Show prep and new designs

I’ve been a bit quiet online of late, but life behind the scenes has been anything but. June is fast approaching, and with it the annual meetings of CSM and ASM, where I’ll have booths selling my nerdy treasures. Preparations are well underway, and I’ll have some brand new stuff for the microbiology crowd this year. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of the designs that will be available.


I’m also working on brand new Toxoplasma gondii and chloroplast stamps, so I should have a few of those ready for the shows as well.

Because I’m not all micro all the time, I’ve got a few new designs that are less microscopic in nature as well. Here are my new cricket, black widow, cobweb, and mammary gland designs brought to life.


I probably won’t be adding many new pieces to the shop until after CSM and ASM are over, but if you see a design here that isn’t available online, don’t hesitate to hit me up. I’m just stockpiling :)

ASM Art Walk!

In exciting news for #sciart nerds, ASM Microbe 2016 is going to be featuring microbiology art! In fact, ASM this year has wholeheartedly embraced art, with both an Art Walk featuring microbial art vendors, and an entire session of talks about microbial art and outreach.

Titled “At the Intersection of Art and Microbiology“, this session was spearheaded by Vincent Racaniello (@profvrr), Jennifer Gardy (@jennifergardy), and Mark Owen Martin (@markowenmartin), all microbiologists and vocal advocates of science art. Speakers will include artists and professors of microbiology covering a range of topics exploring art as a tool for outreach, engagement, and learning. With a great lineup of speakers, it’s sure to make for an entertaining and informative afternoon. Especially since Michele and I are going to be speakers! Seriously we’re going to be awesome, you should come listen to us.

Now, onto the good stuff: the Art Walk! So far there are three confirmed artists attending, but I’ll update here if more sign on.

Michele Banks (@artologica) is a professional artist whose ethereal microbiology and cell biology watercolour paintings explore not only the beautiful and varied forms of bacteria, viruses, and cells, but also our relationship with the microbial world.




Jane Hartman (Trilobite Glass Works) is a glass artist with a science background that is evident in the accuracy of her works. Whimsy permeates her fused glass creations, from googly-eyed planarians to escape-artist Cholera cells.




The Vexed Muddler (that’s me!) is a lab technician, potter, and digital artist with a long history of making up the rules as she goes along.




You can find all the exhibiting artists in the exhibit hall, by the Wellness Zone.



A Very Vexed Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again, when every blog on the planet has gift guides for the generic _____  in your life. Here at TVM, though, we (and by we I mean the cats and I) are far too discerning for that. Instead, we’re going to show you the very finest in nerdy gifts for some extremely specific people! So grab your right-click-open-in-new-tab, because we’re going on a scienterrific ride!


1. For the bioinformatician who specializes in bacterial evolution and keeps coming to your desk with her laptop to show you her latest network phylogeny, seriously, look at this recombination(!!!), a gorgeous Sandra Culliton original watercolour

2. For the microbiologist who can never find a drink coaster when he needs one, ProtonPaperie has you covered with fun and funky petri dish coasters

3. For your favourite programmer whose cactus collection is second-to-none, keznr offers cute generative 3D-printed cactus pots il_fullxfull.757452791_6m49

4. For your doctor, whose office is always on the chilly side, a gloriously vivid cellular portrait of humanity, in scarf form, from Artologica

5. For your neighbourhood entomologist who always wanted to be an engineer until that parasite hijacked his brain and told him to study bugs instead, crazy-beautiful articulated insects by MetalCakes

6. For your friend the astronomy nut who will definitely end up a crazy cat lady in 20 years, OXHIP put some CATS INNN SPAAAAAAAAACE

7. For the kid with the magnetic personality who is often found turning over rotting logs and poking through dirt, Nicole Edmond has beautiful silkscreen print chanterelle magnets

8. For the virologist who can barely wait until Thanksgiving is over to whip into a Christmas-decorating frenzy, funky 3D-printed virus ornaments by craftgeeks – they come with an information sheet, complete with references! il_fullxfull.845036152_odjq

9. For your oddball cousin the philosopher who still has imaginary friends, Minouette has the perfect hand-pulled prints

10. I saved the best for last. This one is for you, the one who believes that kids should have books that inspire and delight, who thinks that kids of every colour and gender should see themselves in their heroes, who loves science and wants to show the next generation that science is fun and engaging and most of all a thing that they can do. This amazing children’s book by Sean Reed does all that, and it’s got great art, too :)

Plus, one of the perk levels includes an exclusive charm bracelet made by yours truly! Here’s a sneak peek at the prototype:
moon bracelet prototype

Etsy Made in Canada is this weekend!

I’m ready, are you?

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You can find me in the West Atrium, with my lovely assistants Muddles and Timothy :)

Here’s a sneak peek (courtesy of the Toronto Etsy Street Team) at some of the cool swag going into the swag bags for the first 100 people through the door!10330520_10153051144726232_6318404203525444265_n 11953022_10153051144731232_7516843564185746745_n12038394_10153073719271232_4502580398947783553_n 12039251_10153073719266232_5616623784006469064_n

There are also some very cool free workshops on offer:

See you there!

#sciart find of the day

I just realized “of the day” makes it sound like I do this daily. Yeah, right. I barely manage to …uh nevermind *cough*

So, today’s very cool science art comes from California, where some dude named Mark makes crazy stuff out of metal. He makes some very pretty garden art of a more standard sort, but what caught my eye is this brilliant Stegosaurus:


I’m also mad about his Ammonite sculpture:


Go on and check out his other cool stuff in his Etsy shop, MANmadeMetal.

Vexed gear in the wild

I love when customers send me photos of themselves wearing my designs. It’s probably my favourite part of the business side of what I do (of course the art side is allllll about playing with mud and vector tools). Here are just a few of my favourites :)

You can get the shirts (and other fun gear) in my RedBubble shop and the jewellery in my Etsy shop. And don’t forget to send me a photo! 


Upcoming shows in Toronto

The art and craft show season is almost upon us, and The Vexed Muddler is madly preparing.

September 12th and 13th you can find me at the Queen West Art Crawl at Trinity-Bellwoods Park on Queen West:

On September 26th I’ll be at the Etsy Made In Canada Pop-Up Market at MaRS. This was a fantastic show last year, and I’m very excited to be a part of it once more. As an added bonus, the first 100 customers through the door will get a swag bag stuffed with goodies from the show artisans!

See you in September!

Coming soon to Amazon: The Vexed Muddler!

Amazon will soon be launching its new Handmade Marketplace, and I’ve been invited to open a shop! I’m very excited about this opportunity, but it will mean a few tweaks to my business model, and a different set of priorities for the work I make available on Amazon.  

Ever since they announced this new marketplace I’ve been thinking about how I might manage to sell my scienterrific designs on a platform where the customers demand instant gratification. After all, half the fun of The Vexed Muddler is the one of a kind nature of my products and the ability to completely customize your design. That won’t be possible with Amazon’s tight turnaround times. Don’t worry, though. You’ll still be able to order your custom crazy designs, get your model organism rendered in stunning ceramic, and make totally outlandish requests from my Etsy shop and via Twitter

What I’ll offer on Amazon is a selection of my most popular designs in my personal favourite glaze colours. You’ll still be able to choose your cord material and length from a variety of options, but these will be a little more limited than what I have available for my custom work. Rather than striving to make each piece OOAK, I’ll work in small batches to ensure a reasonable level of consistency. 

Whatever happens, this should prove an interesting journey! 

Banks’ Second Theorem of E-commerce

The excellent and wise Michele Banks (of Artologica fame) has written a fantastic post on one aspect of e-commerce that is so often overlooked by newbies. What it boils down to is engagement, and so many artists just…don’t. They put their work on Etsy (shameless self plug) or RedBubble (also a shameless self-plug) or some other online marketplace and they just figure people will somehow find them and buy their stuff. It doesn’t work like that. Michele’s post brought to mind a dozen similar conversations I’ve had with fellow artists and crafters who are struggling to  market themselves online:

I suggested she start by posting her new shop on her Facebook page. “Well, that’s the thing, I don’t do Facebook.” Twitter? Nope. Instagram? What?

In the grand tradition of using cat memes to make points, here’s a social media guru cat.

When you’re a small independent retailer you can’t afford to spend money on advertising, you don’t have an established brand, and you don’t have a strong enough web presence to dominate search results. When a McDonald’s opens up on your street, they don’t have to advertise – everyone knows it instantly. When a tiny hole-in-the-wall burger joint opens up, they have to get out into the community and MAKE everyone know about them. How do they do that? By engaging with the community:

Well, if you have an online shop, the internet is your neighborhood. Get out there, take a walk every day, and say hello. Read some blogs. Read some tweets. Make some intelligent comments. Then say, “here, have a look at what I’m working on.” Repeat.

It can feel awkward at first to shamelessly plug yourself, and if you’re not used to using social media, there are certainly learning curves associated with those. It takes time and energy to build a following and become a part of the community. But there aren’t a lot of hermits who own successful burger joints, and maybe that should tell you something.