Came Together for June Bunch
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St. Pete visual artist and musician June Bunch has a talent for creative combinations.
I recently discovered this at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center’s short-lived Birds of a Feather exhibition, where Bunch’s Birds of Paradise Botanical Lady was displayed.
The print is part of Bunch’s If Mother Nature Could Dance series, a collection of botanical illustrations that personify plants as dancing ladies. In If Mother Nature Could Dance, women, plants and dance combine in ways only Bunch could imagine.
The botanical ladies aren’t Bunch’s only creative combination. The same artist who’s coupled plants and dance has combined old cassette tapes with change purses to create custom cassette tape wallets
While living in Asheville NC, Bunch founded a collaborative music project that regularly spawned new musical combinations. We spoke with Bunch about her twin passion for plants and music and the visual artwork it’s inspired.
For the Love of Plants
“I used to not care about plants at all,” Bunch says. But that changed once she spent some time with her grandfather in his garden.
When Bunch’s grandfather talked about plants, it was like he was talking about people. To him, plants could be aggressive, climbers, runners. His colorful descriptions planted a seed in young Bunch’s imagination. But like a spore, the idea of plants as people lay dormant in her mind for years, waiting for the right environment to come back to life.
For Bunch, the perfect environment came with a new day job working as a plant illustrator and copywriter for the plant nursery and food forest Sow Exotic.
“It’s like an Amazon for plants,” says Bunch.
Sow Exotic gave Bunch a list of plants to illustrate, and she got to work. As she progressed through the list, that old image of her grandfather’s running plants popped back into her head. But in Bunch’s mind, they were dancing, not running.
“When I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, I would go on a lot of hikes where the mountain laurels grew,” Bunch says. “They’re all clustered out there. When you’re on the vista point. . . you can just walk and feel the winds pull all of them, and they really are dancing.”
Bunch sketched the plants first. Then she brought them into Procreate illustration software. From there, Bunch’s botanical ladies made their way onto T-shirts, pillows, notebooks, stickers and crop tops, which she sells on Etsy as One Fruit Forward.
In Bunch’s illustrations, Redwood Trees are mothers, Snake Plants are Medicine Women, and Cranberry Hibiscus and Gerbera Daisies are ballerinas.
“They all felt a little bit like dancers,” says Bunch. “They were all strong and poised – and all of these values I attribute to ballet. The discipline that each of them must have to thrive in their own element is really magical to me.”
For the Love of Music
Next to Bunch’s Botanical Ladies, another art project blooms on Etsy — this one inspired by music.
“I had a bunch of cassettes and no way to play them,” says Bunch. “I tore them apart, and they were the perfect size to fit credit cards and stuff.”
Voila. Custom cassette tape wallets.
What started as a quick craft soon became a minor obsession.
“It ended with me going to the library and begging for any audiobooks that they were getting rid of, hoarding them all, and making them into tape wallets so I could keep up with the need to create,” says Bunch.
Imagine a fusion of a change purse and a cassette tape with googly eyes, and you’ll have a good idea of what Bunch’s cassette tape wallets look like.
Combining everything she loves into one tight little package is a hallmark of Bunch’s work, whether it’s art or music.
The Pop-up Music Co-op she founded in Asheville is another excellent example of this. Here, the idea was to try every combination of musicians possible to form a band.
“And if you didn’t love being in that band, then in the next three months, you’d be in a different one,” says Bunch. “And sometimes they would stay together.
“The beauty of it is that even if they did like each other, they would continue collaborating with others. And all of them grew. I grew a lot.”
When I look at Bunch’s creative projects, I see a unifying thread – experimentation through combination.
“I do kind of like to have my cake and eat it too,” Bunch replies when I point this out. “I do kind of say, ‘I really like this and I really like that. It might be kind of fun to have both at the same time.’”
For Bunch, focusing on just one thing is a good way to get stuck.
“What if that one element of that one thing isn’t telling the whole story?” Bunch posits.
“When I can’t write a song about something, I’ll draw a picture of it,” she explains. “And if it still doesn’t make any sense, then I’ll try to make music to it. And if it still doesn’t make sense, then I dance to it.
“And if I just can’t get it out of my system and it doesn’t make sense, but it’s still there, I’ll do all of it at once.”
It’s the ‘everything, everywhere, all at once’ method of creation, and the results are inspiring.
Bunch’s work poses a question to all creators. . . How are you combining all the things you’re passionate about to create a unique body of work?