It was during one of my regular Shoreditch street art ramblings on a nice early summer’s night in June when this colourful paste-up on Grimsby Street caught my eye. It was of a funny cartoonish-style orange cat on a newspaper. Upon further investigation I noticed the newspaper was partly in Dutch, but mostly in some Asian language (see photo below).
A paste-up right next to it had the word ‘Amsterdam’ on it and it was painted on a Dutch book. Another work amidst the paste-ups contained some Dutch text too. Had some new Dutch street artist invaded the streets of Shoreditch without me knowing about this? How was that possible?! It was obvious that I had to start an investigation into the artist and posted photos of the works on my Facebook page as soon as I got home again. Thankfully Nicole Blommers, founder of Street Art Europe, immediately identified the artist as the Dutch BunnyBrigade who happened to be in east London for a few days and had time to meet up with me. A few days later I met up with the lovely BunnyBrigade and her partner in my favourite Brick Lane coffee place Kahaila to hear all about how her bunny brigade was taking over the streets of London.
It turned out that BunnyBrigade’s roots are actually in Belgium, but she moved to the Netherlands when she started uni. As a child she drew lots of cartoons and even went to the Tekenacademie (Art Academy) after school on Wednesday afternoons from the age of 6 to 14. Surprisingly, her career didn’t start in the creative arts, but in law instead. She specialised in criminal law and worked in that field for 1.5 years till she had a burnout.
After that BunnyBrigade gave in to her creative side and went to study interior design. Her new career went really well till the market collapsed in 2008.
In 2007 BunnyBrigade had started stickeren (sticker tagging) and made lots of pen drawings of a jumping bunny. At a certain point she wanted to make one into a sticker for a traffic sign and took her design to a printer’s. She took her artist name after her bunnies and chose BunnyBrigade as its meaning is clear in both Dutch and English and could therefore be used internationally.
Her sticker art career developed gradually: from one sticker her portfolio grew to hundreds of stickers, and to hand-painted stickers for funky Dutch bike crates. Her work didn’t go unnoticed. Last year she was asked to become part of the international street art collective Multi Syndicate Crew to represent their sticker division.
She’s now even been on dedicated ‘sticker tagging trips’ in the last years and has left her mark on the streets of Berlin (where she made three sticker trips to now already), Zagreb and London. During her recent London trip she went sticker bombing the streets of Shoreditch and Hoxton with UK-based artist Lembo. After I met her I noticed loads of her works in the streets as you can see from the photos in this post.
It was very interesting to meet a sticker artist as I’ve met many street artists before, but never one who’s specialised in sticker tagging. BunnyBrigade revealed that the sticker community is a very social one. She told me that she has a cupboard drawer at home that’s completely filled with stickers from other artists from all over the world, most of them she hasn’t ever met in real life. Whenever she goes out on her sticker tagging trips she takes a big stack of these stickers with her to create elaborate sticker combos. Before speaking to BunnyBrigade my understanding of this genre of street art was that it was all about quickly sticker bombing streets to spread your own art and name. Now I know that artists not only do just this, but also compose and create sticker combos which take a lot of time.
I asked BunnyBrigade if she wasn’t scared of getting arrested by the police as street art is of course considered as vandalism and illegal activity (although it is condoned in Shoreditch). She replied that she doesn’t consider sticker art as vandalism but as an enrichment of the street scene. ‘It is a great way of using the streets as an exhibition space. I create all sorts of cartoons and they only come to live when they hit the streets.’ Luckily she’s never been caught. BunnyBrigade: ‘It’s true that sticker tagging can take place fast and quietly, but I also create massive combos, compositions of all sorts of stickers by me and other sticker freaks. It can take hours to create such combos and I am very alert in such cases. Also sticking up paste-ups is an accurate and therefore risky job, but I’ve never been busted. I’m not the typical person the police would look out for either. I’m not too worried. Perhaps I’m too reckless or naive, but well, I’ve never got into any trouble.’
The ‘Piet & Puck Forever’ stickers that I also saw on Grimsby Street are actually created by BunnyBrigade’s partner. She’s not an artist, but these stickers started as cute drawings she left for BunnyBrigade when she left for work in the morning. She started to draw them on stickers and now BunnyBrigade sticks them on the streets for her. I thought this was a very sweet and touching story.
Besides creating stickers, BunnyBrigade is a fulltime artist and sells her work at markets and in galleries. She also makes commissioned work and does some live-painting, but tends to create smaller works as she doesn’t want her work in the streets to be ‘too much in your face’. About three years ago she started to create woodies: paintings on small blocks made of reclaimed wood and sealed with a special boat varnish.
As always it was a real pleasure to meet the artist behind the work. In this case it was extra fun because it all went rather spontaneous. It’s always intriguing to learn the artist’s personal story about their background and how they got into street art, but in this particular case it was very valuable to me as it had opened my eyes to sticker art. This was something I hardly studied or photographed before, mostly because I didn’t realise that it was such a social activity that included carefully creating collages of dozens of stickers by fellow sticker artists.
Has this post inspired you to create your own sticker art? Then watch this video by BunnyBrigade in which she explains how to make them!
Scroll down for more photos of BunnyBrigade works.