In collaboration with master beekeeper Mylee Nordin and swarms of the honey-producing insects, artist Ava Roth develops elaborate encaustic works that literally visualize the interaction between humans and the environment. The Toronto-based artist stitches small collages with leaves, twigs, rose quartz, porcupine quills, and other organic matter before handing control over to her six-legged counterparts, who faithfully build hexagonal cells around the original piece. Once complete, the waxy inter-species works are brimming with texture and color variances that highlight the inherent beauty and unpredictability of nature.
Whereas previous iterations of Roth’s embroideries used stock hoops at the center, she now enlists the help of woodworker Bernoel Dela Vega, who custom-makes inner and outer frames in the same dimensions that are typical in Langstroth hives. “Each piece requires some kind of border that separates my work from the bees’ work,” she says. “This (change) has allowed me to experiment with different sizes and shapes and has helped to make every aspect of my work hand (or bee) crafted.”
Roth tells Colossal that although it’s possible to manipulate the hive conditions to produce a 3D honeycomb or work with artificial elements, she creates self-imposed limits to use only organic materials and engender environments that mimic those bees would gravitate toward naturally. She explains:
I recognize that Langstroth hives are not a natural habitat for bees, but neither are most of the spaces that humans find themselves occupying right now. Ultimately, this project is about exploring the ways in which humans collide with the natural environment today and finding ways to make making something beautiful from this specific time and place. This means working in cities, in manufactured hives, in the midst of enormous environmental and political despair.
Roth will be pulling multiple pieces from her hives in the next few weeks, and you can follow that progress on Instagram. She also has a few works on paper currently available at Wallspace Gallery in Ottawa.
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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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Phoenix-based artist Lesley Green (previously), of Bespoke Glass, merges natural pigments and geometric shapes in her stained-glass pieces. Some of her recent work includes a trio of translucent birds that mimic paper cranes and circular pieces patterned with multi-hued rounds. Green’s yellow honeycomb drops, though, were one of her first completely hand-cut designs and are created in single hexagons and groupings of two, three, and four.
The artist said on Etsy that her light-refracting projects are the result of “considering (the) ways stained glass could be reimagined to be flexible, customizable and portable,” rather than a permanent feature fixed in a house or building. To see the delicate formations Green has available, check out her shop or Instagram.
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The Last Honey Hunter was released in 2017, but is new to us at Colossal and is a powerful story worth a watch at any point. Set in rural Nepal, the half hour documentary chronicles the Kulung culture’s traditions of honey collection. Using precarious methods to scale treacherous cliffs, the Kulung seek to harvest a particular type of psychotropic honey that has spiritual significance to the community. We won’t seek to paraphrase the intricacies of the tradition; when you have some time, go into full screen mode and sink in to the story.
Written and directed by Ben Knight, The Last Honey Hunter is a co-production of Camp4 Collective and Felt Soul Media, in association with National Geographic and with the community expertise of dZi Foundation. You can also read about the Kulung honey rituals in a National Geographic article.
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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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When trying to protect farms in east Africa from elephants, it would seem that nothing short of a giant reinforced fence or a chasmic ditch could safely keep the largest land animals on Earth away without causing harm. Unfortunately, building such barriers around every field is impractical, and the interactions of people protecting their crops frequently leads to accidents or even death of both farmers and elephants. But zoologist Lucy King had a much smaller idea: bees.
It turns out elephants are terrified of bees because when the insects sting the inside of their trunks the pain is excruciating and there’s little they can do about it. The sound of buzzing alone is enough to make elephants leave an area immediately. King wondered what might happen if a string of suspended beehives at every 10 meters around a field might be enough to keep elephants away. A pilot program in 2009 proved widely successful and soon The Elephant and Bees Project was born.
There are now active beehive fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering.
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