Evolution of 3-dimensional beadwork: Lessons learned – Part I

While reorganizing my website a couple months ago, I couldn’t help but notice how my techniques have evolved over the last three years. I started out by using the traditional French beading method that I taught myself in my teenage years.

I would always plan elaborate handmade gifts for my family for birthdays and New Years and was very ambitious with starting with the most difficult project in the book. When I got the book on French beading flowers, I decided to make a large lily arrangement for my grandma’s birthday. It took me a very long time to make it, and since she was living with us, I had to figure a way to hide it from her until it was ready. I ended up using a board from my school science project, that I cut and folded to cover the top and placed it over the artwork. I made her promise me not to look inside while I am at school. And I completely trusted her. The funny thing was that after a while I saw that I could not get the flowers to stand as elegantly as they were shown in the book, and I lost the initial excitement. The flowers ended up standing under the board for a very long time, until everyone agreed that we could just put them up as they were, as the half-done arrangement was pretty as it was. The image of the fuchsia below is not from that project, but was made around the same time.

When I decided to reapply these skills in the context of SciArt, I started out by making cells pretty much in the same way as the Morning Glory was made, maybe just inside out. This was also when my photography skills were severely lacking. For example, the photo below was taken on my office desk at my previous job. You might also notice a pretty significant wrinkle on the fabric where the embroidery hoop used to be. I tried ironing it several times, but it didn’t help. Nevertheless, this first foray into using French beading to create scientific sculptures now hangs in the office of a neurosurgeon I interned for during college. It still feels special to me.

The next few pieces following this one were “Hippocampal Neuron with Dendritic Spines“, “Branching Out” and “Transformation“.

Above I am showing a work in progress shot of the hippocampal neuron, because my photography skills were truly lacking at that time and this is the best shot I got when the lighting was just right (to see the full image, please check out my Instagram account). You can see the final piece and read more about it here. It was originally inspired by a winner of the Nikon Small World Competition below.

In these 3 works, I started to develop methods for creating dendritic branches, which were not quite following the traditional French beading techniques. In the hippocampal neuron, I also started threading multiple wires through the same beads to add the dendritic spines. Believe it or not, this threading technique came in quite handy when I was making “Sunrise“, “Lost in Manhattan” and “Finding Your Self” a couple years later.

Dendritic spines

Many artists say that (a bit counterintuitively) that in order to gain artistic freedom, they create a set of rules for themselves. When I started making microscopy-based artwork, I was determined to stick to the “primary colors” of microscopy: green, red and blue. I was also envisioning using them in clearly defined, separate structures. But then I saw the image below on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

For the sake of simplicity, I decided not to make the dendritic spines here and just stick to the color transitions, which were so mesmerizing.

While I think of this as an early and relatively easy project, it seems to attract more attention and feedback than my later, more complex, endeavors. As I was writing this post, I discovered a hilarious coincidence. When I was first making this neuron, I decided to change up its orientation to make it seem more aesthetically pleasing. Much later, when I finally got a proper pen that would allow me to sign my work on black fabric, I made a big mistake and signed it on the wrong side. I was very upset about it and kept wondering if it would still be OK to hang it the way I initially intended to. It turns out that, completely by accident, the new orientation corresponds to the one in the original image! I don’t know what to think of that…

Well, it seems like this post is getting a bit too long. To be continued…

In the meantime, if you like my work, please consider checking out my Patreon page to support my projects. I am currently working on making enough art to submit proposals for a solo exhibition and would greatly appreciate your help.

Thank you and stay tuned!

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