Art Meets Science
Scientific artists or artistic scientists?
By: Stephanie Bowen Instagram: @Embroidology
1) Stephanie, would you say you are an artist first and a scientist second, or a scientist first and an artist second?
I don’t do any active research any more, but I still definitely see myself as a scientist first – I trained as a neuroscientist and have loved science since high school, but had to leave my PhD as a result of chronic illness. It was when I was first unable to work on my research that I started embroidery, needing to find something I could work on in short bursts that gave me a focus and an achievable goal, and that helped me relax. So really it was through losing science research that I found science art!
2) What led you to pick science as your theme?
I embroidered science initially because I was missing being able to do research, and I wanted a way to stay connected to the science world. Embroidering science allows me to explore a subject I love from a new perspective, and to appreciate and learn about areas of science that I simply didn’t have time to consider as a PhD student. There is also a lot of beauty in science, and I love being able to share this through my embroideries.
3) Do you have goals with what you do like educate, inspire, stimulate curiosity, or do you do it for yourself?
All of the above!
I started making science embroideries purely for myself during a difficult time, and I love playing with the colours and structure of my design to make something that is aesthetically pleasing, but I soon realised the potential of science embroidery and science art more broadly to engage people in science (as well as looking cool!).
Encouraging others to explore and enjoy science is something which has been important to me for a long time, so along with giving me a purpose in my new circumstances, I see my art as a tool for science engagement, and this is something I want to build on in future projects.
I also stitch with scientists in mind – a lot of the interest in my art comes from people who work in related fields, and I enjoy creating pieces that they can enjoy and that perhaps give them the opportunity to step back and appreciate the beauty of their area of expertise. It can be very easy as a scientist to get caught up in day to day details, and stopping and looking at art can provide a much needed break and change in perspective.
4) What aspect of science do you focus on?
Currently I focus on neuroscience and botany. I started with neuroscience because it is my background and so it is easy for me to find inspiration there, and in my opinion there is very little more beautiful than a brain cell so really they were impossible to resist! I have had to do a fair bit more revision for my botany art, but I think it’s a great field to explore primarily because it is so accessible – plants are all around us, we enjoy gardens and woodlands, and plants are studied throughout school biology classes, so embroideries of plant cells or flower sexual organs are hopefully familiar enough for the science not to scare off people who might think that my art isn’t for them. I also love the patterns in botany so there is plenty for me to base my designs on!
These are my starting points at the moment, but part of why I make my art is to enable me to explore whatever area of science takes my interest, and my very long embroidery ideas list is wide ranging.
5)What kind of media do you prefer?
I almost exclusively make embroidery hoop art (embroidered art that is framed in an embroidery hoop) using bright fabrics and threads.
6) What are your favorite pieces? (In Gallery Below)
It was pretty much impossible to pick a favourite piece, but I always find myself wanting to stitch more of these little astrocyte hoops and I love the way the cells look on the bright fabrics. Astrocytes are incredible non-neuronal brain cells that have really wide-ranging roles in the nervous system, from maintaining the blood-brain barrier to regulating the connections between neurons. I have been fascinated by these cells since studying them as an undergraduate at Cardiff University, and it definitely helps me as an artist that they have the beautiful star-like structure that they are named for! I never draw my astrocytes before stitching, and love that every piece is unique as a result.
7) Do you sale your art? Do you take commissions? Do you have etsy store, or other social media accounts you show art on? If so how would people contact you to talk about these things?
My embroideries will be for sale in my etsy store when I open it – the best way to find out when that happens will be to follow me on Instagram or Twitter, @embroidology. I currently sell digital versions of some of my designs on redbubble on various items including clothing, cards and stickers as embroidology-SB, and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more!
8) Where are you from?
I’m from the UK.