Project: Type III Secretion System (T3SS) vase

Sometimes projects don’t work out quite the way we intend. Sometimes you get done with a thing and think “wow, that is not what I was going for”.

A while ago I had the brilliant idea to make a vase in the form of the bacterial type III secretion system. This is basically an assemblage of proteins that some bacteria are able to make, which they use like a tiny syringe to inject stuff into cells that they want to hijack. It’s a pretty cool shape:

Figure from: Structural and functional genomic analysis of the salmonella enterica host-restricted serotype abortusovis by Massimo Deligios

 

I took an unplanned 3-week break from the studio shortly after starting the base structure (the blue section). The shape was pretty much where I wanted it, but I needed to add the upper segments. Unfortunately by the time I got back in to the studio again, the main structure had dried too much to add pieces, so I had to make them separately and add them on. it didn’t really work as well as I’d hoped, and frankly I got a bit demoralized and rushed the collar section, so it’s not really the right shape or scale at all. I am pretty happy with the base and the detail I added on the underside, though, so I’ll definitely revisit this design later on down the road and try to do a better job of it. Heck, I might even try making it on the wheel.

Inktober 2017 – week 1

For several years I’ve watched on Twitter as my art nerd friends made gorgeous ink-based illustrations for #Inktober. This year I finally got up the nerve to participate, despite that a) ink is not my medium and b) I haven’t drawn on actual paper in years.

I’ve decided to collect my various scribbles here for posterity. Here are this week’s #Inktober doodles. Click the picture to see the original tweet :)

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Muddles even made a timelapse gif of me drawing the last one :)
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Catching up

I was going through some old photos on my phone and discovered a few custom pieces I never ended up posting about here. Most of the time when I do custom orders, they’re for designs I already have in the shop, but just in a different colour or shape. Every once in a while, though, I get to flex my sculpting muscles a bit and play with something completely unique. Here are just a few of the special orders I’ve created for customers over the last couple of years.

Bird feather and DNA custom pendant in blue
Bird feather and DNA custom pendant
Soybean and DNA bean pod custom pendant
Soybean and DNA bean pod custom pendant
Moon custom bracelet
Moon custom bracelet
Ocelot custom pendant
Ocelot custom pendant

Spidery Goodness

I’ve done a few fun things with spiders recently, and thought I’d share them with you. Over the last couple of years I’ve made friends with some spider nerds on Twitter, who have naturally only encouraged my existing fascination with these elegant critters.

One of these delightful humans is the excellent @Cataranea, who studies Latrodectus spiders – you’ll know the most famous member of this genus as the black widow. Catherine asked me to create a logo for a crowdfunding campaign last year. She was raising money for field experiments in BC, looking at mating habits in a wild Latrodectus population there. My design for that project needed to be friendly and accessible, but still capture the essential form of the male and female of the species:

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#TeamBlackWidow logo

Catherine is also responsible for a new jewellery design :)

It took a couple of tries to get the stamp sculpt right, and frankly these are a huge pain to glaze, but man, are they ever worth it!

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Black Widow stamp sculpt
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Stamped pendants-to-be
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Black Widow bracelet!
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Black Widow necklace

One more black widow design came out of a ridiculous Twitter conversation, and quickly because one of my favourite t-shirt designs to date:

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Brown recluse and black widow: “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing”.

Finally, I turned my attention to one of the world’s most charming dancers, the vibrantly-coloured Peacock spider. I’me particularly delighted with how well these beauties came out, and hope to sell out of them soon so I have an excuse to paint some more!

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Peacock spider pendants

My kingdom for a great skirt!

I’ve always been more of a skirt-and-tee gal than an all-out dress-wearer. There’s something about a flouncy skirt that’s just a little sassier, a little more casual. While I’ve been able to offer some pretty nice clothing through RedBubble for a while now (albeit with depressingly low margins), I’ve long hankered for a skirt option. After a lot of research, I’ve finally found a way to make it happen without having to maintain a warehouse full of stock :D

I’ve partnered with an awesome Canadian company that makes great activewear to be able to offer not only skater skirts, but also capri-length yoga pants that are actually tough enough to stand up to some fitness-related abuse. For now I have five skirt styles and one yoga pant, but I’ll definitely be offering more in the near future, so watch this space.

 

Project: Zika virus vessel

One of my big projects from last winter was a Zika virus vessel. It’s a semi-functional piece – you could use it as a candy dish or some such, but it’s a bit cumbersome for everyday use.

The main structure is two half-spheres (one for the base and one for the lid), on which I sculpted the capsid proteins in my best approximation of the correct symmetry for this virus.

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It begins.
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Laying out the symmetry for the capsid proteins
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Filling in the remaining capsid proteins

I left the capsid coat incomplete, because at the time that I was working on this piece, the Zika outbreak was still very much a developing problem, and I suspect we’ve far from seen the end of this virus’s potential.

For the pedestals, I’ve incorporated three of the Zika virus’ primate hosts (capuchin, marmoset, and of course human), and included infants for the human and marmoset figures to represent the tragic effects of this virus on a developing fetus.

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Human pedestal
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Marmoset pedestal
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Capuchin pedestal

I also incorporated the virus’ vector, mosquitoes in the Aedes genus, to complete the cycle. Both adult and pupa stages are shown to remind us that control for these vectors begins with environmental and cultural conditions.

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Aedes mosquito pupa
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Aedes mosquito adult
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Glaze application

I used a watery blue glaze for the uncoated middle section to evoke the water in which the mosquito hosts lay their eggs, and because it makes the whole thing look a bit like a globe – Zika isn’t just a local problem, and diseases like it have the capacity to cause great harm on a global scale.

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Finished piece
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Detail of adult mosquito
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Detail of mosquito pupa

All told, this beast took about 6 months to complete. While I spent much of that time cursing myself, the clay’s drying speed, and Zika’s complex capsid pattern, I’m pretty pleased with the final outcome.

Etsy Made in Canada 2017

This Saturday, September 23rd I’ll once again be selling at the Etsy Made in Canada show at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto!

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Check out the LookBook to see some of the gorgeous and creative goodies that will be available, and don’t forget to arrive early – the first 100 people through the doors get a fabulous swag bag! Here’s a sample from last year, and I hear this year’s is even better :D

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I’ll have a few new product lines at the show this year, including Drosophila larvae, peacock spiders, and a very cool dinoflagellate!

Dinosaur Poop Necklaces to Pun-tastic Postcards: 19 Canadian Gift Ideas for the SciArt Aficionado

This is reposted from Science Borealis, authored by me with some assistance from their fine editors!

 

‘Tis the season for gift-giving, and what better way to make your science-obsessed loved ones happy than with unique, Canadian-made geekery? This is the first annual Science Borealis gift guide for science art to feed your soul.

 

For the chemist, a planter with a twist gives succulents a scientific home. The brainchild of Alexander McLachlin of Toronto, these fun planters bring the irresistible aesthetics of the lab bench into interior design. Get yours from NightshadeGlass, and grow a little chemistry of your own.

Flask Planter by NightshadeGlass

 

There’s no better way to say “Happy Holidays” than with a beautifully polished fossilized dinosaur poop necklace. Paleontologists and dinosaur fans will love Albertan CindyLouWho2’s genuine coprolite jewellery. 

Coprolite necklace by Cindy Lou Who

 

Pin down some microbiological stocking stuffers with Nicole Edmond’s handmade buttons. Choose from diatoms, spirogyra, amoebas, and more! Nicole is a Calgary-based printmaker inspired by microscopic eukaryotes and parasites (but who isn’t, right?).

Microbe pinback buttons by Nicole Edmond

 

Vancouver science illustrator Jen Burgess has a freshly-opened shop where you can buy beautiful prints of her original artwork, like this stunningly detailed Scrub Jay nest.

Scrub Jay nest print by Jen Burgess

 

Why settle for the same, dull holiday cards when you can embrace geektastic punnery? Carrie Martin of Blue Specs Studio in Guelph has a series of anatomical greeting cards to tickle your funny bone.

Punny anatomy gift card by Blue Specs Studio

 

Montreal artist Bettina Forget creates out-of-this-world artwork that will delight the space nerd in your life. She’s got astronomy enthusiasts covered with her print series of moon craters named for famous women of science.

Resnik crater print by Bettina Forget

 

Molecule mavens will be mad for Toronto’s Slashpile Designs molecular jewellery. From the subtle (H2O) to the sublime (theobromine and resveratrol, anyone?), these elegant pieces are ready for the classroom or a night on the town.

H2O necklace by Slashpile Designs

 

Southern Ontario-based scientific illustrator Emily Damstra creates flawlessly accurate drawings of plants and animals that will delight any ecologist, and complement a nature-inspired decor. Prints are available in a variety of styles and sizes.

Stem galls on late goldenrod by Emily Damstra

 

Lab microbiologists will adore these fun and funky faux streak plates from Waterloo-area microbiologists Micrelle. Pick your agar type and bacterial species, and they’ll make your very own study organism into a keychain or magnet – no biosafety certificate required!

Bacto Buddies by Micrelle

 

Toronto artist Glendon Mellow brings metaphor into the mix with his science-inspired artwork. He’s famous for his fancifully winged trilobites, but we love this wearable portrait of Darwin.

Darwin Took Steps tee by Glendon Mellow

 

Kids and adults alike will love Ele Willoughby’s squishy dinosaur plushies. Hand-printed and crafted in Toronto, each of these sweet little dinos is unique and thoroughly huggable.

Dino plush by Ele Willoughby

 

Ever reneged on a promise to give someone the moon? Now you can make good! Eryn Driscoll from Calgary offers sparkling, vibrant planets and dusky moons for every wardrobe.

Astronomy necklace by Eryn Driscoll

 

Kate McCurrach is an all-purpose science artist from Kamloops with a dizzying array of fun stocking stuffers for microbiologists, chemists, and dinosaur fans.

Famous scientists magnet set by Kate McCurrach

 

For the queer science art connoisseur, Ontario’s Hannah Brazeau has created a fabulous line of #scipride designs. Satisfying every branch of scientific nerd-dom, her illustrations range from microbiology to ecology to neuroscience.

SciPride neuron mug by Hannah Brazeau

 

Cell biologists and microbiologists with a fashionable flair will love Science Borealis’ own Peggy Muddles’ ceramic jewellery, featuring microbes, parasites, and cell organelles.

Anaplasma phagocytophilum by Peggy Muddles

 

If complex chemical structures are more to your taste, Rovena Tey of TheChemistTree in Toronto offers hand-drawn and often pun-packed cards, posters and more. We love this cake recipe poster!

Cake chemistry poster by Rovena Tey

 

Hiné Mizushima creates fantastical wool felt creatures in her Vancouver studio, as well as collage and illustration inspired by the natural world. Her unique felted wool creations sell out fast, but prints are always available!

Anatomical Female B

 

Science Borealis’ resident cartoonist Raymond Nakamura of Vancouver has a newly-opened shop featuring his clever science-themed comics on mugs, tees, totes, and more.

Special Relativity tote by Raymond Nakamura

 

Toronto’s Beautiful Biology educates and delights with child-friendly nesting dolls featuring bacteria, cell organelles, food chains, and simple representations of biological processes.

Black Bear nesting toy by Beautiful Biology

 

Want to support science communication with your gift? Pick your favourite inspirational quote from the 100 Reflections for Canadian Science Communication while supporting Science Borealis’s operating expenses by picking up a gift from our store.

Science Borealis gear

 

These are just a few of the many amazing designs by science artists in Canada. Do you have a favourite we missed? Tell us your favourite science art gift ideas in the comments, or make suggestions on Twitter with the hashtag #CanSciGift.

Art not quite what you’re looking for? Stay tuned for the next in our gift guide series, books!

 

10 Ways To Boost Your Microbiota On Etsy

This is a guest post by Chris Taylor of tcustom.

Each of us is a walking world of microbes… read on, though, before you start scrubbing! The few dangerous microorganisms tend to get all of the press, but the vast majority of the bacteria, protozoans, archaea, fungi and viruses are indifferent, or even beneficial to us. Artists draw inspiration from all sorts of unlikely sources – even your gut flora! This ‘probiotic’ collection of work created by scientifically minded crafters, is designed to foster appreciation and understanding of this hidden world, which we are just beginning to understand.

Black Petri Dishes Silk Charmeuse Scarf

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Who says bacteria aren’t beautiful? Glamorous and geeky at the same time, this gorgeous silk scarf is printed in vibrant rainbow colors, with a collage of microbes in culture. (Available from artologica.etsy.com)

Bacterial Capsule Hand-Pulled Linocut Print

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Decorate your walls with abstract bacterial art. This print is based off of the nose and throat dwelling pneumococcus. This bacteria can be a goodie or a baddie, so roll the dice and hang one on your wall. (Available from LoveBacteriaArt.etsy.com)

Thermochromic Linocut Louis Pasteur

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This colour-changing thermochromic linocut portrait shows microbiology pioneer Louis Pasteur, surrounded by bacteria. If you heat the print above 30C (86 F) the bacteria turn colourless and disappear, reappearing only when it cools. The print itself is a metaphor for pasteurization! (Available from minouette.etsy.com)

Microbe Buttons

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A diverse selection of protozoans and other microbes are exactingly depicted in this collection of handmade buttons from emerging artist Nicole Edmond. Nicole uses etching, silkscreening, and other print-media techniques to explore the grotesque beauty within the infinitesimal world that surrounds our everyday lives. (Available from NicoleEdmond.etsy.com)

Saccharomyces – Budding Yeast Earrings

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Fermentation, gratification and ornamentation for all beer drinkers, wine connoisseurs and bread lovers alike with these sterling silver Saccharomyces yeast earrings. (Available from Ontogenie.etsy.com)

Sparkly Petri Dish Coasters 

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Use these petri-dish inspired coasters to protect your furniture when you’re feeding your gut bacteria a tasty beverage! (Available from ProtonPaperie.etsy.com)

Microbe Collection Watercolor Print

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Artist Sandra Black Culliton utilizes the fluidity and transparency of watercolor to convey the beauty of microbes as they appear through the microscope. From gram positive cocci to acid fast bacilli, this fine art print gathers various bacteria into one stunning display. (Available from sandraculliton.etsy.com)

Articulating Microbiology Keepsakes 

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Many of these microbiological cast creations have articulating parts, allowing you to peer within at the marvelous microscopic machinations of life! (Available from tcustom.etsy.com)

Pseudomonas earringae Bacteria Earrings

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Pseudomonas syringae may infect your beans, but are perfectly safe for your ears (and they produce a protein that makes ice for your local ski hill, so we love them no matter what they do to our beans). (Available from theVexedMuddler.etsy.com)

Microbial Art Glass

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A wide range of microbial glass art items made by Jane Hartman. These include wall panels, dishes, menorahs, and pendants featuring viruses, bacteria, protozans, and fungi. (Available from trilobiteglassworks.etsy.com)

Etsy shop feature: ESeas

ESeas is a fairly recent addition to the Etsy #SciArt community, but owner Dr. Elizabeth Sargent has caught the attention of ocean lovers with her remarkable polymer clay creations. Strange deep-sea creatures, hypnotic plankton blooms, and even entire marine ecosystems are brought to life on decorative plates perfect for display or for storing little trinkets.

 

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Oarfish dish

 

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Plankton Bloom
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Coral Reef

As a biologist studying phytoplankton and marine ecology, Dr. Sargent brings a wealth of knowledge to her art. Each of her tiny ecological scenes shows key species appropriate to that ecosystem, and both plants and animals alike are cunningly and accurately sculpted.

 

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Sea nettle jellyfish

Check out the full shop at ESeas.Etsy.com for more delightful #SciArt, and follow her on twitter @ESeas_SciArt for art and @esargent184 for science.