Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UnNatural History

My linocut imaginary menagerie: Snowflake beetles, Chrysanthemum snake, Elusive Cactibou, Iceberg Squid, Batbearoo, Hammerhead Hedgehorse, Duck-billed Deer, Winged Walrus, Mandriltee and Aeolian Jellyfish

 Last Friday, the 13th, was the Opening for 'UnNatural History', curated by Tosca Terán at the Toronto Etsy Street Team Gallery. There were costumes, Tarot readings, and prizes along with a fascinating show of art from 14 artists from Canada, the US, Iceland and Hungary. Works include painting, printmaking, multimedia, photography, bookbinding and sculpture and explore real and imaginary life forms and landscapes.

 This month and for the first two days of November, there gallerywill also host a series of workshops, from creating with thermoplastic, to bat skeleton articulation to decorating sugar skills to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Find out more on the blog and come see the show while you can!
Paintings by Kristen D'Aquila
Photographs of marine plants and animals in multimedia light boxes by Holly McClellan

Sculptures with detail of one of the sculptures, and what lurks inside, by Lavinia Hanachiuc

Photographic sculptures of landscapes by Mar Hester
Hand-stitched, collaged animal illustrations by Judith Pudden

Multimedia by Kest Schwartzman, including cicadas, butterflies and a bat in metal masks and costumes
Kest Schwartzman

Kest Schwartzman

painting by Rosemary Stehlik
Photos by Wilder Duncan and Ralph Smith. Wilder, who is teaching the bat skeleton articulation workshop and does rogue taxidermy, arranges the bones he works with, in paterns like mandalas or geometric shapes and collaborated with still life photographer Smith

Pati Tozer's miniature etchings and hand-bound book, between Schwartzman's cicadas and D'Aquila's paintings

wundercabinet of beaded specimen by Cynthia Winders
Tosca Terán, glass sculptures with wool, moss and lichen, shaped like plankton
Images are 'Ambient Plague' by Elaine Whittaker about microbes around us. Bone sculptures by Tosca Terán, and figurines by Kathryn Bell

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Seismologist Inge Lehmann for Ada Lovelace Day

Inge Lehmann, linocut on Japanese washi, 8" x 8" by Ele Willoughby

Today is the 9th annual international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology, science and math, Ada Lovelace Day 2017 (ALD17). I'm sure you'll all recall, Ada, brilliant proto-software engineer, daughter of absentee father, the mad, bad, and dangerous to know, Lord Byron, she was able to describe and conceptualize software for Charles Babbage's computing engine, before the concepts of software, hardware, or even Babbage's own machine existed! She foresaw that computers would be useful for more than mere number-crunching. For this she is rightly recognized as visionary - at least by those of us who know who she was. She figured out how to compute Bernouilli numbers with a Babbage analytical engine. Tragically, she died at only 36. Today, in Ada's name, people around the world are blogging about women in STEM.
You can find my previous Ada Lovelace Day posts here. 

This year, to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day (ALD17), I'm writing about a great a Danish (or, as she put it the only Danish) seismologist who was at the forefront of the field in the early twentieth century, the one and only Inge Lehmann (1888-1993). She was a pioneer woman in science, a brilliant seismologist and lived to be 104. In 1936 she wrote an earth-shattering paper, with an astonishingly succinct title: P' in which she laid out her arguments supporting her discovery of the inner core of the earth.

We now know, as she first postulated, that the earth has roughly three equal concentric sections: mantle, liquid outer core and solid inner core. The crust, on which we live is merely a thin, um, scum really, on top of this slowly boiling pot. The only way to probe deep into the earth's core is to employ massive earthquakes, the waves they generate and the paths they follow. There are two main types of seismic waves used for studies of the globe, unimaginatively named Primary (or P, which are known as pressure waves or compressional waves) and Secondary (or S, which are shear waves). “P is used to denote longitudinal or ‘pressure’ seismic waves. Those that travel in the Earth’s mantle and crust only are represented by P; P’ represents P-waves that pass through the mantle into the core, and then pass through the mantle again,” she explained. The paths these waves can follow through the Earth depend on their nature, and the materials through which they travel.

Even if you don't regularly think about waves, you will be familiar with a type of compressional wave, namely sound. Read this aloud and the air molecules between your mouth and the ears of any listener (including your own) will compress and rarefy in a wave pattern as the sound is transmitted. Shear waves are different, and as the name implies, they are excited by a shearing motion (like you make with scissors, also known as shears). I can't describe a shear wave in air, or any other fluid, for the same reason you can't cut air with your scissors: fluids do not support shear.

Lehmann's 1936 paper presented this (simplified) three-shell model of the Earth.
She argued that P-waves recorded within the shadow zone are caused by
their interaction with a solid inner core. Today we know that in reality,
seismic waves curve as they travel through the layers of Earth.
Credit: Kathleen Cantner, AGI, based on Lehmann’s original figure, redrawn in 2001.
Imagine a glass of water with a straw; the straw will appear broken at the air-water interface, because light bends as it enters the water. Just like light travelling through different media, these seismic waves can bend, reflect or be transmitted at any boundary. The difference in physical properties between the mantle and outer core causes a P-wave shadow, due to diffractions at the boundary (like in the straw in water analogy). For S-waves, the shadow zone is absolute because liquids, like the outer core, do not support shear. Thus, no shear waves can make it through the outer core, and thus we can be certain the outer core is fluid. The faster moving compressional waves can move through fluids, but they refract at the boundary, which causes the shadow zone for seismic stations beyond 105° from an epicentre. Lehmann found that there were some late-arriving P-waves are much larger angles (142° to 180°) which had been vaguely labelled 'diffractions' (shown in orange on the diagram). These were P' waves which had travelled right through the Earth's core, then out through the mantle again to the other side. Some appeared stronger amplitude than expected (red lines, between the two shadow zones). There were also waves inexplicably arriving within the P-wave shadow, where no one expected compressional waves to arrive. She showed that these could be explained instead by deflections of the waves which travelled through the outer core at her postulated inner core boundary. These weird P' waves could only be explained by if there was another interface within the core, between an outer fluid core and an inner solid core!

Modern depiction of the Lehmann discontinuity where there's a
kink in the speed of mantle P waves for three different settings -
TNA = Tectonic North America, SNA = Shield North America
and ATL = North Atlantic. [*]
She later discovered a discontinuity in the mantle (confusingly also called the Lehmann discontinuity). She did important work well into her 70s and lived to be 105.

When she received the Bowie medal in 1971 (she was the first woman to receive the highest honour of the American Geophysical Union), her citation noted that the "Lehmann discontinuity was discovered through exacting scrutiny of seismic records by a master of a black art for which no amount of computerization is likely to be a complete substitute..." (*).

I think her accomplishments are downright astonishing. To have the exactitude to work with the data and the daring to neglect the irrelevant and offer up a simple, elegant - correct! - explanation is a rare and marvellous thing. To be the top of her field in 1936, when she was a pioneer for women in science and had to "compete in vain with incompetent men" (her words *) is heroic.

Women in Science and Engineering Trading cards starter pack
You can find my portrait of Inge Lehmann here. Both Lehmann and Ada, Countess Lovelace are among the portaits I contributed to the Phylo Women in STEM trading cards (which can be found at the link). The set can be downloaded and printed for free or you can purchase your own set as illustrated.
There are a grand total of three easily found photographs of Lehmann I was able to find on the internet. I based my portrait one of the earlier ones, to match the date of her phenomenal P' paper. I also show her model of the earth (as she herself presented it in 1936) in red-orange ink, complete with mantle, inner and outer core, and travel paths for rays through the layers, including into the shadow zone. One of the great geophysicists - one of the great scientists of the 20th century, Inge Lehmann should be remembered.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Etsy: Made in Canada & UnNatural History plus Dinovember

This Saturday, September 23, we're returning to MaRS for our 4th Etsy: Made in Canada show! 

This year, I'll be selling my prints and hand-printed textiles at Table 38 in the west side of the Atrium off University Avenue. I'm enjoying stepping back a little, playing a role in the organizational committee but not being the leader. I've handed over the reigns to my friend (and show neighbour at Table 40) Emma of Landfill Designs is the ringleader this year! So, I get much more opportunity to simply enjoy one of the biggest and best shows of the year. Show up early for a chance to get one of our fabled swag bags! There will be a great juried selection of 125 local artists, artisans, designers, vintage purveryors and makers. Hope to see you there! Click on the maps to see larger images and plan your route.

I'm also excited to announce I'll be taking part in An UnNatural History! Local multimedia (metal and glass) sculptor and jewellery maker Tosca Terran of nanopod is curating an international group show which takes inspiration from the history of the artistic representation of natural history to investigate the unreal including "hybrid organisms, fictional fungi/botany, distant imaginary worlds, unusual geometry, otherworldly life, geography, animals, minerals, astronomy, genetic mutations." This subject dovetails with my own investigations of fictional science and my "Unnatural history" series of prints and I'm excited to see my work in context of this group and others' interpretation of these fascinating ideas. Tosca is also planning some fabulous events to coincide with the show including a Halloween party Opening, bat skeleton articulation workshops and Dias de los Muertos themed sugar skull workshops all at the Toronto Etsy Street Team Gallery!

Then in November, I'm curating the DINOVEMBER show, celebrating all things dinosaurs! This exhibition will feature art in all media and handcrafted items about everyone's favourite extinct behemoths*, the dinosaurs! For Dinovember we are seeking dinosaur items from imaginative artworks to scientific illustrations to handmade toys and other goods.

Other non-dinosaur Mesozoic creatures are also welcome! We love flying and marine reptiles, prehistoric fish and more.

*Diminuative dinosaurs are also welcome. Find out more here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beetles, Pangolins & Back to School

Beetles, 11" x 14" linocut with collaged washi, Ele Willoughby 2017
 When I did my demo for 'Washi Wednesday' at the Japanese Paper Place I had the idea of showing how I could print a single lino block to highlight the two main ways I incorporate various coloured and patterned washi papers into my work. I carved a lino block with an array of different interesting beetles and printed them both on papers to let me produce naturalistic images, mimicking as closely as possible the colours and sheen of these beetles in nature, and on a welter of wonderful patterned washi for imaginative reinterpretations of these beetles. The print shows, from left to right, top to bottom: Goliath beetle, Calligrapha verrucosa, blowout tiger beetle, Fruhstorferia sexmaculata, Phaedon oviformis, Reindeer beetle, Ceratophyus martinez, Erythrus ardens. Below are the first four "Other Beetles" in their wild colours and patterns.

Other Beetles I, 11" x 14" linocut with collaged washi, Ele Willoughby 2017

Other Beetles II, 11" x 14" linocut with collaged washi, Ele Willoughby 2017

Other Beetles III, 11" x 14" linocut with collaged washi, Ele Willoughby 2017

Other Beetles IV, 11" x 14" linocut with collaged washi, Ele Willoughby 2017

I've also started on a series of pangolins. The ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), is one of the eight armour-plated mammals of the order Pholidota. The keratin scales made of fused hairs overlap like a pinecone or the leaves of an artichoke. When threatened the pagolin rolls up into an inpreganble ball or emit a noxious-smelling chemical like a skunk. They have sharp claws to burrow into ant or termite mounds and extremely long tongues like anteaters. All 8 species are vulnerable or endangered, due to hunting (for meat and scales) and deforestation. They are the most trafficked animals in the world.

Pangolin I, 16" x 11" linocut print on collaged washi papers, Ele Willoughby, 2017

I am making a series of prints on beautiful Japanese washi papers. The scene is printed on handmade gampi udaban paper, 41 cm by 27.7 cm (16 inches by 11 inches) with a deckle edge. Each of the scales is printed on various handmade, colourful, patterned papers. This print is one of a series of prints, each with its own unique pattern of scales.

Today is a really big day in our household. We sent out 3.6 year old son off for his first day of Junior Kindergarten. It's quite the experience for all of us. I think parents and son alike are filled with excitement and trepedation for this new stage of life. I hope he's safe and happy and learning and having fun. He was very excited to go to school, but looked quite concerned when he realized he would be left there with the other students rather than coming home with me. I've spent most of my day wondering how he's doing, of course.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Washi Wednesday at the Japanese Paper Place

Unicorn amongst umbrellas detail, one of my linocuts on washi
and other papers
This Wednesday, July 26 from 1:00 pm to 5:00, I will be demonstrating my process of making linocuts with hand-printed, collaged Japanese washi papers at the Japanese Paper Place. This 'Washi Wenesday' is a free demo - one held the last Wednesday of every month - and you can drop in and see me work, see examples from portfolio and chat about printmaking and paper! Stop in (103 The East Mall Unit 1, Etobicoke, M8Z 5X9) and say hello!

The Japanese Paper Place has the most amazing warehouse of Japanese papers, both handmade and machine made. They supply the Paper Place on Queen West, as well as working directly with artists and selling papers online. I'm looking forward to doing a demo because I find teaching in any way is always instructive, and allows me to think about my own process. Also, it's a chance to seek the perfect paper for ideas in my head!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Women in STEM cards

Women in Science and Engineering Trading cards starter pack

Definitely my favourite commission of 2016, was making and submitting five of my portraits of women in science for the Phylo Women in STEM trading cards. Dave Ng, a biologist at UBC got started with educational trading cards upon reading a study that children can identify more Pokemon than local flora and fauna. Struck by this idea I submitted my fox print when the project was getting started and shared some information about it. This latest set brings attention to women in science and technology, throughout history, and the hurdles facing women and under-represented groups. How can you not love a game with 'Stupid Patriarchy' cards? He told me he had seen my blog post about the death of physicist, material scientist and archeometry pioneer Ursula Franklin and it encouraged him to include her, as a great scientist, role model and Canadian. As you can see, I've also illustrated marine geologist Marie Tharp, physicist Lise Meitner, seismologist Inge Lehmann and proto-computer scientist Ada Lovelace. I'm flattered to see my art is in wonderful company with works by several other artists and science-artists. The sets are available from Phylo and you are even free to download and print your own!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Peacock Spider

Peacock Spider, linocut 8" x 8", Ele Willoughby, 2017

I confess I have mixed feelings about spiders. Generally, I leave them to mind their own business. But, I follow a lot of scicomm (you know, science communication) and seem to have fallen in with a bunch of very friendly Twitter entomologists. They're a subset of the biologists. For information and contagious enthusiasm for spiders, I recommend @Cataranea. As a result I consume a lot of science journalism and learn about a wider variety of creatures than I would have known existed. So, somewhere I stumbled upon the peacock spiders, and these are a group of spiders that you can't possibly fear. For one thing, they are beautiful. For another, they dance. This is a hand-printed lino block print of the colourful Australian Coastal Peacock Spider, Maratus Speciosus. Like the name suggests, peacock spiders have vivid, patterned, multicolour abdomens (and that round opisthosomal plate) which males lift and shake, along with their third pair of legs, during a courtship display. That is, much like peacocks, the males do a fancy dance to impress the lady spiders! Unlike other peacock spiders, the males of the Maratus Speciosus also have a set of bright orange hairs (setae) along both edges of the opisthosomal plate, only visible during the courtship display, as shown in this print.

This is one of an edition of 18, printed in browns, blue, turquoise, and orange on white handmade Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, 8" x 8" (or 20.3 cm by 20.3 cm).

In a recently delightful science communication exchange amongst scientists on Twitter, spider specialists identified the mysterious jumping spiders raining down in an astronomer's office. One mentioned that their amazing eye tubes actually function like Galileo's telescope! Before you knew it astronomers were doing some quick calculations and together they made realization that jumping spiders can see the moon! (You can read more by great science journalist Ed Yong in the Atlantic). The funny thing for me was I read this exchange while it was happening and I wasn't sure it it appeared on my feed because of the astronomers or the entomologists I follow. I've seen it claimed that Twitter scicomm is "inside baseball" with scientists communication amongst ourselves. My own experience is more "baseball adjacent" if you will. Most people are involved in science in some way, but networks are much broader than traditional scientific networks within a field of study and there is the posibility for great cross-pollination like this whimsical story.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt, linocut by Ele Willoughby
Happy birthday to astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921) who set the scale of the universe when she found the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheid variable stars. These pulsing stars in the Cepheid constellation (shown) can be used as "standard candles" allowing astronomers to determine distances to celestial bodies. 

This entire month, we're hosting Canada 150+ at the Toronto Etsy Street Team gallery, with a brief, but cool hiatus this week hosted by Tosca Teran, with events for a book launch of Suffed - Taxidermy for a New Generation by Divya Anantharaman & Katie Innamorato. On Thursday there will be the Carnival of Taxidermy book signing, 5 pm to midnight. Friday through Sunday there will be a series of related workshops (Entomology 101: Morphos & Jewel Beetles, 2- headed Chick Taxidermy and Fascinator/Wearable Taxidermy- check her site for availability).  If you come by you can see my prints of Canadian provinces and territories and all sorts of art and handmade goods.