Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Love, art and cinnamon hearts

Finding just the right Valentine's gift can be a challenge. I know I'm always trying to invent something new every year.

If you're seeking a one of a kind, hand-printed, colour-changing, thermochromic Valentine, or the chemistry of attraction in linocut form, or art for dog and cat lovers and more, I can help with that.

Apart from cinnamon hearts, I would definitely love a $500 Etsy shopping spree. Check out the #etsymatch question here, answer on twitter with the #etsymatch tag for a chance to win a $500 Etsy gift card.

And remember, I'm not kidding about the cinnamon hearts. You can send all you unwanted cinnamon hearts to me!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Time for some weather prognosticating rodents

Thermochromic groundhogs

Since we're catching the tail end of a blizzard here, it seemed nice to contemplate the end of winter.* We might imagine that the end of winter is in sight, and the celebrity weather-prognosticating rodents may not see their shadows next Monday, hahaha! Anyhow, I printed a new batch of thermochromic Groundhog Day linocuts, with disappearing shadows.

I'll be busy on Groundhog Day, myself. Etsy Canada is hosting another Summit, here in Toronto, for team Captains and Leaders from coast to coast. I ought to get cracking on my presentation.

*Apparently, we'll avoid getting really dumped with snow (unlike our neighbours to the south) because it's too cold and windy here. Um... I guess we're lucky?

p.s. Good luck to those of you who aren't lucky and are expecting almost a metre of snow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Birthday Faunalia!

Lady Winter by Phoebe Wahl, 2014

A very happy birthday to my friend Faunalia! All the best for you in your new year: health, happiness, travelling tiny homes, adventures, creativity, peace and more.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How the Earth's Crust is Born: Marie Tharp "girl talk" and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Linocut
Marie Tharp and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,
9" x 12" linocut on Japanese paper, by Ele Willoughby, 2015
This is a linocut portrait of American geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp (1920-2006), whose pioneering, thorough and complete ocean floor maps made with her partner in science Bruce Heezen revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The mid-ocean ridge itself, based on their 1957 physiographic map, is illustrated behind her, along with the sort of echo sounder or precision depth recorder tracks she used, in front of her. The first edition is a variable run of 10 prints, each 9" by 12" (22.9 cm by 30.5 cm), on white Japanese kozo paper with "chine-collé" teal somegami paper.

Tharp had struggled to find the the right university major; she wanted something she could do, and enjoy, but there were not many options for women in her day. More opportunities opened up during WWII and she took the chance to return to school and study geology and then math. Looking for something challenging (but not tedious) she contacted Maurice 'Doc' Ewing at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia, who hired her to draft data, including the thousands of echo sounder profiles they were gathering. Women were still not allowed to participate in research cruises, but they could work with the data. Before long, Heezen came to Lamont and required so much drafting work that Tharp worked exclusively with him.

Scientists once imagined the ocean floor as a largely featureless plain. Early depth measurements were taken with lead weights (such as canon balls) and a whole lot of rope! As early as the late 19th century, such laboriously collected datasets began to hint at a broad rise in the centre of the Atlantic. By the mid 20th century, there was a push to try and map these submarine mountains.

Tharp spent months painstakingly "plotting, drawing, checking, correcting, redrawing and rechecking" profiles of the North Atlantic. The ship tracks across the Atlantic were a sparse web, but when Tharp compared half a dozen more or less parallel transects she noticed no only the general similarities of the ridge, but a V-shaped notch in the centre of all the profiles. She suspected they coincided because they indicated a rift valley all along the ridge crest. The early ideas about plate tectonics or the "continental drift" theory were still quite controversial and unpopular. Heezen dismissed Tharp's observation as "girl talk" for looking too much like continent drift - as in fact it was indeed a vital piece of the plate tectonics puzzle. We now know that surface of the Earth is itself a jigsaw puzzle of pieces known as tectonic plates, jostling one another at a stately, geological pace. Mid-ocean ridges are underwater volcanic mountain chains which roughly bisect all ocean basins. They are all cut by a rift valley which is the spreading centre. These rifts are where new crust is born, pushing upwards and outward. This drives the two plates on either side slowly apart over geological time. On our own timescales of everyday life, we notice the bumps in this slow ride: the sporadic earthquakes, rather than the slow creep (though today, we can meticulously measure both).

Tharp believed the rift was real though her contour maps hadn't convinced Heezen. In 1952, they began working on physiographic maps, which would show seafloor topography as if you were flying just above it, and the water were drained away. These had the advantage of really giving a sense of the variety of geology, from plains to mountains, seamounts to trenches. Also, unlike detailed contour maps, physiographic maps were not US Navy classified information, so Tharp and Heezen would be able to publish what they produced. Further, they were beginning to gather much better precision depth recorder data, which revealed far more features, along with better navigation to plot ships' positions along tracks more accurately. A second project in their research group involved plotting earthquakes, and Heezen insisted they work at the same scale. Heezen then noticed that ocean earthquake epicentre data also formed long lines - and in fact, when one map was placed above the other on a light table they found the earthquakes formed near continous lines along the Mid-Atlantic ridge right where Tharp had indicated there was a rift valley. Using the earthquake data to extrapolate and plot the rift position where there was no seafloor sounding data, they found that the rift extend landward into the Rift Valley of East Africa - a well-known, easy to observe terrestrial rift valley. Heezen was then convinced. They had discovered a worldwide mid-ocean ridge system, tens of thousands of kilometres long. Tharp was able to mine existing data to show the Mid-Atlantic Ridge extended to the south Atlantic and found similar features in other oceans. These all similarly lined up neatly with earthquake epicentres. Ewing and Heezen announced their findings in 1956. In 1957 Tharp and Heezen published their North Atlantic physiographic map; I've shown my version of their map behind her. The ridge snakes from top to bottom (north to south-south-west), above and almost mimicking the line of her arm.

They continued this work, extending to other oceans over the next 25 years, ultimately producing detailed physiographic maps of the world oceans. Their pioneering work mapping the oceanic plate boundaries, and showing their clear alignment with seismic data helped fuel the revolution in geology and geophysics, the paradigm shift of plate tectonics.

Tharp's work was largely in the background during her university career, though she won a number of prizes during her retirement and has continued to gain posthumous recognition for the importance of her work and observations. I was very pleased to see her recognized recently in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos reboot. I want to bring her incredible insight and excellent work to a wider audience as both artist and marine geophysicist myself.

I've already sent one Tharp portrait to a seismologist friend in Australia and a second to her biographer Hali Felt!  Tharp has been on my 'to do' list for a while, but I finally completed her portrait, thanks to Hali. She stumbled upon my Etsy shop and asked me if I had ever considered making Tharp's portrait. I told her she had come to the right place and found a marine geophysicist/artist. I'm looking forward to reading her Tharp biography, Soundings. Now, we're swapping portrait for biography. How cool is that?

This is January

The Stork linocut, 28 cm by 21.6 cm or 11" by 8.5"
on creamy Japanese kozo paper with colourful confetti-like inclusions
I wanted to wish you all a happy new year, as we are well into January. I'm afraid I haven't been around very much, because baby, as they say. He's doing well, keeping me very busy and changing every day. He now walks or runs everywhere - badly, like a drunken sailor, but on his own two feet... until he isn't. It's hard to let him fall, but I think I have to, at least sometimes. For one thing, he's fast. For another, learning does involve trying, failing and trying again. He says a lot of things, though there's still some interpretation going on. He definitely says Daddy... though, much to my amusement, he kept gleefully pointing to the Christmas tree and saying, "Daddy!" RJH likes to believe he was trying to indicate that he (RJH) carried our tiny tree into the house, or that he set it up, or that he was excited... not that the tree was his father. But, in fairness, Little Monkeytoes does know who Daddy is. Likewise, he's clearly indicated that I am... Wubwub. I believe he's trying to say Mama. If you watch, the way his lips move is almost right, but the 'm' sound is more of a 'w'. Sometimes it's more like Wawub. Anyhow, he know what people mean by Mama or Mommy. Clearly, they mean Wubwub. He's even said "Cat" now and again. Minouette is much kinder to him than to anyone else, despite the fact that he has yet to master gentleness. He even - I think - is saying a couple of simple sentences. He says, what sounds like, "Lookit! What dat?" and points. This is all very good for a 13-month old wee person. It is currently quiet time, which is his vaguely naplike time. He's not big on napping, but enforcing quiet time has changed our lifes for the better. I was extremely skeptical that forced naps could lead to better sleeping at night; I was wrong. It may be illogical, but it's working. Unfortunately, he's spent most of quiet time doing laps of his crib and stopping only to 'read' his baby books (probably upside down, but adorable nonetheless).

Cinders McLeod, for The Walrus magazine online gallery

I'm afraid 2015 in the larger world has not had a lot to recommend for itself. I don't have anything articulate to say about senselessness, but I did like my friend Cinders' cartoon. I have very strong opinions about the importance of freedom of expression, to be honest, which extend to art and opinions I don't like. Many have been misquoting Voltaire. As his biographer, Beatrice Evelyn Hall using the pseudonym S. G. Tallentyre wrote of Voltaire (in 1906), summarizing his sympathy for a fellow author, whose books had been burned, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

Locally, here in Toronto, winter has come, complete with some frigid temperatures and cold weather alerts. Two homeless men have died of exposure. When faced with senselessness, I am most impressed when someone imagines something positive they can do to counteract. A handmaker I know, Nathalie-Roze & Co. takes donated knits and polar fleece to make hats and neck warmers for the homeless. I recently succumbed to the peer-pressure and joined Instagram, where I was reading about The Lennie Project. In an example of when social media can work well, I suggested we post about it to the Toronto Etsy Street Team blog - when our mutual friend Adrienne, captain of the 416Hustlers made a further (better!) suggestion of getting together to help. Now, the two biggest Toronto Etsy teams the Toronto Etsy Team and 416Hustlers are going to co-host a sewing bee to help, January 24! We're still finalizing details, but have managed to put this together very quickly. If you're in Toronto you can take part or find somewhere to donate your cozy knits at this link.