S ometimes when you least expect it you are given a gift. That is exactly what happened when I showed up to interview 3-D glass artist, Laura Thompson of Savanah’s Designs. I unexpectedly met Laura at the gym in downtown Batavia and we got talking about things only to discover she was an artist and had created two masks depicting breast cancer. Intrigued, I asked to interview her to find out the story behind the masks. What I discovered was a gift; what I left with was a tangible artifact that depicts both the road I’ve traveled and the path I’m on with breast cancer.
Laura has been working with glass for over seventeen years, first inspired by a glass bead making class at Elgin Community College. The seed planted there sprouted and grew into Savanah’s Designs Glass Studio based in Batavia, IL. At a time when Laura needed a personal break and creative recharge, Laura’s friends invited her to a girlfriend getaway. As part of this personal retreat, she attended a luncheon for “Francine’s Friends” in Ft. Wayne, Indiana where she had donated a hand-crafted glass bead necklace for the presenter. Little did Laura know, but a deep fear instilled by her mom and sister regarding getting a mammogram was about to be addressed.
The emotion-filled luncheon benefitted Francine’s Friends and raised funds for their mobile mammography truck. Laura and her girlfriends left the event and walked out to the parking lot, coming face to face with that very same mobile mammography truck. It was time to face a fear or walk away. The voice in Laura’s head echoed with doubt, “My mom and both my sisters complained bitterly about their experiences each time they’ve had their screenings. In fact, they all said that they have come away bruised and terribly sore – that the whole ordeal is just so painful. And, of course, the other thought in the back of my head is ‘what if they find something’?” With the help of her friends, Laura had her first mammogram at the age of 47 and overcame her fear – not only of the anticipated pain she had been conditioned to feel, but of what the results may yield. News of a clean mammogram capped off a rejuvenating trip for Laura and stirred the inner artist to create art that expressed the emotions she felt.
Upon returning to her Batavia studio, Laura felt compelled to create something to give back to the organization that provided her the free mammogram. But no, it was not really giving back in her mind, but rather “paying it forward” for the next women who was uninsured and needed a mammogram. Laura’s awakening lifted an artistic block and her experience was depicted by the creation of two glass masks. As she explained them to me, the black mask represents the sadness of diagnosis and turmoil of treatment. The pink mask represents survivorship and recovery.
The masks were later sold at an art fair and 50% of the proceeds were donated back to Francine’s Friends with a personal note of thanks to pay Laura’s gift forward. That’s the story I thought I was covering until Laura presented me with a gift.
Since the original “Faces of Breast Cancer,” masks (21″ tall x 9 ” wide each) had sold, I was expecting to see a photograph of them, but instead a framed shadow box lay waiting on her work counter. As we got closer, Laura tenderly picked up the black box and proudly introduced new art that had been created for me. Original artwork created just for me. Tearing up with emotions, I immediately bonded with this unexpected gift. At first I had no words, other than a river of flowing gratitude babbling across my lips. Then, of course, my mind went right to the possibility of auctioning it off to raise funds for Breast Cancer MyStory. I have never been presented with something so meaningful from a new friend. Laura explained that she wanted to give this to me to represent what I’ve gone through as a survivor and also to acknowledge the work I was doing with Breast Cancer MyStory.
An unexpected gift. Something to treasure or to give away and pay it forward? Time will tell, but for today my beautiful new “Faces of Breast Cancer” artwork is proudly displayed for all to see as they enter the front door of our home. Just like my new friend Laura is a welcome addition to my life, this gift is one that touches my soul and stirs my passion to pay it forward. Thank you Laura for this unexpected gift.
To learn more about Laura Thompson and her glass 3-D artwork, visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/savanahs.designs.97 or call 224-520-0990.