5 months into less than 5 minutes.
The process start to finish entailed: First I designed the brain using fabric collage techniques, carefully considering what fabrics look good together and where to place the pieces of T-shirts I received. Each of the cerebral lobes is done in a slightly different color range and yet they all blend together. Once the fabric design was done, I sewed all of the pieces onto the canvas back using my sewing machine and invisible thread. When that was complete, I began the intensive period of hand embroidery which took about 3 months. I even took the piece on the road with me during a long road-trip and you can see me stitching in a hotel room at night, During the final stages of embroidery I added bits and bobs of trim, lace and buttons and even a golden neuron charm that I had in my stash. In the final steps, I stretched the canvas onto a large canvas frame, stapled it into place and added gesso and finally several coats of paint.
The really great part about doing this commission was that I learned a lot about Epilepsy along the way. Some of this shows up in the piece: purple being the predominant color as that is the color used to promote epilepsy awareness during the month of November every year, and red is not used (except very sparingly) as it can be a trigger for some kinds of seizures. The title 'Better Together' was taken from one of the T-shirts I received and reflects the role that so many people play in the treatment of Epilepsy.
The most startling piece of information about epilepsy is the prevalence of it. One in 26 people will experience some form of epilepsy during their lifetime. If you'd like to learn more about epilepsy - I can recommend these sites:
Cook Children's Comprehensive Epilepsy Program
YAY!, and I've been to my first in person exhibition since 2019. Whew. it's been a very long time and I for one am glad to start coming out of hibernation/quarantine mode. I'm fully vaccinated and ready to start sharing more art in person. Fingers crossed it continues to feel safe to do so and annual events are ON for the rest of this year and next year too! Below are some of the original embroidered pieces I made during my lock down. They were informed by current events and are a microcosm of what I was feeling (and hoping to feel more of .) Hope for growth and peace and justice played a huge role in helping me get through the last year, along with a few curses.
Here's a very short list of what I learned about myself over the course of the covid experience:
A friend on Twitter recently asked "How do you know when to put yourself/your work out there (more)?" and this post is for her because for so long I couldn't call myself an artist and I couldn't share my art because of that nasty Inner Critic that was always telling me I 'wasn't good enough'...'didn't have the training'...'it's not perfect' ....and on and on and on. That voice in my head that told me I couldn't/shouldn't put my work out in the world was much harsher than any real outer world rejection I would eventually receive.
More than 25 years ago I made these two pieces: 'Birth of the New World Lies within Us' and 'My First Forty' - spending over one year on 'My First Forty' which is 30x30 - painstakingly planning, drafting, stitching, and painting the story of my life only to hang it on my own wall. My children have asked me not to sell either of these pieces and I'm happy to know they will be treasured by them when I am gone some day. But, I now look at them and wonder that I couldn't call myself an artist when I made them.
Mostly I kept making because I couldn't not make. I felt compelled to keep stitching and painting and trying new things and nine years ago in 2012 - after my children were grown and gone - I finally decided to let myself own it and BE the artist that I was. I took a part time job to pay the bills and moved to Western Mass into an old house with room to have a studio and I started the first of many false starts trying to make work that someone might want to buy (because all of my friends had my artwork hanging on their walls already and I only had so much storage space.) But, I still didn't really think of myself as a fine artist so I started out as a crafter with a business called Frisky Furnishings, opening an Etsy shop and refinishing old cast off furniture. Below are some of the chairs I made along the way. I signed up for craft fairs where I rarely sold enough to pay the booth fee - sometimes sitting all weekend without a single sale. I joined a co-op furnishings store where once a week I drove an hour and a half each way to sit and not sell my work. But, people came by and appreciated what I was doing and told me my work was beautiful and once in awhile the sun came out and someone bought something and it was good.
The schlepping of furniture got to be too much and so I veered off again and made fabric wearables - necklaces and belts and bags - eventually venturing into a partnership with another artist and we became 'Frisky Mamas' making one of a kind handmade bags. They were 'ooohhhed' and 'ahhhhed' over at craft fairs and local markets but also didn't sell well and we eventually packed it in, me feeling all over again like a failure. During all of this time, I was embroidering and painting too and once in awhile feeling brave enough to exhibit my work.
And then in 2014, I created my first two brain pieces and fell in love with what I was doing and poured myself into it all over again. I reclaimed my own name as an artist, ditching the Frisky Furnishings name and social media handles and that website too, and made a decision to be unapologetically myself and do what I wanted to do and make what I loved to make and here I am, embroidering brains pretty much everyday. It was the BEST decision I ever made and I finally found my audience - those people who love my work AND want to buy it. I still have a lot of work that doesn't sell and that's OK because I'm very happy doing what I'm doing and connecting with the people I'm connecting with. I rarely submit my work to show at exhibitions and only do in person art shows once or twice a year (in non-covid times). I do post my work on social media every single day and try to keep my website up to date and my online Shop full of brains from the little Brilliant Brain enamel pins that anyone can afford to the big hand embroidered original pieces that often don't sell as originals but frequently do sell as prints.
It's still an adventure and my Inner Critic still visits me nearly every day. It's a fight to ward off her voice and to own myself as an artist but its a fight worth having and so we go the rounds. These days she is critical of the fact that I call myself a Neuro Artist because how dare I since I'm 'not a scientist' and I 'don't really know enough about brains' and my work 'isn't anatomically correct' but I'm learning to tell her to go stuff herself and I take great pleasure in the neuroscientists and neurologists and neurosurgeons who love my work and tell me that - nearly every day.
I'm telling my friend all of this because I don't want her to waste another friggin' day thinking she's not good enough or her art is not art or listening to her Inner Critic. I wasted too much time getting here and taking all the wrong roads because I was scared to really just follow my passion. I'm done with that now and here I am. Some folks will love what I do, and some won't and that's OK.
Now I just have to remember this as I move into the next phase of my life and give up the part time job and do this full time which is happening really SOON. Stay tuned and please follow me at the social links below. Every time someone likes a piece online it helps me tell that Inner Critic to shut up and shove off. :)
I haven't posted anything here in over two years! Partly because I've been at a loss for what to say, always feeling too busy to write... and then, we had this year of lock down and political upheaval. I did my best to stay positive and keep working throughout - making and making and making - and giving as much as I could to the social justice causes that were calling to me.
Words have often failed me and yet I now feel the pull to write again and share my thoughts and feelings alongside my artwork. So, here we go - a new commitment to start blogging again and I'm leaving the big gap in place to remind myself that it is never too late to start (again). Yes, I'm resisting the urge to go in and change the dates on those old posts because the most important thing to me is authenticity! I hope to find the right words that resonate with my artwork and we'll start right here and now.
My latest piece 'Kaleidoscope' is a celebration of new energy and a search for resilience - a springing back to life after a difficult period. Hours and hours of hand embroidered French Knots were my meditation on change and neuroplasticity* imprinting my brain with new colorful ways of knowing: knowing that I am coming into my own as an artist, knowing that my life is about to change in a BIG way, and knowing that no matter how much I try to control it, there will be moments that spring to life unexpectedly. The impulse to weave wire into my work was just that - one of those impulsive moments that literally took me by surprise. I had no idea how it would turn out when I started and labored over it for days before it started to look like something I wanted to keep. I'm feeling so joyful that I took the plunge and now I can't wait to see where else my artistic experiments will take me.
*Oxford dictionary 'Neuroplasticity': the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
The title 'Kaleidoscope' was suggested by two different social media friends and when I looked up the word I came across this synchronous gem of a definition by author, Marquita Herald from her blog Emotionally Resilient Living "The beauty and magic of thinking of life as a kaleidoscope is that you take all of the moments of your life, the good, the bad, and even the ugly and shuffle the sparkly bits and pieces together to create a spectacularly beautiful image, singularly unique and precious because we understand that the slightest shift can quickly change the picture."
Thanks for being here and drop a comment to let me know what you'd like to hear more about. You can join my Inner Circle here to get notified when new blog posts drop and to get special offers and a 10% off coupon that is good for anything anytime in my shop. This month's email drops on April 15, 2021 and will include a special coupon for 20% off all Original Artwork - including the above piece. Whoopdeedoo....I'm back!!!
So there I was one day scrolling through instagram when I happened to notice a post by The Print Shop in Holyoke and I thought to myself "Hmmmmm - now, that's an interesting concept. I can make my own prints and not have to carry a huge inventory or wait weeks to get them from someone else." I went down to check out the shop within the next week and found SO much more. The possibilities were very exciting and included printing on fabric through two different methods, large oversize printing on a variety of materials including stickers as well as the fine art printing capability that had first attracted me. Oh, and there is a 3D printer too! I got some expert help and guidance after signing up for classes led by Orlando and have had help every step of the way from Jeff and Heather who are seemingly always there and always ready to help solve problems. I'm a forgetful 60-something year old :) and Jeff is incredibly patient explaining the same thing to me over and over, and reminding me what the print settings should be - Sorry Jeff ! This is your public apology.
The Print Shop Space and Equipment
I've been a member of the Print Shop for one full year now and here is what I have to show for it: a full line of prints on paper - any size I want up to 17x22. I buy my own archival hot press natural paper and just pay an ink charge for the printing. I've got a line of high quality stickers that they print for me, cause I've never gotten comfortable with Adobe Illustrator or the really big Roland machine - but if I had the time and inclination I could most likely learn to do both. I've also printed my brains on canvas bags, cloth for necklaces and oh so much more....
The very biggest change in my process has come from my new capability of instantly creating a design on my iPad using Procreate or Adobe Sketch apps and then transferring that design to canvas and using it as a stitch guide using sublimation printing. It takes the guess work out of transferring the image and it has allowed me to be much more consistent in my art production. I think knowing that I can transfer any image at any time has increased my creativity ten-fold AND I feel like I'm just getting started. Below are pics of the last two pieces completed from iPad image to completed embroidered piece: Think Spring and Lines and Dots.
PS - Sometimes I make mistakes (see below for a good one) and it costs me, but the learning curve has not been too steep and it has literally changed the way I make art. Stay tuned to see what else comes out of this place and my studio. I'm about ready to sign up for my second year of membership. Come and join me! Click on the membership info below to get to their Facebook page or give them a call at (413) 532-0465 to arrange a tour. PS: there is a big but friendly dog on premises most of the time :) and his name is Casper - He has his own instagram account too @printshopdog.
Some pretty exciting new products are in the works. I've recently joined the Holyoke Print Shop, a collaborative workspace that gives me access to making my own prints and more... This week I printed large canvas bags with little rainbow brains, which you can find in my shop here. And, I'm working on a whole new batch of archival limited edition prints. Below are framed editions of the Labyrinth Brain and Under the Microscope as well as a large format print of the Wings of Transformation.
and last but not least.....here's a little video of prints fresh off the printer!
Check my Events page to see where you can find me in person. I'm only doing two more shows this year (2018) but they are really good ones.
Have an idea for something else you'd like to see in my shop? Need another size then what you see offered? Just send me an email - Laura@LauraBundesen.com and let me know! I'll do my best to hop down to the Print Shop and print up what you'd like!
I document every piece I make and share my process on instagram almost daily. But I thought it would be good to put together a blog post that walks you through the steps I take bit by bit. It is a long and involved process, and I love every minute of it. The below piece 'The Wings of Transformation" was completed over a 21 day period. Hover over each picture to see the description of the process. Scroll down for the final piece!
I'm celebrating the end of Brain Awareness Week - March 12-18, 2018 - with a fundraising art auction. I'll be sending the below 12x12" original work of art ($450 value) to the highest bidder who makes a donation to a brain-related charity of their choosing. The bidding starts at $100 and closes Sunday, March 25 at 5PM EST.
Pretty much everyone is touched in one way or another by brain disease or injury. Personally, friends and family of mine have been touched by Alzheimers, mental illness, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors and traumatic brain injuries. We can all help by donating to organizations that support research, care and education.
Here is how the auction works:
Suggested charities :
I'm particularly interested in those organizations that fund neuroscience research but I also highly value the organizations that give support and care to patients and caregivers. I've made the above list of the top organizations I'd love to see supported and I'm happy to add to the list if you'd like to make recommendations in the comments. Please note that I will look them up online and make sure they are viable nonprofits with track records and high ratings from an online nonprofit rater such as Charity Navigator.
You can email me directly at Bundesen(at)gmail.com or just leave comments below. Make sure you add your email address and note that it will not be published. I'm the only one who will have access to it.
Thanks as always for stopping by and taking the time to visit my website. Hit the link below to see what work of mine is for sale. I have a wide range of originals and prints available - almost all of them are BRAINS - Yay!
I realize that there are a lot of life lessons inherent in my medium:
- Working too fast creates tangled threads
- Starting over can be the best way forward
- Mistakes can take you to the best places
And, my favorite:
I’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Jameson. I first became aware of Elizabeth through social media – both on Instagram and Twitter where I have been following her journey as a neuroartist for a while. This week, I had the great pleasure of talking to her over Skype.
A public interest lawyer, Elizabeth was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis-MS in 1992. After what she calls an existential crisis (noting that sounds much better than depression) she found her way to art and began a journey of transforming her own brain scans into images that challenge how society views the brain, disability and illness.
Below are some of my favorite pieces of Elizabeth’s, and I encourage you to spend some time on her website looking at all of her images at jamesonfineart.com
I asked Elizabeth how she keeps going – both making art and getting it out there despite her illness. She replied with an infectious laugh, “I’m brilliant and beautiful. After a while, depression gets boring for me. I need to create.” As a quadriplegic she does require assistance and artist Catherine Monahon, her current studio assistant, explained that Elizabeth works full time on her art and is the “legs” of every project. Catherine notes that she, as the assistant, is “running after her ideas and trying to put clothes on them so they can be implemented .” What a great team effort.
Recently Elizabeth gave a TedX talk that you can watch below. You’ll be amazed at the depth and breadth of Elizabeth’s work and the description of her journey.
What’s up for Elizabeth now?
I’m grateful for her choosing to spend some time with me along the way.
Adding to this post - NYTimes article by Elizabeth published July 10, 2020:
I Have M.S. This Is What It’s Like to Be Fed by Other People.
It's been two weeks since I traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in my first ever Art of Neuroscience Exhibition at the Society for Neuroscience annual convention with 30,000 attendees. In a word - amazing.
The art exhibition was fairly small with only 7 booths and each of us had something really unique to offer. Links to my fellow artists below if you'd like to learn more about them. And, as the newbie at the show, I have to say they were all kind and helpful!
The best part of the show for me was the response to my work by neuroscientists. People from all over the world came by my booth and talked to me about my work and appreciated it. And by now, pieces of mine have been carried as far as Japan, Turkey, Spain, Brazil and Greece.
It was an incredibly gratifying experience and I hope to be able to attend next year as well in San Diego, California - my old home state.
In the meantime, here is what's on my reading list:
Yep, I'm one of those artists who has a day-job. I work as a Sponsored Research Officer at a small liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts. Most folks don't actually know what that means so for the non-academics who may be reading this I explain it like this: I'm the person at the college who helps the faculty submit grant proposals that fund their research.
While doing this I get to read lots of interesting proposals and in all fields: science, social sciences and the humanities. Much of it is waaaayyyy too technical for me to grasp - especially in the sciences - but reading all of the proposals certainly feeds me in a unique way. And, for a person who got 'C's' in chemistry and physics in college, it helps me be less afraid and more appreciative of science.
What does all this have to do with me as an artist? Plenty, especially since I have single-mindedly pursued the making of neuro art for the last two years. I've been encouraged by a neuroscience professor at my college and have been blown away by the response to my work from folks in the field. It's one of the reasons I'm heading for the SfN Art of Neuroscience show in just two weeks. I wouldn't even have known about the show without the professor telling me. The conference draws 30,000 professionals and students each year - wow, that's a lot of brainiacs in one place.
To tell you the truth, as a non-science neuro-geek, I'm also a little nervous about actually meeting so many people who study the brain. Doing a lot of reading about science that is written for the non-scientist helps.
Below is a list of some of my current favorite reads (and listens while I'm in the studio):
Because the day job and artist life keep me very busy, I don't actually blog very often. I do, however, post pretty constantly to social media. If you want to stay current with what I'm up to follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and definitely join my Inner Circle email list for first offers and news of special events.
This last week has been a bad one for sleep. Insomnia is a problem I've had off and on my entire life. Sometimes I can track it to a specific cause like that 3pm cup of coffee or the chocolate I had in the evening. Sometimes it is my anxious brain spinning out of control - rewriting the many to do lists I have - over and over in my head, or worrying about the thing I didn't do... Do you suffer too? Here is advice from the Sleep Foundation on What to do When you Can't Sleep.
I've learned that instead of tossing and turning all night, I am a happier person if I get up and do something. This week I worked on a rainbow brain embroidery until 4am two nights in a row. Embroidery is relaxing for me and BONUS! I feel like I'm getting some work done - so, instead of just being tired the next day, I feel accomplished and tired.
And, sometimes my very handsome cat, Ben, keeps me company.
What do you do when you can't sleep? I'd love to hear your story in the comments below.
Recently I was treated to spending an afternoon with my friend Linda and her daughter Monica. Linda and I first connected at a shared workplace when she saw my very first two Neuro Art pieces and asked if I could create a piece to her specifications. In particular, she wanted the brain to face the other direction. My first two were left facing and she wanted a right facing brain, explaining that she had a special connection, as her daughter had a hemispherectomy when she was young and had the right half of her brain removed.
It was at least a year later when I actually got to meet Monica, an incredibly happy, engaging, and gregarious 29 year old woman who leads an active life in pursuit of both what makes her happy, and in service to others. Below is an edited 16 minute interview with Monica and her Mom about her surgery, her life and what she wants you to know about being disabled. It is missing a few key bits of information which got edited out: most importantly, Monica has worked for the last 9 years in a hospital as a toy cleaner - she goes in 3 days a week and loves her job. She also loves horse back riding! And, as you'll hear she lives a "happy, happy, happy life!"
Thanks to both Monica and her mom, Linda for sharing their story with me. Due to privacy concerns I am not sharing a photo of them but above is the piece that I made for them and that hangs in their home.
In case you prefer to read the interview - a transcript pdf file is below:
In late July we packed up the car and headed for Canada. I’m lucky enough to live relatively close to the border and it’s a beautiful drive through Western Mass and Vermont. First, we headed to Quebec City where my partner in life led an Improv workshop – you can read about his interesting work here. We also met up with friends, ate a lot of good food, saw some art, and walked the city. If you haven’t been there yet, put it on your list of must-see cities.
Next, we headed to Montreal where I got to meet my Instagram friend and fellow brain project artist Monica Brinkman at the solo show of another artist, Tina Struthers. I’m in love with both these women’s art work and they’ve been a wonderful source of information and support about the Brain Project, having both participated last year. Heaps of gratitude to them for their generosity of spirit. Their Brain project brains pictured below along with a photo of Monica in front of Tina’s work.
Last stop Toronto, where we had only a day and a half in which to see as many brains as possible in the streets. The Brain Project raises funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s care and research. See my last blog post for my personal story about the brain I created in loving memory of my stepmother.
Below are just a few of my favorite brains I snapped along the way, including me with Mei Chan-Long – another generous spirit who came and met me at her fabulous metal brain sculpture. Yes, we do have our feet in the water!
It was a thrill to see my brain on display in the Distillery District and I got to meet and talk with a few admirers along the way. The brains are on display until August 31st. If you have any chance of getting to Toronto before them, I highly recommend giving yourself a couple of days to journey through the streets. My partner dubbed it the Brain Project Tour of Toronto. ALSO, visit The Brain Project website here and VOTE for the People's Choice Award. I'll leave you with a few photos of my Brain below.
In exactly 9 days I will be arriving in Toronto where I will get to see my Brain Project sculpture on the streets of the city - live and in person! How thrilling to see my first international exhibition and to be a part of this large effort to increase awareness about, and funding for, Alzheimer's care and research.
This is the 2nd year of the Brain Project an awareness building and fundraising effort launched by the Baycrest Foundation. 100 artists were selected to design a brain sculpture for the project and their work is now displayed on the streets of Toronto through the end of August. In September, the brains go on sale to benefit Baycrest programs.
I could not be more thrilled to be participating this year. Photos of my completed brain sculpture - both sides - are below. Read on to find out more about my stepmother Elaine who was the inspiration behind my involvement.
My piece is titled 'Not Forgotten'. It started as a collage of fabric and was then embellished with hand embroidery, beads and trim exploring the thread connecting past and present. It was inspired by Elaine who suffered from dementia in her final years. The last time I saw her she didn’t recognize me. After asking for my name, she smiled and said : “Laura… that’s one of my favorite names.” I knew then that somewhere deep inside her she had not forgotten.
Elaine was a fearless explorer and traveler and below are some photos that are just a snapshot of her intrepid spirit. They were taken in 1986 when she embarked on an around-the-world trip with her best friend Sandra, stopping off in Pakistan to see me and my husband where we were living for two years. During the visit we traveled up the rugged Karakorum Highway to the mountainous town of Gilgit. A trip that not many western women in their 60s would have taken. Did I say fearless? I can't think of a better word for her.
I once asked her what made her so brave and she told me that after she lost my father suddenly in a plane crash she realized the worst thing she could imagine had already happened to her, and to be afraid of anything after that was pointless.
I miss her still...
Visit my piece on the Brain Project, vote for your favorite artist brain and donate too, if you can, to this important work.
And, thanks for being here and sharing in my journey. If you're not already in my Inner Circle you can join here! - I send out a newsy email about once a month.
Chronicling process - from start to finish - click on each photo to see the caption and let me know if you have any questions! It's a long, slow process but I LOVE every moment of it.
I just returned from attending the Brain Health Fair 2017 in Boston, sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology and I learned SO much - especially about the prevention of Alzheimer's and dementia. As a 60 year old woman, my interest is very personal and I wish I had this information 30 years ago.
Here are my most important takeaways:
There is of course so much more to learn and know about brain health but these were my big takeaways and now I am heading off to the gym, planning to shop for all the right foods on my way home, and signing up for that dance class soon!!
For more information visit The Women's Alzheimer's Movement founded by Maria Shriver, a force committed to finding out why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women.
Chronicling my adventures as a Neuro Artist. I love to make work centered on our magnificent brains and learn about how it all works in the process..