Multiple embroidery pieces of different neurons in black that are part of Stitching Hew's 100 Neuron Project.

CREATORS – Lauren Hewitt

In ALL, CREATORS by McKenzie Prillaman

Name: Lauren Hewitt

Which came first in your life, the science or the art?

The science! As a kid I was always outside looking for bugs to study or asking my parents 100 questions about how the world works. I knew from a young age that I wanted to study the brain, and I had an incredible biology teacher in 6th grade who really encouraged my passion for science. As a first-generation college student, I actually had no idea that being a biologist was a career path, so I thought I wanted to study medicine. My first year at university I joined a behavioural neuroscience lab and knew I wanted to be a neuroscientist! I am now in my 4th year of pursuing a PhD in neuroscience, and it’s been pretty fantastic.

Embroidery piece with multiple types of colorful bacteria, surrounded by scrap embroidery thread.
Bacteria Sampler by Lauren Hewitt, a fun stitch sampler pattern of different types of bacteria where you can learn about the bacteria and 12 different embroidery stitches
Vertical strips of neurons that are different colors and at different stages of development going from left to right.
Developmental Neuro by Lauren Hewitt, a custom ordered 8-inch hoop showing the development of cells in the cortex
Embroidered geometric brain with the lobes made of different pastel colors.
Pastel Brain by Lauren Hewitt, pastel colors outline the different lobes of the brain in this 6-inch hoop

Which sciences relate to your art practice?

I create science art that I hope is approachable to anyone wanting to learn about any science discipline. A lot of my work initially started as neuroscience and brain-centric, but I’ve slowly grown my SciArt initiative Stitching Hew to incorporate more sciences like microbiology, geology, and even mathematics. My biggest goal is to foster childlike curiosity about how the world works and create resources that help people explore that curiosity through hand embroidery art.

“My biggest goal is to foster childlike curiosity about how the world works and create resources that help people explore that curiosity through hand embroidery art.”

Lauren Hewitt
Three circular embroidery pieces that are mostly blue with red off-center points that radiate outward in the colors of the rainbow and fade into the blue background.
Place Fields by Lauren Hewitt: Each 4-inch hoop depicts a place field, or an area where specific neurons in the hippocampus fire when the subject enters a specific place. These cells are spatially tuned to the environment. 

What materials do you use to create your artworks?

Stitching Hew artworks are mostly fibre art with an emphasis on hand embroidery. I also like to incorporate punch needle pieces as well as add watercolour embellishments! I’m a scientist at heart, so I honestly love experimenting with materials whenever I can, especially in a sustainable sense. I’m always experimenting ways to use the thread scraps and fabric scraps I save from finished products. I am currently working on a series for educating others about organ systems using thread scrap embroidery pieces!

“I’m a scientist at heart, so I honestly love experimenting with materials whenever I can”

Lauren Hewitt
Brain made of scrap thread encompassed by thin mesh
Scrap Thread Brain by Lauren Hewitt, a 6-inch hoop showing a brain created with thread scraps from Hewitt’s past projects
Neurons in the cerebellum stitched in bright pink with a purple and blue background.
Watercolor Cerebellum by Lauren Hewitt, 4-inch hoop featuring watercolors and embroidery. This hoop depicts cerebellar Purkinje cells in pink embroidery. 

Artwork/Exhibition you are most proud of:

I would have to say I am most proud of my first exhibit in 2018 at the Society for Neuroscience conference, where Christine Liu and Tera Johnson graciously invited me to exhibit my art at the Two Photon booth. I received so much community support; it was incredibly humbling to see that people really loved what I was doing by combining science and embroidery art. I’ve actually never done a formal exhibit, but hopefully sometime in the future I will!

Lauren Hewitt standing by her artwork at the Society for Neuroscience 2018 annual meeting.
SfN 2018 by Lauren Hewitt. Lauren with her two embroidery pieces featuring rainbow watercolour neurons and an 8-inch hoop depicting the hippocampus in black line work. These pieces won 2nd place at the Society for Neuroscience conference’s Art of Neuroscience competition. 
Framed embroidery applique piece of the cerebellum in green, blue, and red.
Cerebellum by Lauren Hewitt. A framed embroidery piece on organza fabric, this applique depicts an area of the brain called the cerebellum. This piece was inspired by an image on Twitter from Jennifer Jahncke. 

Which scientists and/or artists inspire and/or have influenced you?

There are too many to name! I feel so fortunate to be a part of a phenomenal community that is so supportive of celebrating the similarities between science and art.

Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Stitching Hew is working on a really exciting project titled “The 100 Neuron Project,” where I am embroidering and describing 100 different types of brain cells, or neurons, from different organisms and brain areas. So far, I have planned out all 100 of the neurons and have 50+ embroidered. You can follow along with this project on the Stitching_Hew Instagram or my website! This is a collection I hope will tour someday; I think it very elegantly shows how incredible and diverse the cells of the brain are!

Three embroidery pieces that are part of Stitching Hew's 100 Neuron Project. They show three different types of neurons embroidered in black.
100 Neurons by Lauren Hewitt, 3 different types of neurons. From left to right: Cerebellar basket cell, cerebellar granule cells, and a D1 (dopamine) spiny projection neuron.
Lauren Hewitt sitting outside and smiling at the camera while embroidering.
Stitching Hew by Lauren Hewitt. Hewitt is pictured in Austin, Texas stitching at Zilker Park with one of her dogs, Ichigo.
Embroidery piece that says "Stay Curious" surrounded by stars, a nebula, planets, and an Erlenmeyer flask.
Stay Curious by Lauren Hewitt: This 5-inch hoop shows the words “Stay Curious” surrounded by planets, stars, and galaxies. It was created for the Her STEM Story podcast as a fun giveaway after Lauren was featured for episode 67.

For more by Lauren Hewitt, visit her website, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

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About the Author

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman