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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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!

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)