Beakerhead - Art & Science
I was very lucky to have the opportunity to teach the art component of a Beakerhead workshop this year at the University of Calgary. Beakerhead is a celebration of creativity, ingenuity and action. I copy and pasted directly from their website for a very accurate description😊⬇⬇⬇ If you have not heard of Beakerhead go have a look!
Beakerhead is a registered charity whose mandate is to advance education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering. Beakerhead brings people together through year-round programming that culminates in a five-day citywide spectacle in September with more than 60 events centered around delightfully bizarre engineered installations and artworks. Beakerhead is honoured to be a platform for projects led by members of the community from all cultures. For more information visit: www.beakerhead.com.
I was invited by Dr. Annie Quinney to come up with the artistic half of an amber focused workshop. Dr Quinney is an amber expert and teaches at the University of Calgary. The title of the workshop Move Over Jurassic Park refers to the film of course and how they created a story based on amber that is not in the least bit plausible. The first part of the workshop had everyone looking at real amber provided by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum through high powered microscopes searching for interesting inclusions with Dr Quinney. Someone actually found a beetle and got to name it! My part of the workshop was how to create a movie prop that looks like amber. The fun part of the art project was what you decided to trap in the false amber or “Famber.”
Some people brought their own objects and some people used the very colourful bugs provided by one of Dr Quinney’s helpful colleagues.
Two part epoxy resin was used in place of tree resin to make the false amber. After you measure and mix up the resin the colour is added, you can buy a colourant made specifically for the resin that is actually called amber so that part is pretty simple! You can add more or less and get different results.
The different shapes were achieved by making silicone molds of stones, crystals and other shapes like the pyramid above. I made a variety of molds over the summer. We added in decorative moss to keep the bugs from moving around too much.
I also brought some store bought silicone molds that are for chocolate making and baking. There are all sorts of silicone options once you start looking around.
Below is one of the projects before it came out of the mold. The silicone I use is Moldstar 30 made by Smooth On. It is a very vibrant blue. It’s a two part product with a 1:1 ratio so very easy to work with. The blue colour is added to one half of the mix so that it is easy to mix up thoroughly and easy to measure.
Below is the famber out of the mold looking like one crazy, magical, crystallized amber fossil …which is also impossible but maybe a good jump off for a new story.
The piece below is another big bug in a crystal form. The resin has many bubbles in it. I had to mix all of it up myself and poured it rather quickly and I wasn’t too worried for this type of project. The bubbles don’t detract and there are actually air bubbles found in real amber. Very ancient air resides in them! If you want to have less bubbles in your resin there’s ways to avoid them and minimize them. Time was a factor in this project!
We got to work in some very high tech labs at the University of Calgary. This is one of two amazing fume hoods. I wish I had one of these at home, it was quite fantastic.
This pyramid was a special request. It’s clear resin with no colourant and it has a couple baby teeth in amongst the moss and pine needles preserved forever. Perhaps someone will dig up these false amber fossils one day and make up a fantastical story like Jurassic Park😊