Link to final PDF blog compilation...
Hexagons and Basalt in Nature
I was genuinely shocked to discover in class that nature favors hexagonal patterns. Now, after having looked through examples and discussing, it makes a lot of sense and I’m surprised I never gave it much thought before. From honeycombs to turtle shells, hexagons naturally appear quite often. The article “Patterns in Nature: The Efficiency of Hexagons” explains how hexagon arrays save space (Nature Backin). Stacked circles allow for dead space in between, while triangular or square cells require longer wall length, therefore, hexagons are the most efficient. Hexagonal packing allows for a strong structure with the maximum cells, since each side can be expanded upon. While a honeycomb is more symmetrical and evenly structured, hexagon packing can also be seen in bubble formations where the hexagons differ in size with more rounded corners. Hexagon patterns can additionally be seen in reptile scales, such as the shedded snake skin shown below (Nature Backin). Other examples include pineapples and the outside of some cacti and succulents.
I have always appreciated and loved nature’s landscapes, so remembering the hexagon columns in Giant’s Causeway blew my mind. Giant’s Causeway is located in Northern Ireland. Sometimes I would like to believe the myth and say it was formed by giants, but scientists would argue that it “developed between 50 to 60 million years ago when a flood of lava oozed from fissures in the earth” (Treviño). The molten rock cooled and formed around 40,000 columns in a perfect hexagonal shape along the Antrim coastline, which was subject to intense volcanic activity. The rock is called basalt and can be seen in other areas around the world and in similar hexagonal collumns, such as beaches throughout Iceland. In 2018, researchers at the University of Liverpool led by professor of volcanology, Yan Lavallée wanted a more specific answer and recreated the fragmentation process in a lab. Until then nobody knew the exact temperature, but after experimentation they found “the basalt magma fractured at between 840-890C” and suggests “this is the temperature at which the Giant’s Causeway would have formed” (Devlin). The research above used a 20cm long sample of basalt taken from Iceland, but Lavallée and his colleague mentioned their hopes to use a large pool of magma and recreate the fracturing as the rock is being cooled.
The closest hexagonal basalt structure to Los Angeles is Devils Postpile National Monument located in Madera County, California around five hours north by Mammoth. The Postpile was formed less than 100,000 years ago and began as a lake of lava that also cooled into fractures as Giant’s Causeway did. The National Park Services explains how “no force has left a greater footprint on the Postpile than that of glaciers” with “several distinct glacial periods have occurred since the Postpile was formed and each has dug deeper and deeper into the basaltic trachyandesite” (NPS). The columns of Postpile are around 60ft fall, while Giant’s Causeway is over 80 feet tall. By presidential proclamation in 1911, Devils Postpile was declared a National Monument to further protect and preserve the formation.
Hexagon patterns can be seen in different scales all throughout nature from small fruit patterns to towering structures on the sides of cliffs. It is both efficient and beautiful how these structures naturally occur or are created by animals.
Making Bread and Bread Scuptures
My Bread Making Process:
4 ingredients: whole wheat flour, yeast, sea salt, tap water, sugar
My yeast exploded outside my mug after waiting 30 minutes.
I mixed the ingredients together in a large bowl using my hands and left it to sit overnight. (photo taken following morning, dough expanded)
In the morning, I added more flour and folded/rolled dough into a ball. I tried to make a design on the top, but I failed, and it did not work after baking.
After baking in a pot at 500 degrees in oven. I baked for 20 minutes with a lid, then 10 minutes without lid. The bread raised, but not as much as I expected it to.
Final product! The bread was steaming coming out of the oven and smelling very good. I expected the bread to have more air pockets, but it was very densely packed. I thought it tasted good, but my mother said it was too salty. I only had sea salt, so maybe that made it taste saltier, or I should have used less and mixed the dry ingredients better. Furthermore, I only had wheat flour on hand, I would have preferred to mix white and wheat for next time. I ate the bread plain, with butter, and with oil and balsamic vinegar. Bread with olive oil and balsamic is one of my favorite ways to eat bread and was even better with this fresh bread. The leftovers I refrigerated and toasted the next day, and it still tasted great.
Next time I bake bread I want to try bread art and do a cool design like the one above. The process video of the bread above in linked at the bottom. The baker makes it look so easy!
I also would like to try to make decorated focaccia bread one day! The baker of the bread tagged it as "Vincent Van Dough." The topping/decor on top consists of kalamata olives, fresh herbs, yellow peppers and grapes.
As for bread art within the context of more tradition fine arts, Matteo Lucca created Human Sculpture. The sculpture is made entirely of bread, and he constructed an oven especially for the project. The sculptures look a tad eerie, but very interesting nonetheless. He experimented with burning the bread and breaking off certain parts.
Lucca states the bread "emanates all the force and fragility of the human body" and "becomes a recognizable and familiar element, the only reassuring element in a situation that can be perceived as alienating and unsettling."
I was surprised by the amount of detail in the bread faces. I also thought it was interesting how he juxtaposed the bread with a donkey grazing, relating back to the origin of bread and wheat. I hope nobody ate the bread sculptures, because that would make me very uncomfortable. All in all, I enjoyed baking bread for the first time and loved eating the fresh bread even more. I hope to bake bread again some time soon and try out a different style of bread.
Kombucha and SCOBY Leather Bio Couture
I started making kombucha! I ended up using one green tea bag and one black tea, but the color seemed to take on the normal black tea brown shade. I used a glass jar after reading that metal and plastic containers might interfere with the process. The SCOBY looked really strange pouring it into the tea and was very slimy. My cousins made their own kombucha once, and it exploded on them, so I read online to not put a sealed lid on the jar. I did not have any cheesecloth so instead, I used a coffee filter with tight rubber bands as recommended on the site, in case I forget to check on it and let it breathe.
I also added flour and water to the mycelium bag and hopefully the bag will be ready by next class! Thank you so much for the lab supplies! I was so excited when the box arrived.
In class was the first time I learned about bioCouture and using sustainable fabrics within fashion. I love the idea and really hope it becomes main stream and is able to be mass-produced, especially with the toxic fast fashion industry growing. I found some SCOBY leather art created at the University of Xaragoza, Spain. It was made through The Institution for Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems area Chemistry & MCB Institution. The description for their project is as followed…
“The brief was to create new products and applications on prototype format made of bacterial cellulose (vegan-friendly leather made from Kombucha scoby and green tea) with tools and machines from the Workshop Open Art (Fab Lab) on eTOPIA Center of Art & Technology”
It is hard to tell the scale of the chair, but I think it is a really neat concept. I’m curious the weight capacity of the chair and if the SCOBY leather could hold the weight of a person. I love the details on the mini wallet cardholder and how the ends fit together almost like a puzzle piece. The bracelets and sandal is beautiful as well, and I like how the artist used a zigzag pattern and cut into the leather. I wish I was able to find more research on the artwork created in this lab and see their process in detail.
I also found this leather jacket made by artist Claud Clatworthy, inspired by Suzanne Lee’s method and BioCouture. I assume the red is dyed using beet juice and I love the color blocking she used with the leather. Additionally, I thought it was interesting to contrast the vegan leather with the plastic zipper and other black fabric. This seems to make the garment more practical, but also takes away from the environmental aspects. Overall, I’m excited to taste my kombucha in a few weeks and enjoyed researching more examples of BioCouture with SCOBY leather.
Hiking and Mycelium Bio-Materials
I had a lot of fun hiking and get out into nature! I hiked through Placerita Canyon Nature Center and did the Hillside and Canyon Trail (a little over 4 miles round trip). Placerita is located on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains southeast of Santa Clarita. On the hike there were a lot of stumps, and I was excited to find mushrooms growing on the side of them!
Through iNaturalist I identified the mushrooms as Trametes Betulina or Gilled Polypore. They fruit from early to late winter and are inedible for being too tough according to "The Fungi of California" Mykoweb website. As many polypore mushrooms, this species has a fan-shaped appearance.
The following day I also hiked Escondido Falls in Malibu. It is located in the Santa Monica Mountains off the Pacific Coast Highway. The above photo is of the lower falls, but as shown the water level was very low with only a small trickle and flow into the stream. I attempted to hike to the upper falls, but the rock steep limestone was very loose and every step up hill would cause a small rock slide below. I wore the wrong shoes and the rock was not steady enough to climb up, so I decided to head back down and go to the upper falls a different day. A local mentioned that the rocks do not normally crumble underneath your step and it was an easier trek uphill in the past. I definitely want to go back and hike to the top upper falls when I'm more prepared and better equipped.
On the way back I collected invasive plant to use for the dye. I looked through the list of invasive California species ahead of time, but struggled to spot specific ones. I had no service on the hike and the app was not working right, so I couldn't identify the plant on the spot. I found this red stem plant on the side of the trail that was numerous and appeared to be a weed and invasive, so I collected a sample. The stem was surprisingly strong and hard to break off.
Once I got home I photographed the plant and attempted to identify it. The suggestions on iNaturalist did not add up, and it did not match any previous entries in the area. I then scrolled through a database of hundreds of California plants. The closest match I could find was Brush Seepweed also known as Suaeda Nigra or Mojave sea-blite. I looked again on iNaturalist and certain photos looked very similar, but not all of them.
As for mycelium bio materials I explored artist Danielle Trof's work. The lamp above is a part of his MushLume Cup Light series and features lamp pendents made from mushroom based biomaterials. The ceiling in the below image is also made from the same mushroom material.
Experiment Updates + Kelp
I really enjoyed last week's class and how hands on we were! I have never tried natural dying before this. For reference the plant I collected is shown on the right. I was surprised to find the color turned into a bright yellow. The plant had bright green leaves, reddish stem, and the inside was more of a light yellow. I was expecting the color to be either green or reddish brown based off the plant's appearance, but I did not think to consider the inside tone of the plant which was much lighter. I ended up leaving the dye in a glass jar for slightly longer than a day then rinsed it out. I dyed two packs of cotton thread from Emma's package and an old cotton white t-shirt I had. I still need to dry it, but I'm excited to see how it turns out, and I'm happy with the color.
I also checked up on the mycelium and the straw turned from light brown to almost completely white. I'm looking forward to eventually creating a bio-material from it.
I additionally checked up on the kombucha. The leather top film is forming and there is more of a white film material forming and floating at the top. It seems to be turning out alright.
I have still never tasted kombucha, so I bought a bottle at the store this week. As soon as I opened it, bubbles formed at the top in a hexagon pattern. I thought it was perfectly fitting for the class and was a pleasant surprise! As for the taste, the kombucha was very strong and tart. I bought strawberry lemonade flavored, and I think next time I will go with a different lighter flavor.
In Emma's wonderful presentation I was shocked to learn that they clear the beach of kelp in Santa Monica. I researched more into this, and it is called "beach grooming." In addition to harming the kelp forest it also greatly affects sand dwellers and grunion eggs.
In Southern California, it is estimated that "45% or over 100 miles of beaches are groomed reguarly" (UCSB). On a beach in Santa Barbra it was also estimated that "4 tons (the weight of two cars) of fresh kelp is deposited on a mile of beach per day during the summer" and thus that much is being groomed and removed from the ocean per mile (UCSB).
I was very sad to find this out, and I understand the want to keep the beach "clean," however it is just projecting a false image of nature and causing so much more harm. I also feel its fairly easy to avoid the kelp on an un-groomed beach or even explore it. I have never thought of kelp as being a nuisance. I now have a much greater appreciation for seaweed and all the products that use alginate after learning more about it from class! Overall, love learning all these new things and excited to see how the dying, kombucha, and mycelium turn out.
Year of the OX + Plankton
Happy belated Chinese New Year! Hoping the best for the year of the Ox. The most prominent memory I have of an ox or cow is when I saw this highland cattle in a field and just so happened to have my camera on me. I love the highland cow’s fluffy bangs and think they are so funny and cute. I felt like the cow was almost posing for me.
I was researching zodiac related art and came upon “Yùn Tea - Tea Art of the Chinese Horoscope.” The tea product packaging design is specifically based off each sign with a different unique flavor too. The tea flavors are based off each animal’s lucky flower. The side packaging also gives the origin story of the sign and other prominent traits. I think the shape of the tea is really beautifully designed, and I would definitely buy it.
I also found this cool poster design by Roberto Sanchez. I thought the typography and geometric ox was very well done.
Lastly, back to noise pollution and plankton I found this pitch deck for a web experience called Aquatilis Expedition. Their website is still in progress but is an interactive website exploring plankton.
“Design studio House of van Schneider teamed up with underwater photographer Alexander Semenov and his team to create the brand identity and interactive experience for the Aquatilis Expedition, a three-year interdisciplinary research journey through the world’s oceans. The expedition will be the world’s first global study of gelatinous plankton, small, soft-bodied creatures that are important research subjects but difficult to study because they are too fragile to be harvested and brought back to a lab” (commarts).
Horseshoe Crab Blue Blood + Paint Making
I really enjoyed Sasha Fisherman’s presentation and learned a lot of new information. I also appreciated Emma posting more information on horseshoe crabs. I previously knew horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest living species, but was unaware of their blue blood and how valuable it is. According to Carrie Arnold from National Geographic the lysate from their blood costs $60,000 per gallon. Horseshoe crabs are the only natural source of limulus amebocyte lysate, which detects endotoxin. Due to the Covid-19 virus, their blood has been in even more demand.
“Every year, pharmaceutical companies round up half a million Atlantic horseshoe crabs, bleed them, and return them to the ocean— after which many will die. This practice, combined with overharvesting of the crabs for fishing bait, has caused a decline in the species in the region in the past few decades” according to Arnold.
In 1990, it was estimated 1.24 million crabs spawned in Delaware Bay and by 2019 only 335,211 crabs spawned due to over harvesting practices. I also thought it was interesting that they have nine eyes. I also know naturally occurring blue is rarer than other colors, so I was surprised to see how vibrant their blood was. It makes me really sad that horseshoe crabs have survived 445 million years, yet is currently endangered due to human practices. The American horseshoe crab is listed as vulnerable to extinction, the tri-spine horseshoe crab is endangered, and two Asian horseshoe crab species are expected to be on the Red List soon. These are the only four species left and only one is found in America. The photo of them harvesting their blood made me really sad and looks painful to the crab. I know their blood is important and saves lives, but I wish the synthetic alternative was more widely used. I truly hope the horseshoe crab stays alive and their whole ecosystem won’t collapse.
I also really enjoyed making the blue paint and then using it! I used water and honey with mine. I noticed it took longer to dry than watercolors, but had a similar consistency to watercolor or acrylic depending on how much water I added. I also noticed after drying it had an interesting shine to it, which I liked. Although when drying it was still sticky and my pages and sleeve almost stuck to the paint. Overall, it was another fascinating week in class and I enjoyed the hands on paint making.
Week Eight, Nine, Ten
I started making a diagram between all the topics we covered each week in class. The boxed titles are the overarching topics for the week, while the circles are overlapping subtopics. I noticed a trend of everything relating back to sustainability, being eco-conscious, and becoming inspired through nature and design. Throughout several weeks there was a lot of overlap between researching bio-materials and sustainability within manufacturing, particularly textiles, leather, dye, and thread. It got me more interested in bio-couture and I didn't realize how many bio leather alternatives there are. Another prominent topic we discussed was food. Mushrooms can both be eaten and made into bio-materials through mycelium, similarly to scoby leather and drinks. It makes sense to think of what you put into your body and don't, versus what one puts into nature. The earth deserves even more care with plastic and micro-plastics being a serious issue. Thus, the replacement with bio-materials is evermore crucial. The topic of pollution also came up often as well, from noise pollution to plastic to manufacturing. Most importantly, we looked over unique aspects of nature that was very inspiring. From hagfish to the millions of fungi species and kelp, we took a closer look into a specific parts of nature and their special properties and processes. Biomimicry design ties heavily to sustainability, which I found very interesting and relevant. We looked at the current state of Earth through a critical lens and discussed changes to be made. Nature, design, and the overall environment are closely linked and intertwined.
Wood Wide Web Mycelium Network Painted on SCOBY Leather with Algae Pigment