In 2009, Psychiatrist Dr. Karen Norberg from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts decided to create a fibrous doppelgänger of the human brain. Using different colored yarns she knit together the two-sided organ one and a half times its normal size, with a cerebellum and spinal cord attached at the end. Dr. Norberg told the Telegraph that the piece was a labor of love. For me, there were two humorous aspects,” she explained. “One was simply to undertake such a ridiculously complex, time consuming project for no practical reason. The second was the idea of making a somewhat mysterious and difficult object – a brain – out of a ‘cuddly,’ cheerful, familiar material like cotton yarn.”
Dr. Norberg created the individual parts of the brain, such as the brainstem and amygdala, before sewing the lightly colored pieces together in its final form. A comparison of the textile sculpture alongside scans from a real human brain can be seen in the image below. (via Women’s Art)
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In the late 1800’s, teacher and astronomer Sarah Ellen Harding Baker spent seven years embroidering a star-covered quilt for her classroom in Cedar County, Iowa. In lieu of satellite images, the wool appliquéd quilt was created as a visual aid for her classroom to try to visualize the broad expanse of the universe. The design of the quilt is similar to illustrations in astronomy books of the time. It features a bright sun at its center, with several planets moving around the large star with their own orbiting moons, and Halley’s Comet streaking into the upper lefthand corner.
The piece was finished in 1876, a time when astronomy was presented as an “acceptable” interest for a women. This might have been the reason it was a popular theme for quilts of the time according to The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where the quilt is currently stored. You can find several celestial examples in quilt historian Barbara Brackman’s Solar System Quilt post on her blog Material Culture. (via Open Culture)
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In designer Olga Prinku’s floral wreaths, hundreds of dried plants and flowers are sewn into the shape of large capital letters. Flower heads spring out of the tulle as if magically sprouting from planted seeds Prinku had scattered weeks before. Although a graphic designer by trade, her project has sparked a love affair with weaving and craft, and encouraged her to experiment with several different mediums.
“This particular technique of weaving flowers on tulle actually came to me in a dream,” Prinku tells Colossal. At first she began placing dried flowers on a sieve, which resembled the net structure of tulle. Once she began using the new medium, she looked to her garden for fresh flowers. She initially used fresh flowers for her works, but the natural objects began to shrink as they dried, which left gaps in her designs.
“Now I use dry flowers,” she explains. “Some I buy readily dried, and some I pick from fresh and dry myself using silica gel. I also collect seed pods at the end of the season, which I use as they are.” Prinku alters what flowers and plants she uses depending on the season. “I’m still learning a lot through experimenting about what flowers are the best – I’m basically looking for ones that are good at holding their color when dry and that have thin stems that I can use on the tulle.”
Prinku’s artistic process has fostered her appreciation of beauty and intricate details that exist in nature. “I’ve become much more observant about the plants that are growing all around where I live, and that fuels my creativity too,” she says. To learn more about Prinku’s work visit her website and her Instagram.
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Textile artist Alexandra Kehayoglou (previously) creates functional works of art that explore the natural landscapes of her native Argentina. Her selected locations are often ones tied to political controversy, such as the Santa Cruz River, or areas dramatically altered by human activity, such as the Raggio creek. Kehayoglou uses her craft as a chance as a call for environmental awareness, embedding her own memory and research of the disappearing waterways and grasslands into her hand-tufted works.
Each tapestry uses surplus materials from her family’s factory, which has manufactured industrial carpets for more than six decades. The one-of-a-kind carpets are often installed against the wall, with a section of the work trailing along the floor so visitors can walk or lay on the woven rugs.
In December 2017, her piece Santa Cruz River was included in the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial in Melbourne. The installation showcased her research behind the future damming of the river and her own interpretation of the harm that will continue to influence the surrounding area. Later this month Kehayoglou will present a new site-specific tapestry that explores the tribes of Patagonia in the group exhibition Dream at the Chiostro del Bramante in Rome. You can see more of her work on her website and Instagram.
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After setting up shop in a London corner store and NYC-style bodega, Lucy Sparrow (previously) has grown her unusual art showing/selling technique into a full-blown ’80s-style supermarket. Taking up 2,800 square feet of the Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, the British artist’s fifth large-scale installation is quite literally stuffed with replicas of everyday products, each handmade from felt. The shelves are packed with different ramen and instant noodle soups, Reese’s Puffs, Frosted Flakes and other popular cereals, three different brands of peanut butter along with Smucker’s grape or strawberry jelly, a whole range of favorite snacks, chips, pasta or rice, and all the essential personal hygiene products.
In 2014 Sparrow successfully used Kickstarter to fund her first major project in London called The Corner Shop, which offered 4,000 hand-sewn felt products. Three years later she hopped across the pond to open 8 ‘Til Late, a bodega located in Manhattan at The Standard, High Line with 9,000 items that sold out a couple of days before the official closing date. Challenged by the demand for her plush groceries, the artist locked herself inside her Felt Cave studio for a year and produced her largest and most elaborate project to date — Sparrow Mart.
The retro shop has all the familiar selections of American comforts, including a videotape rental section with ’80s classics like Footloose, Dirty Dancing, and Short Circuit. She also has fresh hand-sewn seafood on ice, sushi, fruits and vegetables, a variety of meat cuts and other animal products, popular snacks, canned goods, cereals, candies, sodas, liquor and cleaning products. Each item is meticulously cloned from felt, a material that evokes childhood and play. The fact that the store offers 27 different types of sushi (each produced in 300 pieces), plus chopsticks, wasabi, pickled ginger, and even soy sauce packed inside iconic plastic fish containers, says a great deal about the amount of detail and determination that went into creating this overwhelming installation. Working alone until very recently, the artist ended up hiring four full-time assistants in her studio and outsourcing fifteen professionals to complete this immersive project.
Offering a felt ATM in between the isles, an exclusive gallery section in the back, and ending with three felt checkout stations, each of the 31,000 products on view is available for purchase with prices ranging from $5 for bubblegum to $73 for a kimchi Michelada. Sparrow Mart is open through the end of August 2018 from 11am-9pm (closed Mondays). The installation is accompanied with Sparrow To Go, a 24/7 restaurant in the lobby of the hotel, offering dishes inspired by the items in Sparrow Mart and prepared by the hotel’s executive chef Julio Palma. After this, the artist is considering creating a similar installation in Chicago, Dallas, Melbourne, or somewhere in Asia, like Hong Kong or Tokyo. You can see more from Sparrow on Instagram.
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British sculptor Debbie Lawson works in the space between two and three dimensions, forming wild animals that emerge from old-fashioned rugs. The artist builds her animals from scratch, using chicken wire and masking tape, and then covers them with identical or near-identical Persian carpets to create the illusion that the creature is fused with the hanging rug.
Lawson explains to Colossal, “I have always ‘accidentally’ spotted images in patterns, on textured walls and floors made of wood or lino – any material really. It’s an obsession that I decided to explore in the studio, using first wood grain and then carpet to make work in which the pattern morphed into an actual image or form…More recently I have focussed on animal forms to explore the idea of camouflage, and of its opposite: display.”
Red Bear is on display until August 19 2018 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London as part of the 250th Summer Exhibition curated by Grayson Perry. Persian bear is permanently displayed (along with a moose in the same style) at London’s Town Hall Hotel. You can see more of Lawson’s finished works and take peeks into her studio process on Instagram. (via Hi-Fructose)
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Spanish textile artist Judit Just Anteló moved to Asheville, North Carolina in 2013 to further develop her textile brand Jujujust. Although she studied fashion design, sculpture, and textile art in her hometown of Barcelona, she first learned the standards of weaving from her mother as a small child. Anteló applies these more traditional techniques to her current practice, updating the old methods with splashes of neon color and engaging combinations of vibrant threads.
“Most of my tapestries are just an involuntary result of an improvisation, a dance with colors and materials,” Anteló tells Colossal. “I like to let myself flow and see what it transforms into afterwards. Once I finish and approve one design, I keep the original in my studio to reproduce it in different color variations. Then I redo them and make them evolve and metamorphose into other creations.”
Anteló weaves her tapestries with rye knots created on a lap loom or eight-harness table loom, depending on which type of wall hanging she is attempting to make. You can find a variety of her works for sale on her Etsy shop, and take a peek into her studio on Instagram.
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