Monday, April 13, 2015

Gregor Mendel and his Peas

Gregor Mendel with his pea plants
Gregor Mendel, 11" x 14" (28 cm x 35.6 cm), 2015 by Ele Willoughby
This is a linocut portrait of Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), scientist and Augustinian friar who posthumously gained fame for establishing many of the rules of heredity, fundamental to modern genetics.... more than three decades after his death (though even he didn't realize the importance of his crossbreeding studies). By carefully crossbreeeding pea plants and tracing seven characterististics (plant height, pod shape and colour, seed shape and colour, and flower position and colour) he was able to deduce what are now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Apparently, pea plants were the most popular of his projects with his colleagues. His mouse experiments were frown upon by his bishop (all those copulating rodents!) and his particularly aggressive Cyprian and Carniolan bees proved an annoyance to his fellow monks and visitors to the abby.

He coined the terms "recessive" and "dominant" traits. Some of his findings are subtlely alluded to in the layout of the pea flowers, like a Punnett square depicting a cross between two pea plants heterozygous for purple and white blossoms - that is, purple flowers are a dominant characteristic and the first generation of crossbread plants will have all purple flowers, but the recessive white flowers can reappear in subsequent generations. The first edition is a variable run of 8 prints, each 11" by 14" (28 cm by 35.6 cm), on ivory Japanese kozo paper with "chine-collé" white and mauve paper.

Apart from completing this print this weekend, I unfortunately got to spend most of the beautiful Sunday afternoon inside, in line.  A few weeks ago, I was thinking that I don't get out enough with the baby and still had not used gift certificates I got at Christmas. It's a challenge sometimes to work around his meals and naps and get anywhere on public transit (especially if that means carrying him and his stoller up and down three flights of stairs cause so many stations are still not accessible in 2015!). So, I made a point to go to a certain shop with the intent of replacing my 10 year old, twice-repaired shoes. I found the shop mostly empty of shoes but I did buy myself a dress on sale, and went across the street and bought myself an organic fruit smoothie at the Big Carrot, which I shared with the baby. At the time, I thought I'd done really well. As locals will know, a server has since been diagnosed with Hep A, and thus, like hundreds of other patrons, Gabriel and I got to wait in line to be vaccinated. It's unlikely we've been exposed; we would have had to have been served by the particular person and he or she would have had to had improperly washed hands... but it's not worth risking (and the young can show no symptoms while readily infecting others). Not how I would have liked to have spent the first lovely warm day of the year... though I was kind of impressed that everyone took the public health advice, turned up, and waited patiently. The elderly couple behind us offered to push the stroller and hold out place in line so I could at least let Gabriel run around a little. He's not too rambunctious and people were patient with him, which I appreciated. It helps that he smiles at everyone.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Immortal Jellyfish

Immortal Jellyfish
Immortal Jellyfish, Ele Willoughby (c) 2015, 11" x 14" (27.9 cm x 35.6 cm)
This hand-printed linocut of the Turritopsis dohrnii is the only known animal to be able to revert to its younger colonial stage after having reached maturity - that is the full-grown T. dohrnii jellyfish medusa, if it gets stressed, or old and sick, can revert back to the polyp stage, form a new polyp colony and start all over. So in theory, the jellyfish can bypass death and this cycle can go on forever. The jellyfish is "biologically immortal"! In the real world, there are diseases and predators which interfere with the T. dohrnii's plans of immortality, of course... but unlike the rest of us, it's not an impossible jellyfish dream.

T. dohrnii are hydrozoans which begin life as a sort of free floating fertilized egg known as planula larvae, a sort of plankton. These settle on the seafloor and a colony of polyps, or hydroids, attached to the seafloor like a little garden of multi-branched soon-to-be-jellyfish. The jellyfish, or medusae, bud off these polyps, each a genetically identical clone to the next. The medusae swim freely until sexual maturity. After that, should the T. dohrnii face environmental stress, assault or simply age and illness, it can revert to the polyp form, found a new colony and begin again! This cycle can, in theory, repeat ad infinitum.

The "immortal jellyfish" was formerly classified as T. nutricula, which had also been confused with the similar T. rubra. It turns out that it's quite the challenge to tell one Turritopsis from another. Currently only one scientist, Shin Kubota from Kyoto University, has managed to sustain a group of these jellyfish for a prolonged period of time in captivity; in two years, his colony rebirthed itself 11 times! Wanting to avoid the mistake of confusing one Turritopsis for another, I was glad to read the New York Times Magazine profile of Shin Kubota and the Turritopsis dohrnii - so I could be confident their images were of the right animal!

Incidentally, googling "immortal jellyfish" turns up a lot of strange things, including harebrained anti-aging schemes and vampire fans.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Art shows: Sheep, Space & Bees

I feel so behind in my blogging. Sometimes wrangling a very busy toddler, running a business, making art and running a thousand-member team (thankfully with help from excellent collaborators!) and you know, basic life stuff, like buying, cooking and eating food seems like more than enough to fill my days. Recently, we had a bit of a photoshoot in my studio... and I don't mean with the official family photojournalist (aka my husband). Some of the things I do for things from secret minouette places and for the Toronto Etsy Street Team will soon be getting a little press. Can't wait to share that! All these things keep me very busy, but, I don't want neglect blogging. Let me play catch up.


Year of the Goat show at PROOF Studio Gallery in the Distillery District
Like previous years, I was happy to take part in PROOF Studio Gallery's international print exhibit celebrating the Chinese New Year. This year of course is symbolized by yang, an animal which can be translated as sheep or goat. I've leaned towards 'sheep' and included my Cloned Sheep (the 'Hello Dolly!' one) and Yang: the Sheep or Goat prints.  (I can see them in the photo: Cloned Sheep is the colourful one with the blue mat in the centre and Yang in three over to the right). The show ran from February 18th to March 1 at PROOF and then hit the road, visiting OCADU print department, the Ottawa School of Art,  Concordia University Mouse Print Gallery in Montreal and Muskoka Arts Place.

Local gallery Artisans At Work is hosting
Terra Nova & Friends Exhibit
Show runs through April 2015

Artisans At Work
2071 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Hours: Mon: Closed; Tues & Wed: 10-6; Thurs & Fri: 10-7; Sat & Sun: 11-5pm
Terra Nova & Friends Exhibit: Mother Nature, Intergalactic & Extraterrestrial Art.
First Friday Reception: April 3, 2015, 7:30-10pm. Music by The Sidewalkers, licensed bar, treats, art, and local artists.

So, I've been framing some of my earth and space science and scientists prints for the show!




My friend (and fellow TEST leader) Christine Pensa is co-curating a show about bees in June with the lovely women of Graven Feather gallery, so I'm planning to show my bee prints there, perhaps including some new ones. See Christine's Art That Moves blog for more information, or to apply to the show.

Coincidentally, Art.Science.Gallery in Austin is also hosting a bee themed show. The Buzz Stops Here (April 18 - May 30) will feature encaustic artworks (which involves painting with melted beeswax) about the science and conservation of bees! The medium really is the message here. I've never tried encaustic, so I won't be participating in their show, but I've recently sent a big package of my bee prints to their shop the Supply Room, to be available during the show.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Women of Science bringing Science to the Public on Twitter



I was really flattered to be included in the io9 article by geophysicist and science writer Mika McKinnon's round up of all sorts of scientific women who are actively communicating science, in all sorts of ways, on twitter! She mentioned my science and history of science linocuts (including the tweet above), and listed roughly 40 others, both well-known and not. Just recently, I was asked by a couple of my mother's friends about twitter: why would one be interested and how can it take up one's time. It was one of those, "Why would you want to read, 'I ate a sandwich for lunch!'?" type questions. I gave a fairly standard reply that if that is in fact the only sort of thing a person tweets, you simply don't follow them; instead, you can follow @NASA. This round-up is a better answer; you can follow - and actively engage with - some of the most creative, knowledgeable and interesting, entertaining people out there. You can stay abreast of your own interests and follow those who work in radically different areas and are excited about topics which you might not even have known existed. If you're looking for great people to follow, and kick-ass women in STEM to boot, this is a good place to start, as well as the other lists she links to.

The #SciArt tweetstorm did put my work in front of new eyeballs and I'm also flattered to have gained new followers. Thank you to all 1258 twitter followers, 667 FB fanpage followers, 960 Etsy followers, 2700 Etsy , 3861 Pinterest followers, and 83 Instagram followers. I had to correct the numbers in the previous sentence twice, in the time it took me to type it (and I type quickly). It was quite amazing to find my work spreading so quickly and get so much feedback that I could barely keep up. If I failed to reply to you, my apologies; please try again. I usually do reply promptly and don't usually feel that popular. ;)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

#SciArt Tweetstorm


A lot of the artwork I make is directly informed and inspired by science, and this is the week for art about science or #SciArt on twitter. Local Scientific American blogger Glendon Mellow (aka @FlyingTrilobite), part of the trio behind the Symbiartic blog (@Symbiartic) about the intersection of art and science, declared a #SciArt tweetstorm. He suggested that those of us who care about scientific illustration and art inspired by science should:

  • tweet at least 3 artworks a day (March 1 through 7) tagged #SciArt
  • retweet at least 5 #SciArt tweets daily
  • or more...

#sciart Twitter NodeXL SNA Map and Report for
Monday, 02 March 2015 at 18:50 UTC from Marc Smith
The resulting storm is in fact raging. #SciArt is trending on twitter and has been for days. In fact, Symbiartic has posted some statistics. Marc Smith of Connected Action produced this figure showing how the 4000 odd tweets and twitter accounts posting #SciArt are interconnected. As you can imagine, I'm all over this, and am in fact the 5th vertice of 2,227 users, ranked by centrality within the first 24 hours. Read more and see the figure in full detail here or by clicking on it.

You can follow some of the other blogs write-ups of the tweetstorm via Symbiartic and find  Nature's post here.

But what you really should do is simply go check the #SciArt hashtag right now! There are some truly wonderful things being shared from that fertile intersection of art and science. There is everything from scientific visualizations, to art quilts inspired by neurology, to microscopic photographs, to science comics, to fine art on scientific themes, to a cupcake periodic table. Do not miss out. It's inspiring!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Local TESTy Valentines

Lovely, funny and yummy food puns by Gotamago
One of the lovely and talented local artists I know, Lichia of Gotamago, tagged things from secret minouette places to point out I'd gotten some press. It's one of the great things about being part of TEST or the One of a Kind, is that you get to know your fellow makers. So when BlogTO does a round-up of fun Valentines by local artists to let you "bypass Hallmark cheese [...] by making dorky puns, poking fun at the awkward side of relationships, or making artwork so beautiful and intricate it'll melt even the coldest, Grinchiest heart," there are several great picks from teammates. They included my thermochromic Valentine amongst their 10 favorites. Half of them are TESTy people, of course, cause our team is so awesome. ;)



minouette's thermochromic Valentine for the nerd in your heart
simple and sweet I Heart You by HeyRube
Gorgeous, customizable, hand-cut Valentines by Light&Paper
For true love, even first thing from Sea&Lake

Hilarious puns like "I love you a waffle lot" from new TEST member Queeniescards
(more or less x-posted to the TEST blog)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Etsy Team Captains Summit


I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Etsy Summit here in Toronto. Along with some of my fellow team captains and leaders from across the country, Etsy staff and guests, we've been planning the (anxiously awaited) follow-up to our amazing Etsy: Made in Canada show! It was such an astonishing success, we're going to try to make it a yearly event. Saturday, September 26th, the Toronto Etsy Street Team and 416Hustlers are planning to do it again, at MaRS. There will also be many more simultaneous shows from coast to coast to coast!

Besides meeting like-minded makers, sellers and leaders, we had a chance to really learn from everyone else's experience. We started with a bit of fun. The icebreaker challenged each table of participants to represent Canada using a bag of random craft items and items our peers had brought with them from their various home. Our diorama was the only one with an actual electrical circuit.... how could I resist? We had a PEI potato, wire, pliers and tape. In case you can't tell the first photo is supposed to be Celine (as wonder woman with balloons) and Cirque de Soleil acrobats (and former Olympians) preforming on a stage. It's a conceptual piece. Other hilarious and creative contributions included everything from maps of provinces, woodland and winter scenes, jewellery from artifacts, Niagara Falls, to wearable hats!









Some of the highlights included talks from our peers. The tireless powerhouse from WEST (the Winnipeg Etsy Street Team), Ruth Schulz Smith shared her Event Management expertise and enthusiasm. It's no coincidence she won the only award, having been nominated by her peers. Jessika Hepburn, one of the Halifax leaders and creator of Oh My Handmade! gave an amazing talk about community building and working with partners big and small. I don't want to sound corny, but it was really inspiring. One of my neighbours said she felt her mind so teeming with ideas that she couldn't sleep. As a group, we are consciously coming from the vantage of the handmade movement; we all want to grow our small businesses, but we are also fostering an economy that values the artists, designers, the handmade, the local, the eco-friendly, the repurposed or vintage treasures over the mass produced.  All of the captains and leaders volunteer their time for their teams, and are working to make things easier for all of these handmakers and vintage sellers to run their businesses and maybe even make a life from what they love. Maybe it isn't surprising that they had such interesting things to say about community, partnerships and creative businesses working to improve their corners of the world.
Ruth with rapt audience

Jessika talks about getting involved
We also heard from Etsy. We had some fun PR role playing with the lovely Etsy PR folks as well as their publicists. There was a great talk from their guest colleague Moishe Lettvin, an engineering manager for Seller Growth. He started his talk with images of his mother's pysanky (Ukrainian style) eggs to explain how he'd grown up surrounded by handmade items. While his creative outlet is writing code, he explained that finding a job at Etsy, after Microsoft and Google, felt like coming home. I enjoyed a peek at the technical stuff about the back end of Etsy, but it was also great to hear his enthusiasm for the things we do, and making it easier to run our businesses. Lastly, we got a chance to ask some questions about what the future may hold! I think people left reinvigorated, full of new ideas and happy, which is wonderful.