Deb Brandon: Living in Radiant Color

About Deb Brandon

photo of deb Brandon

I was born in England, raised in Israel, Switzerland, and England, and now live in the United States. I’m Professor Emerita in math at Carnegie Mellon University. I’ve participated nationally and internationally in dragon boating. I’m a mother, a writer, and a respected textile artist.

I am also a brain injury survivor. My journey towards reclaiming my life began with three brain surgeries in as many weeks—two carefully planned, the third a terrifying surprise.

I learned to knit from my mother when I was seven. Knitting was followed by needlepoint, crocheting, felting, and spinning, all fun and interesting. Learning to weave when I was 35 felt as if I’d come home, as if I’d been a weaver in a previous life. At the loom, I felt connected to weavers everywhere, through space and time. With weaving, my love for textile arts soared. I wanted to see (and feel) it all: scrumptious raw cashmere, hand-spun silk, gorgeous hand-wovens, an amazing range of ethnic textiles—silk scarves from Laos, felted slippers from Turkey. 

My love leaped to new heights with WARP (Weave A Real Peace). WARP’s mission is to foster a global network of enthusiasts who value the importance of textiles to grassroots economies. I felt compelled to help. When I joined in October 2001, I knew this was where I belonged. I started writing a column, “Textile Techniques from Around the World,” for the WARP newsletter, further fueling my love of traditional textiles.  

Six years after I joined WARP, my world fell apart. I have clusters of thin-walled blood vessels in my brain. Two bled, wreaking havoc on everything—being a mom, my job as a math professor, weaving. I dreamed of weaving, but I could no longer weave. After multiple surgeries to prevent future bleeds and reclaim myself, “brain injury survivor” became part of my identity, too. Within my first month of recovery, I started weaving again.

It was tremendously challenging, but I persevered, creating yards of shimmering silk with a quality the old Deb could not have done. As I continued to recover, my life became richer. I became more creative, passionate, and compassionate, caring even more about people across the globe who struggled to survive and create textiles so fundamental to their own cultures and identity.

The year after my surgeries, I also began writing about my experiences as a brain injury survivor, which culminated in my award-winning memoir, But My Brain Had Other Ideas, and my blog, Beyond Brain Injury. And of course I continued to write about textile techniques and traditions for WARP, which led to the creation of another award-winning book, Threads Around the World: From Arabian Weaving to Batik in Zimbabwe and another blog, Textile Traditions.

My essays have appeared in many publications, including the Weave A Real Peace newsletter, where I have a regular column; Psychology Today; BrainBlogger; Dragon Boat World International, Hand/Eye Magazine, and Logan Magazine; and SIAM Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Journal of Integral Equations and Applications

I’m also a popular speaker, presenting programs about brain injury (both my own and the wider scope of brain injury); about textile traditions; and often about the overlap in my life between these two seemingly dissimilar topics.

Curriculum vitae