I’m very excited to bring you another Business Interview. This time we have an artist who creates her work from an embroidery collage mixed with other materials. You’ll remember that recently, I was enamored with the work of another embroidery artist and how she frames her embroidery collages behind glass.
Well, our guest today – Laura Bundesen- also creates vivid works of art with embroidery floss and fabrics. Her current focus is on the human brain.
In this interview, Laura and I will be talking about:
- How she got started on her brain series and got involved with the neuroscience community
- The compelling reason why you should offer art prints for sale in addition to originals
- The difference between giclee art prints and digital art prints
- Laura’s 5 favorite tools and resources and her business tips to help you create your own art prints
Let’s get to it.
CN: Hi Laura, welcome to the Clara Nartey Blog. Thanks for accepting my invitation to come talk to us about your Art Print Business
LB: I’m very pleased to be here!
CN: Please tell us a little about your background and how you got into fiber art.
LB: I’ve had a love affair with fabric and thread for over 30 years.
I was the kid who embroidered all of her friend’s jean jackets in high school and my quilting mother taught me the art of crazy quilting when I was in college and gave me my first sewing machine.
I’ve been at it ever since. Over 20 years ago I developed the embroidered painting technique I still use now. It happened when I was working on a fully embroidered piece and couldn’t quite get the detail I wanted in a face. I picked up a paint brush and the rest is history.
Laura Bundensen’s Embroidery Collage Technique
CN: Laura, can you tell us more about your “embroidered painting technique” that you talk about? I figure you’re using embroidery threads and fabric scraps and adhering them together with spray adhesive. Are you also using paints? If so in what ways?
LB: First I lay down the basic brain image, using fabric scraps in an improvised collage directly onto artist canvas. A temporary spray fixative holds each piece in place.
Next step is to machine stitch the fabric into place using an invisible thread.
Then, I begin embellishing the brain by hand with embroidery thread, trims and sometimes I even add beads.
Once the brain is just the way I want it, I stretch the artist canvas onto stretcher bars and paint around the fiber work first laying down a gesso ground and then using acrylic paints.
Working around the fabric and thread requires a small brush and a steady hand. Most of my pieces are on gallery wrap stretcher bars with edges that are painted so they don’t need framing and are wired to hang in the back.
CN: Do you create 3D work or only 2D?
LB: Predominantly I make 2D Neuro art wall pieces. Occasionally I work in 3D, embroidering the fabric first before adhering it to a sculptural form using a permanent adhesive.
CN: Very fascinating!! I’ve seen some of your older work and they are beautiful. But when I look at your newer work, which is a series of brains, they make a much bolder statement. And they immediately make you stand out as a professional. My question is, what made you decide to work in this series?
How Laura Began Her Brain Series of Embroidery Collage
LB: I began the brain series almost accidentally. The first two were created for a fiber art invitational in a local gallery and I wanted to produce new work just for the show.
My boyfriend actually said “Have you ever thought about doing a brain?” and I went with it.
Soon after, I was commissioned to do another brain piece by a woman whose daughter had half of her brain removed when she was 11 in order to stop seizures that could not be controlled in any other way.
While working on these first three pieces I started researching the brain and how it functions and became fascinated with it. It really has been that and the response from the neuro community that has kept me working on this series.
I have a collector who is a pediatric neurosurgeon and I‘ve also sold to neuroscientists, neurologists, and individuals who are survivors of traumatic brain injury and brain cancer.
Hearing these people’s stories, and how my art inspires them really touches me and keeps me going.
Most recently I’m participating in the Brain Project in Toronto. I’m one of 100 artists who created a brain sculpture that is on display on the streets of the city now through August 31st.
At the end of the show, the brains will be auctioned off in support of Alzheimer’s care and research. And, in November I will be participating in the Art of Neuroscience show hosted by the Society for Neuroscience at their annual conference in Washington DC with approximately 20,000 attendees.
Why Make Art Prints out of an Embroidery Collage
CN: I can see you’re now totally immersed in the neuroscience community. Oh, the places our art can take us. Very exciting, indeed!!!
Your original artwork is mixed – embroidery collage, fabric collage, and paint. But you create art prints of them for sale. Why did you decide to offer art prints of your originals?
LB: The handwork that is in every original piece is very time-consuming and because of that my originals have a high price point. Offering prints of the work allows a much broader audience to own and enjoy it.
CN: I see you create limited editions of your prints. Why is it important not to sell as many reproductions of your original work as possible but to limit them to a specific number of reproductions?
LB: I limit the number of editions to create value for the purchaser and I sign each one and number it to record its place in the series. This also differentiates a limited edition from an image downloaded and printed from the internet, something artists need to be concerned about in the digital age.
CN: That’s a very important point. A signed copy is different from one that is downloaded and printed off the internet.
I see you use giclee printing for your reproductions. It’s a more expensive process than digital printing.
Why did you choose giclee over digital printing and can you explain to our readers what the differences are in these two types of printing?
The Differences Between Giclee and Digital Printing
LB: Generally, giclee prints are archival while digital prints are not – they use archival inks and archival papers and are usually printed from high-quality digital images.
I’d like to think my giclee prints will be around and bring joy to my customers for many decades and even generations.
CN: Laura, what is involved in creating your art prints? You must need a high-quality image to get a good reproduction. Do you hire a professional photographer or do you do it yourself?
LB: I use a professional photographer, John Polak. He is local to me and specializes in art photography.
Getting the best possible photograph to work with is especially important for fiber work so that the detail of the thread comes through.
Some print houses ask you to send them your original but I’ve never felt comfortable doing that so I went out of my way to find a local photographer. And, it’s always fun to watch him shoot.
CN: How did you ensure you’re going to get a high-quality printer? Did you request samples from different printers? Are you printing locally or online?
LB: I’ve tried several online giclee printers by ordering just a small number of prints the first time around to make sure I am happy with the printer’s job on my work.
I’ve been planning on trying out some local giclee printers too. And recently, I was extremely happy with an order of blank notecards I got from a local printer. And I was surprised that their price was competitive to online printers of notecards.
Pricing Art Prints
CN: Pricing is hard for a lot of artists. How do you price your art prints relative to your originals? Which of the two (originals or prints) do you find more lucrative?
LB: Yes, pricing is hard, especially for my originals, as the time-consuming hand embroidery means even small pieces can be expensive.
I actually keep my pricing for prints standard to size and presentation (not relative to the original piece) and it is also a reflection of the printing cost with a profit margin built in such that I can afford to offer them in a shop that will take 40-50% commission.
That usually translates to – The cost of print x4.
Making sure you capture the full cost of the print, including photography, shipping etc…is key.
Various Presentations for Art Prints
CN: Laura, since you just mentioned presentation, why don’t we delve into that? Are you selling your prints framed behind glass or unframed? And what’s your reasoning behind your choice?
LB: I mainly offer a canvas print and a framed paper print behind glass.
The canvas prints are the closest to replicating the original and I love the way the framed prints look.
Also, I can buy the frames at a bulk discount and the consumer ends up paying less than if they buy the giclee print and frame it themselves.
It also presents better in person at art shows. I usually keep some of the paper prints available to sell without the frame but I don’t heavily promote those or display them in a prominent place.
Laura, I ask every guest on this blog to share their favorite tools and resources with us. What are yours?
Laura Bundesen’s Favorites
- The Human Brain book by Rita Carter – fabulous information about all aspects of the brain plus great pictures! Laura you’re right! It’s got fantastic pictures. I actually own this book and the Human Body Book both by DK Publishing.
- Embroidery Pocket Guide a laminated pocket-size encyclopedia of the most popular stitches and much more – for inspiration when I get stuck or am looking for a perfect stitch for a certain area.
- Lots and lots of fabric donated to me by a bevy of quilter friends – I can use the smallest scraps!
- My large cutting mat, rotary cutting tool, fabric spray adhesive (no favorite brand) and Gutermann’s invisible sewing thread (that’s the only brand I use)
- Instagram – best social media platform for artists and a great place to make friends – find me @laurabundesen.
CN: Now, what’s your advice to someone who wants to start offering, prints of their original fiber artwork for sale?
Laura’s Business Tips
- Start engaging with people on social media, network and pay attention to what other artists in your sphere are doing and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.
- Think about what and how you are going to offer reproductions. You’ll need to decide about pricing, signing, limited runs, etc. before you offer the first print for sale.
- Find a GREAT photographer – not only will you not need to send your originals out but you can use the digital images you get back on social media and your website too – so think about the cost of a photographer in terms of investing in your brand/image/appeal.
- Set up internal record keeping for the number of prints sold and current inventory as well as costs, profit margins, etc.
- Start a mailing list if you don’t already have one – I love MailChimp – easy and free to start. Make sure you add to it at every opportunity including art shows, networking, online, etc… I try to send out a newsy email just once a month and my list grows every time I do an event. This gives me an avenue for sending out notices of new products that are available.
- Don’t order too many prints before you’ve tested the market. These days, you don’t need to order 100 prints up front for an edition of 100. As long as you do these things:
– keep track of the number you’ve sold,
– be careful with numbering the new ones and,
– stick to your original number of prints available.
CN: Laura, thanks for taking time to do this interview. I’m sure my readers have learned a lot from all that you’ve shared with us.
LB: My pleasure!
Interview Highlights & Quotes
- I was the kid who embroidered all of her friend’s jean jackets in high school
- The canvas prints are the closest to replicating the original fiber artwork
- Don’t order too many prints before you’ve tested the market
- When it comes to pricing, making sure you capture the full cost of the print, including photography, shipping etc…is key.
What have you learned from Laura’s embroidery collage and mixed media art and her way of doing business? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy my other business interviews.
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Also published on Medium.