Drosophila Wings!

Hi, All! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I, for one, am enjoying the break!

I thought I would catch up on some art during the mini vacay. My current science/art fix: Drosophila wings!

The Science:

Drosophila, commonly known as fruit flies, are more than pesky insects in your fruit basket. For genetics, fruit fly research was the key to some amazing discoveries that fostered our basic understanding of genes, chromosomes, and inheritance. (Good article, science buffs!) As an undergrad, I briefly studied the wing disc, a little packet of cells in fruit fly larvae destined to become the wing and body wall (resulting publication here).

Wings are incredibly important for the survival of insects. They are necessary to find food, avoid predators and find a mate, so their correct development is crucial. That is to say, if anything goes wrong with the timing or location of gene expression, the wing can be misdeveloped or even missing in the adult fly. As such, the wings have been studied and manipulated to better understand this development. The wings also serve as a unique tool for fly researchers (known as “fly pushers”) to screen and track mutations.  (My favorite is the curly wing.)

The Art: 

To make the wing earrings, I started by tracing the outline of one wing on clear plastic (you can use tracing paper or even parchment paper). Only trace 1 outline per size; you can simply flip your outline to make the mirror image.

I used translucent Premo polymer clay mixed with a bit of pearl for shimmer and rolled it out fairly thin to keep them transparent. Then, I traced the outline onto the clay to get guides for cutting.

Ater baking, I hand painted the wing veins and added detail with acrylic paint.

Finally, I used resin on both sides to add a smooth glossy and durable finish. Glass beads top these pieces.

These are up on Etsy. Thanks for Reading. =)



Powerhouse Organelle

Hey, Y’all! Mitochondria. Mitochondria have traditionally been characterized as the “powerhouses”  of the cell because they produce energy in the form of ATP. But mitochondria do so much more to help cells maintain “balance” (or cell homeostasis) and when mitochondria get funky, cells get wonky. Anyway, I won’t harp on mitochondria because I’ve been harping on mitochondria for the past 5 years–it’s my day job. I WILL present you with my homage to this pretty cool organelle. Currently up on Etsy!

Art Mimics Science: White Fat, Brown Fat

I know, it’s strange. Who makes fat jewelry anyway? This grad student does. For one fat, known as adipose, plays a very important role in metabolism. Secondly, adipose cells under the microscope are absolutely beautiful!

I know, it’s strange. Who makes fat jewelry anyway? This grad student does. Why? Fat, known as adipose, is pretty cool under the microscope.

Credit:  Tam CS, et al. 

And, and, and, and there are different types of fat. The more abundant type of fat is white fat or white adipose tissue (WAT). WAT gets a bad rep, but it’s only bad if you have too much! Under the microscope,  these cells appear completely white with a thin border between cells. A single fat droplet fills the cellular space, pushing all the other cell components to the sides of the cells and giving the appearance that the cells are empty.

white fat brown fat
Credit: Sarah Lewis, adapted from Ray Soccio, MD, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

There is also brown fat, or brown adipose tissue (BAT). Unlike WAT, BAT has many fat droplets within the confounds of one cell. These cells are also packed with mitochondria which give them their brown color and name. (Another cool scanning electron microscopy image of BAT and WAT. )

On to the art. I used  a combination of white and translucent clay to create the fat droplets in each cane. I used purple for the white fat to mimic common histology staining.

IMG_20171015_150422775_HDR1output (3)

These are up on Etsy!

Playing with Bargello!

Bargello with Polymer clay! I love several things about this technique:

  • I can use all the scrap clay I inevitably accumulate- which is HUGE, because who likes to waste materials?
  • The process can be as organic or as contrived as you want it to be. All weekend I was smashing random bits of clay together and it turned out beautifully EVERY TIME! (Tip for artists, though: adding color complements next to each other will give you brown stripes after too many rolls through the pasta machine).
  • Last, but certainly not least, it is super easy once you get the hang of it. This will definitely be a go-to design in the future.

This is a faux tutorial because I learned this technique from Polymer Clay Tutor (her website) who made a wonderful  Bargello video tutorial for polymer clay artists/hobbyist. I leave the instruction to her but show my process which you can follow.

Here we go. I gathered my random scraps and stuck them together. For a more organic look, you can simply make a ball of scraps. To control my stripes, I added colored scraps into makeshift strips, allowing me to somewhat place the colors where I wanted them.

Next, I summoned the magic of the pasta machine to do most of the work. I flattened the clay just a bit with my fingers, to get it through the pasta machine at a “1” setting. This sticks everything together and makes an even layered sheet.


I then folded this sheet in half and ran it through the machine again at the “1” setting, aligning the stripes. The magic really started to happen when I switched to the “2” setting and repeated the process of folding the clay and feeding it through the pasta machine. I was happy with the stripes at this point, but you can keep going until you get the desired stripes you want. Again, too much will muddy the final stripes.

I began cutting even strips from my clay sheet and aligned each one slightly askew to create the pattern.

Afterward, I attempted to fill in gaps/ cut off excess to square off the pattern, but I wasn’t exact–still turned out fine. I added a red sheet of clay to increase the thickness and strength of the final piece and I was ready to cut out my patterns.

I ended up making a couple pairs of earrings from this set of clay. I also tried out resin for the first time to coat, and I gotta say I’m liking the effect! These and more are up on Etsy.









HAllOWEEN Ready!

Just wanted to post these real quick. I love Halloween and enjoyed making these pretty simple designs, especially the cats! Everything is up on Etsy this time around!


Find these on Etsy.

Neuron Dangles

This week I’m taking my inspiration from neurons! You might be familiar with the structure of a single neuron, but I was specifically inspired by the beauty of neural networks–the structure that forms from many cells. For these earrings, I tried to capture the 3D nature of networks of cells on a 2D surface. I kept the palate fairly simple (black and white) and I used a layering technique with translucent clay and liquid clay.  I kinda like the abstract nature of these and left the “cell” details off of the studs.

Dangles are available on Etsy! (The studs are for S. who has become my unofficial PR Lady/ official biggest cheerleader for my Etsy shop.) Now back to my “commissioned” piece (a requested favor, rather)–a poly clay landscape “painting” of the Southwest USA. Pics to follow!=)



Art Mimics Nature: Pretty in Green

I was in a green mood today. =) These are supposed to mimic plant cells which have a cell wall and cell membrane. Plant cells are often more rigid in shape (compared to animal cells) and may have a cubic, rectangular look. For these, I made a cane with dark green (cell wall), gold (cell membrane), and translucent green clay (cytoplasm). To make the individual “cells,” I cut slices of the cane and stuck them together edge to edge. I made two layers of “cells,” so you’ll see some cool overlap. I topped off with some gold edges. I love the way the light hits that translucent green. =)

Find retangular set on Etsy!

DNA Dangles, Part Deux

At S’s request, I made more genetics-themed earrings! I previously made a “Double Helix” stamp to create these, so these were a cinch. I love the how easy they are for how they turn out and I’m loving the bronzy-copper/aqua combination. These were a pleasant surprise because I had some extra clay and thought, “Hey, why not?!” They turned out to be my favorite.  (Currently up on the Etsy.=)!!! Favs if you like!)  S graciously posed her’s (and allowed me to use her beautiful face!)

Sunshine in Season: PolyClay Wall Hanging

This was my first 2D sculpture with Polymer clay. I made this as a present for my boyfriend’s mom, D, who loves the sun.  I used graph paper to sketch my concept, then painted in the colors I wanted. The coolest part was seeing this sculpture come to life–I love polymer clay for this reason.  Each quadrant represents a different season and how the sun “changes” with each season. Below is a little bit of my process.