Rose Rushbrooke - Fractal Fern Quilt

Math, Science and the Textile Artist | Mixed Media

Arteries - exploring embroidered expressions with Arlee Barr


Science and math might seem unlikely subjects for the contemporary textile artist, but through history, artists in all media have played with perspective (Salvador Dali), geometry (M.C. Escher), and  detailed recordings of natural phenomena (Ernst Haeckel). Think of tesselated designs, trompe l’oeil and Islamic art that showcases mathematical and symbolic precision.

Chemical Formula for Bromophenol

There are fractals everywhere now in our common society. Whether digitally produced or seen in nature, many artists are captivated by the visuals:

Mold Fractal

and the spirit of the fractal in unexpected places:

Romanesco Broccoli
Jhane Barnes uses fractals or “computer algorithms” as she calls them in her weaving and textile designs, being one of the first textile artists to explore the possibilities. (See the DVD or catch on PBS “Hunting the Hidden Dimension” for a history and explanation of fractals and their place in modern mathematics and science.)
Rose Rushbrooke has focused for years on the beauty of fractals in her quilted masterpieces. Small but detailed, they present a fascinating hands on interpretation of a new art form.

Rose Rushbrooke - Fern Fractal Quilt
Rose Rushbrooke – Fern Fractal Quilt

Recently Rose has also started designing anamorphosis quilts: the one below is a catatropic anamorphic design, with a mirror showing the quilt as it normally would have been made.

Rose Rushbrooke - Cataprophic Anamorphic Quilt
Rose Rushbrooke – Cataprophic Anamorphic Quilt

To read more about this style, Rose has an interesting article also about the history and other artists uses–you may find yourself with a crick in your neck!
Some artists find parts of the body entrancing, whether on the microscopic level

Neurons by "Voracious Brain"
Neurons by “Voracious Brain”

…or the obvious.

Arlee Barr - Raggedy Black Heart detail
Arlee Barr – Raggedy Black Heart detail

Current projects focused on creating Textile art using math or science as inspiration are as diverse as Madeleine Shepherd and Julia Collins The Mathematician’s Shirts, the Open Source projects for the Digital Commons , with the Fractals project directed by our very own Jamie, the MrXStitch boss man himself, and the world famous Hyperbolic Crochet Reef.

The periodic elements table has been fodder for  Alyse Anderson:

Alyse Anderson - Potassium Elements Pillow
Alyse Anderson – Potassium Elements Pillow

With hand and machine embroidery, the Flickr group “Embroidery and Science” has many stunning examples.
For the truly math and science oriented machine embroiderer  math_craft_projects and  science_craft_projects or  fractal embroidery.
Dust off the high school and college textbooks, and scope out biology, botany, physics and calculus, algebra and elements for inspiration in your art! Geeks unite!

Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as “curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated“. Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog and shop.

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