Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Artist Profile in Bead & Button Magazine

If you've seen the August 2015 issue of Bead & Button Magazine, you might have noticed a cameo appearance of a Magic O Ball beaded bead on the cover.

Well, that's because I'm featured in this issue's Artist Profile on pages 46-47. It's an honor and it was a pleasure to be interviewed about my work and my artistic and scientific journey. (Though, it's rather surreal to read about myself from a third person point of view!)

I'm doubly honored that the Bead & Button editors found my own photos of my work fit to print. Generally, I try to optimize my photos for web viewing, so I was pleased that they turned out well in print too. They chose several of my geometric designs, such as the above Fiberoptic Dodecahedron beaded beads, and several of my chemical designs too.

I've gotten a couple of questions about the beaded chemical structures featured in this article, so I'd like to do a quick summary of them here. The golden necklace shown below features the chemical structures of the Serotonin and Dopamine molecules, which are neurotransmitters (i.e. chemicals that work with neurons) that have a couple of functions in your brain. Serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and dopamine contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

This necklace uses seed beads, jump rings, and a simple clasp, and the technique used to create it is a variation on Gwen and Florence's Infinity Weave. The advantage of this technique is that it results in flat but supported beaded structures, which are perfect for serotonin and dopamine because these molecules are mostly flat in real life. The beading pattern and kits for this piece are available on my website.

The endorphins are also neurotransmitters, and they're also feel-good molecules. Unlike serotonin and dopamine, endorphins are a type of protein and they're significantly larger and have much more dimensionality, though they're still on the small side as far as proteins are concerned. There are a couple of different types of endorphins, and the specific structure shown in the magazine is the necklace-length alpha-endorphin.

I created this piece with crystals, bugle beads, and seed beads to accurately reflect not only the atoms in an alpha-endorphin molecule, but also the different types of bonds and its dimensionality as well. I entered this piece into the 2013 Bead Dreams competition (where it made the finals!)

The technique behind this piece uses a combination of specific, redundant thread paths and thread tension to mimic the 3D structure of the molecule. While I've applied this technique to other 3D molecular structures, I've yet to come up with the best way of explaining how to create the Endorphin Necklace. I like using a detailed, step-by-step writing approach for my beading patterns, however this isn't a feasible approach for a piece as complex as the Endorphin Necklace as such a pattern would be hundreds of pages long. A more streamlined method of explaining the technique may work, but it would be best-explained in the context of a collection of beaded molecules. Either way, it's something that I will have to carefully consider in the future.

In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about this technique, I have written a pattern for the smaller ethanol molecule, which is the molecule of interest in alcoholic beverages. I paired them with a variety of fruit charms for a pair of earrings that can be made to match your favorite cocktail. The pattern and kits for the Cocktail Hour Earrings are available on my website.

Thanks for looking!
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