Wednesday, December 29, 2010


While looking up images for my previous insect related post, I came across the work of Cornelia Hesse-Honegger. She worked as a Scientific Illustrator at the Natural History Museum at the University of Zurich for 25 years. She began collecting and painting Leaf Bugs (Heteroptera) in 1969, and after the Chernobyl incident began recording the damage that nuclear radiation was having on these insects.She has since then studied and painted insects near functioning nuclear power stations in Europe and the U.S. and concluded that even low levels of radiation are enough to cause morphologically disturbed insects.Heteroptera (2001)and Future's Mirror (1999) are books of illustrations and essays highlighting the physiological effects of radiation. In her biography Hesse-Honegger points out the lack of published findings on these effects and implores independent scientific study in this field.She has also published a book of her images on Silk. She began designing fabric for Swiss fashion houses Akris and Fabric Frontline. I can just imagine that the medium of silk would lend itself so perfectly to her lush images. Even in photograph the richness of colour makes my heart beat a little faster.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I was immediately drawn to the image for Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo. Although at the time I wasn't sure if it would be a documentary or a monster movie or perhaps something similar to 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'. But documentary it is, highlighting Japan's interest in Insects.

I find that our western attitude to things that creep and crawl is far from positive. I'm sure that very few children I know would be saving up for a beetle of any kind.
But insects do possess an alien beauty. Different from us in almost every way possible they have inspired the horrific and the exquisite.

Christopher Marley photographs insects and such a way that they appear as beautiful jewels. In mosaic photos such as the one above, they are not ordered by taxonomy, but arranged only for aesthetics.
In the single photos such as the one above, the beetles look more like mounted specimens. And indeed, specimens of this Macrodontia Cervicorniscan grow very large and collect a great deal of money.
I think I prefer the idea of a private collector buying one of Morley's photos than an actual specimen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Perfect Red

This is the first in what I hope will be a long series of book 'reviews'.
I'm a huge fan of the written word in general but there is something important about the tactile experience of handling a book. The texture of the paper, the smell of the pages, the weight of the book itself, all integral to a good read.

A Perfect Red
by Amy Butler Greenfield explores the complex history of cochineal, the first ever true red dye to meet western eyes. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish began importing the dyestuff from the New World.
Previously, Europeans were only to dye with madder, which produces an rusty, orange red.
Very quickly, cochineal became highly sought after, and was one of the items sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth I for her Privateers to steal. It was second only to silver as Mexico's valuable exports.
The book is greatly informative, not just on the dye and it's history, but on the historical climate surrounding it and it's possible impacts on the larger world. It offers insight into the wonderment that the colour would have caused in a time before synthetic dyes, when such substances were highly prized. It is a surprisingly fascinating read, and far from dry.
Fingers by Stasia Burrington.

Cochineal is a parasitic insect that lives on the Nopal cactus. The dye is derived from the Carminic acid that it uses as defense. In Colonial times Cochineal was mainly used to dye fabric, but was used by indigenous peoples of the Oaxaca area for many purposes. It it has mostly been replaced with synthetic dyes but is still commonly used in cosmetics and food.

While many different shades of red can be achieved with cochineal dye, it is the true crimson that was most popular with its introduction to Europe. It is this specific shade of red that still captivates us today. Traditionally associated with love, passion, anger and blood. It also speaks of a luxury that could only continue from a time when such a colour would have been reserved for the church and the very wealthy.
Here are some selected items from etsy celebrating this beautiful shade.(clockwise from top left)beret21 by dadaya; Imaginary Blood Vessels Horse by Leah Markov-Lindsay; Hat from Retro Repro Handmade; earrings by Tina Rice
While I'm sure that none of these items were coloured with cochineal they are captivating shades of red none the less.(clockwise from top left)Mola/Red leather bag from South Industry; A Bit of Red by Eliza Frye; Much Love by Ashley G; Jessica wool dress from kcoline; Sandals from Tuto.

(clockwise from top left) The Kimono by Heather Evans Smith; Coral necklace from Ruonan; the Raven's Winter Perch by Steve Morris; Earrings from Lily Sharon; Brooch from uloni; Hello Stranger by Nora Aoyagi.
(clockwise from top left)Feathers Print from 1canoe2; Moccasins from Spiro creations; Burning Volcano ring from Jia Style; Frosty II by Milkylane; Red Poppy dress from RubyPearl.

Friday, November 19, 2010


There is some sort of delight in finding something that doesn't quite fit size wise. I'm a big fan of tiny apples, tastes like a regular apple but made for elfin hands.
Perhaps this is why Terrariums are so very popular. Who doesn't want a miniature ecosystem all to themselves. Usually quite simple, they are made with moss or air plants, as these are relatively hardy, and constructed in small glass containers. Dollhouses for the nature lover.
I wonder what makes the unexpected size so appealing, perhaps a tiny shred of a moment where we can imagine ourselves as giants....
Or in the case of this photograph by Leah Benetti, in miniature.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A few days ago a came across a photograph of these beautiful Painted Eucalyptus and now I will have to find a way to see one with my own eyes. Apparently they are cultivated around the world, but perhaps I wil have to go to New Guinea. I can go to Australia, avoid being bitten by something poisonous and then pop over and see some amazing trees.
The spectrum of colours is caused by the bark being shed at different times, and each section changing colour as it ages. While looking for post worthy photographs I also discovered this wonderful list of remarkable trees, all worthy of their own post. Each one is so varied from one another and so amazing. I was also pleased to see that the Bristlecone Pine is on the list. One of the oldest living organisms and a topic that i have been prattling about for ages.
Such wonderful colour combinations are so rarely seen, and yet they immediately made me think of Thief & Bandit. Amie combines colours and materials in beautiful and unexpected ways.

Friday, November 5, 2010


This posting was originally found on Teenangster, and I just copied it over, as there wasn't anything I could say that Allison had not already:
The creatures that ooze, float and pulse near the ocean’s floor are a rarely viewed breed unto themselves. Magnhild Disington, along with fashion designer Emma Jorn, created this collection of ramshackle textile, yarn and fur abstract objects, loosely inspired by deep sea creatures, sensations and atmosphere of life down in the dark waters. These creatures are equal part imagination and possibility. See more deep sea creatures in the video.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

klaus pichler

This photo is part of the Skeletons in the Closet project by Klaus Pichler. All the photographs were taken in museums, not of the exhibitions themselves, but behind the scenes. There is an appealing sort of jumble to the specimens, most of which are thrown together with little are. They make for a compelling composition but this lone wing-tip is my favourite.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Fungi by Groundwork found on

Here in Vancouver, as the rain sets in, it is Fungus season.
Last weeks walk in the woods revealed many fascinating varieties, none of which I have the skill to identify. However, I'm grateful that someone can, as wild crafted mushrooms are appearing at the market and making me hungry.
I was also lucky enough to stumble across this gem a few weeks ago.
Know your Mushrooms the 2009 documentary by Ron Mann. It's bit silly at times but filled with some fascinating bits of information and very knowledgeable nutty old guys tramping about in the woods animatedly spouting the wonders of fungi. They really do know their stuff and the section of the film that was predictably devoted to Psilocybin (magic) mushrooms was not the bulk of the narrative.

I found these beautiful leather mushrooms at but they were reposted from nuno magazine where you can subscribe and find the tutorial.

If you prefer a look at Fungi that is more serious and educational (and narrated by David Attenborough-who you will come to learn is one of my great heroes) here is a clip from the BBC I'm enchanted by the magical dance of the time-lapse filming. And by the many forms that the fungi can take. The white-netted fungus (Phallus indusiatus) being one of the loveliest, and most surprising to watch unfold.

Here it is again in this gorgeous vintage botanical available here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Giant Penguin

Fossil evidence of a giant penguin were found recently. Inkayacu paracasensis or Water King, had brown and grey plumage instead of the modern white and black. Along with the Icadyptes salasi another species discovered a few years ago, these birds lived in what is now Peru about 36 million years ago. They stood over five feet tall and were twice as heavy as today's largest penguin, the Emperor which stands at 3ft 7in and weighs 75 lbs. They may also have been able to dive to great depths judging by their large size. The Emperor often dives to 200m (and the record is 565m)
Articles describing these penguins are from the BBC and can be found here and here.

And strangely the mention of giant penguins makes me think immediately of HP Lovecraft.
An odd association to be sure, but there is a mention of penguins in his 1931 story At The Mountains of Madness.

This white, waddling thing was fully six feet high....a penguin—albeit of a huge, unknown species larger than the greatest of the known king penguins, and monstrous in its combined albinism and virtual eyelessness.

The story has little to do with penguins at all, for some reason their brief presence within the story has stuck with me. They have little significance to the plot but perhaps it is there recognizable familiarity within this strange Lovecraftian mythology that grounds the story. It is actually a tale of an Antarctic Expedition and the discovery of a race of Ancient beings. Genuinely creepy and written with excellent detail I find it to be one of his better stories.

The complete text can be found here.

The image below is from the Spanish Graphic Novel En Las MontaƱas de la Locura illustrated by Enrique Breccia

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Rarely seen in Nature, as day-glo colouring makes it difficult to avoid predators or hunt for prey. Making the existence of these animals all the more amazing and special.

Pink Hippo spotted in Kenya.

Pink Dolphin, not to be confused with the Amazon river dolphin which is also pretty pink.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tooth and Claw

When Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote In Memoriam, it was as an elegy for his friend Arthur Henry Hallam. But it is his description of Nature as "red in tooth and claw" that has created imagery that has lasted over one hundred and fifty years. He was referring to Nature's cruelty for taking the life of a beloved friend, but we are reminded daily that Nature does not share our sentimentality.

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law–
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed–

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?

As Humans we are subject to the whims of Nature.
The entire poem is available here in all its delicious Victorian melodrama.

Two Owls by Debbie Carlos found on Etsy.

Clockwise from top:
Fox claw pendant OdetteNewYork/Tooth Ring e e lewis/Teeth ring by Anne Arden McDonald/Owl Claw necklace by Black Sparrow

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Braided Stream is a convergence of images and ideas surrounding Art, Nature, Craft and Science. Hopefully it will also provide beauty, knowledge and wonder.

The above photograph was taken in 1941 near the junction of the Yukon River and the Koyukuk River in Alaska. This image of many streams running into one another and overlapping, changing course and connections is a visual metaphor for the content of this blog.

Following is a collection of art works that I find visually connected to the photograph and also exhibit the tangle of ideas that this site will include.

Braid drawing by Niall McClelland, ink on paper and really old. See some of his newer work at

The images above were found on etsy and then I lost their information to the ether of cyberspace. They are far too beautiful to exclude though.