When Ava Roth adds the last stitch grasping horsehair or porcupine quills to her embroidered artworks, she passes the fibrous material on to her black-and-yellow counterparts. The Toronto-based artist collaborates with bees to encase her mixed-media pieces in waxy honeycomb. What emerges are organic artworks that consider interspecies interactions and the beauty that such meetings can garner.
Since 2019, Roth has been expanding the wooden frames of her works to twice the size as previous projects. She receives help from master beekeeper Mylee Nordin, and together, they vertically stack hive boxes, which are known as supers, and insert large, custom-made structures. The artist also has developed a more detailed practice in recent months. “Because this project has required so much trial and error, I was still experimenting with materials last season, trying to find substances that the bees would consistently respond to positively,” she writes. “I was trying to find organic substances that would not harm the bees but also that the bees would not eat or otherwise destroy.”
When the bees finished wax production in late October, Roth says her understanding of the species and confidence in her choice of raw matter had grown. “I spent the winter weaving and embroidering beeswax, porcupine quills, horsehair, and other organic material into embroidery hoops, and then fixing them onto my new custom made frames,” she notes.
Roth’s projects also have a sense of urgency through their connection to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that’s killing colonies and threatening the species’ population. “Honeybees are often considered a harbinger of the health of our planet, and CCD is interpreted by many environmentalists and scientists as a clear indicator of our current environmental crisis,” the artist says.
I consider the bees to be my co-workers, collaborators in every sense. I take cues from their needs, design the project around their capacities, and work in sync with their seasons. Ultimately, this art that we make together is essentially hopeful at a time when we are overwhelmed with despair at the state of the environment, and our role in its destruction.
During the winter, Roth plans to refine her project further after reflecting on another season of interspecies collaboration. Follow the latest updates on her encaustic works on Instagram.
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The World's First Bee Influencer Uses Social Media to Raise Funds for Lifesaving Pollinator Research
We can only imagine the job description: Science Foundation seeks expert visual effects designer to create robust social media presence for imaginary insect influencer. B., billed as the world’s first bee influencer, reports from Instagram-friendly locations like Montemartre in Paris and beachfront lounge chairs. Channelling trends among young female influencers, B. flaunts her figure, does yoga in pretty places, and hosts Story A.M.A’s, answering queries about her favorite musicians (Beethoven, the Bee Gees, Beeyonce). B’s captions are a blend of educational and quippy—a “photo” of her rowing is captioned “I have only one flaw… (LOL) I don’t know how to swim!”
Following in the footsteps of other scientific non-profits like the California Academy of Sciences and the Field Museum in Chicago, Fondation de France seeks to meet people where they’re at—which is, by and large, on social media. Humor, au courant language, and memes have become powerful tools to convey important messages about our past, present, and future world.
But whereas other institutions use strong voices on social channels to indirectly raise funds through increased museum attendance and perhaps larger sponsorships for exhibitions, the foundation is channeling income directly from their in-house influencer. Companies and organizations who feel that their brand identity aligns with B. can pay the rising-star insect to promote their products in the same way that a #vanlife influencer might pose with a brand of potato chips or shampoo. The fees that a company pays for exposure with B. go directly to Fondation de France’s BEE FUND, which the 50 year-old foundation created “to fund the actions considered as the most fundamental and urgent in the protection of all species of bees.”
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Artist Ava Roth loves working on collaborative projects. But her studiomates aren’t fellow two-footed friends. Rather, Roth pairs with her backyard honeybees to create mixed media collages combining embroidery, beadwork, fabric, tree bark, and honeycomb. The Toronto-based artist builds artworks inside the comb frames, and the bees complete the pieces by encasing them in organic honeycomb patterns. “This project is a collaboration in the truest sense. It involves careful listening, respecting the bees, and cooperating with them entirely, from the choice of materials, size, timing and scope of design,” Roth tells Colossal. “My intention is to celebrate the extraordinary work of the honeybee and match it with sewings that invoke their delicate and ephemeral comb.”
The artist explains that she had been working in encaustic, a painting technique that incorporates wax, for several years, and decided to start collaborating with her bees as she learned more about Colony Collapse Disorder and sought to uplift and honor the bee’s work.
The threadwork in this collection mirrors the fragility and beauty of the honeycomb in which they are encased. By placing the embroideries in hoops, I am also giving a nod to a tradition of women’s work. Since the working bees are all female – and not making ‘fine art’, the finished pieces are very much in the tradition of marginalized women’s work, and sewing in particular. Because both the bees work and traditional women’s work have been largely functional, their beauty and significance have been easily overlooked.
Roth tells Colossal that it took a great deal of trial and error to solve for the variables like what materials the bees respond to instead of destroying, how long to keep the pieces in the hive before honey is deposited, and conveying to the insects which areas they should or shouldn’t build comb. The artist shares that she worked closely with Master Beekeeper Mylee Nordin on strategizing and implementing the project. Shown here are works from her abstract series; Roth also works in this mode with more representational images, which you can see on her website.
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Elaborate Embroidery by Laura Baverstock Forms Insects and Animals from Precious Metals and Colored Threads
London-based embroidery artist Laura Baverstock crafts stunningly intricate animals using colored and metallic thread. From copper bees to gold lions, Baverstock renders the unique textures of each creature. The artist studied at the Royal School of Needlework, where she received a degree in Hand Embroidery, and now works in the film and fashion industries. If you watched last year’s Mary Queen of Scots, you saw Baverstock’s embroidery work on the actors’ outfits, which earned an Oscar nomination for costume designer Alexandra Byrne.
“Embroidery has such a rich history, and I’ve found the specialized nature of the craft and the variety of traditional techniques to be hugely inspiring,” Baverstock shares with Colossal. “Needlework has such versatility and universal appeal; within my own practice I particularly strive to push the boundaries of three-dimensional hand embroidery and precious metal goldwork, with a focus on natural themes and realism.” Explore more of Baverstock’s complex embroidery work on her website and Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Commuters in Utrecht may notice a new green tinge to their neighborhood bus stop. Local authorities in the Dutch city have added 316 green-roofed, bee-friendly bus stops to public transit routes. More than 50% of the Netherlands’ 358 bee species are endangered; the green roofs provide safe, consistent habitat for the critically important pollinators, and are planted with low-maintenance sedum. For the resident humans, bamboo benches and LED lighting contribute to the eco-conscious construction. (via My Modern Met, Lonely Planet)
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Gone are the days of full coverage beekeeping suits and padded gloves with the invention of a radical new hive by Italian company Beeing, which was founded by a third-generation bee keeper. B-box is the very first system designed for homes and urban environments, with a small footprint that can fit on even the tiniest of balconies or backyards. Not only does the simplified hive makes raising bees and harvesting honey easy for novices, it benefits the bees as well. A seven-foot-tall chimney ensures that bees remain out of range when coming in and out of the hive, while uniquely designed chambers present only small sections of the honeycomb so users are not disturbing or impacting the health of the hive by extracting a large sheet.
With 80% of the world’s food supply needing the help of bees, coupled with major threats to a declining bee population, it is more crucial than ever that solutions to this crisis are discovered and put into action. You can learn more about B-box in the video below, and contribute to their campaign by visiting IndieGoGo. (via designboom)
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.