Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nature's designs for inspiration

Several scientists look to nature's designs for answers to problems.

Andrew Parker, evolutionary biologist associated with the Natural Museum of London, examines a thorny devil, in the sands of Australia near Alice Springs. The little lizard whose name sounds more dangerous than the short little guy who stands only about an inch high at the shoulders teaches Parker how to absorb water. It wicks the water up through its feet someway, until it is covered with water and it eventually gets to his mouth. As the scientist watched, the lizard smacked its lips in evident delight as the water trickled down its throat.

This research, biomimetics, will help humans better deal with the dry desert and search for water. And this is not his first or only project.
"Parker is a leading proponent of biomimetics—applying designs from nature to solve problems in engineering, materials science, medicine, and other fields. He has investigated iridescence in butterflies and beetles and anti reflective coatings in moth eyes—studies that have led to brighter screens for cellular phones and an anti counterfeiting technique so secret he can't say which company is behind it. He is working with Procter & Gamble and Yves Saint Laurent to make cosmetics that mimic the natural sheen of diatoms, and with the British Ministry of Defense to emulate their water-repellent properties. He even draws inspiration from nature's past: On the eye of a 45-million-year-old fly trapped in amber he saw in a museum in Warsaw, Poland, he noticed microscopic corrugations that reduced light reflection. They are now being built into solar panels."
Fabric artists look to nature for a variety of designs and patterns, not so much to cure the world's technology or health issues, but as inspiration for unique original creations that make us think and grow. Sometimes the design is meant simply to soothe.

National Geographic has several photos available online for patterns in nature -- sand, minerals, plants -- whatever aspect of nature you see, there you will find patterns to inspire. The crystal below inspires me with its use of color and pattern, juxtaposition of shapes....

Maybe your inspiration is merely a footprint you leave in the sand or mud in your garden -- it impacts the environment and can inspire a piece of art that captures that moment and its consequences for good or ill. People have been inspired to memorable creations, even religious reinforcements, by things as small as the seed pattern inside of a tomato or apple.

What you see is interpreted by what you bring to it, what is already in your mind. And sometimes just the right leaf or beetle, fruit or sand formation will bring out something you didn't know existed inside your own thoughts. So I hope these photos will help to feed your muse and remind you that this is our world. We are its caretakers and many of us have been asleep on the job.

Anyone interested in putting together an exhibit of nature-inspired fabric art? Or maybe you already have a piece? I would be honored to include a photo here.

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