Friday, January 17, 2014

Second Finish of 2014-Do You See What I See


Some of you may know this already, but in my non-art life I'm a photoreceptor cell biologist.  I've always said I don't really make science-y quilts, (in contrast to my mom), but in looking at my previous work, I find that's not necessarily the case.  Both Seymour the dinosaur and Ring Around the Mole were very much science-y in their development and outlook, even though I'm in no way an ecologist or paleontologist.  Here, however, I've veered into without-a-doubt-linked-to-my-scientific-work territory with a quilt featuring photoreceptors.

The quilt was based on an electron micrograph taken by my quilty crafty friend Barb, who is a fabulous microscopist.  Photoreceptors are the cells in the very back of your retina which are actually responsible for sensing light and converting it into the chemical/electrical signals that are eventually processed by the brain and register as vision.  They have quite different ultrastructure from other cells, characterized most obviously by a giant long extension from the cell body.  This is called an outer segment and is filled with stacked membranous discs (like a stack of flattened whoopie cushions or something).  These discs are packed with all the proteins necessary for sensing light.  All the photoreceptors in this picture (which came from a mouse retina) are rod photoreceptors which mediate peripheral and low light vision.

Photoreceptors really are the first step in determining how we see the world, thus the name for the quilt, "Do You See What I See" (for me the answer is almost always bright rainbows of color...)

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, 24"x37"

In this second picture I've labeled what these structures are, OS: outer segments, IS: inner segments, CC: connecting cilium.  Protein is synthesized in the inner segment and then is transported through the connecting cilium to the outer segment (by processes which remain highly contentious, in case anyone was wondering what photoreceptor people argue about).  


The quilt is pieced using Caryl Fallert's Appli-piecing method, and the photoreceptor discs were bobbin quilted using some fabulous rainbow wool yarn I got in Germany a couple summers ago. I had monofilament in the top, so in some cases you can see that my discs overlap in a most unscientific fashion, since it was kind of tricky to see where I'd already sewn! All of the organelles/trafficking vesicles/basal bodies/microtubules in the inner segment and connecting cilium are hand done.  There's embroidery with wool crewel yarn and with the rainbow yarn, as well as a fair amount of beading.  I feel like handwork is still one of my weakest skills, but I enjoy it, and it was fun to have something on which to practice.  The blue background was free motion quilted.


Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail

Do You See What I See, c. Shannon Conley, 2014, detail


This quilt feels very "me", and I hope you enjoy seeing it.  Many thanks to Barb,  I can tell you the skills required to capture images like hers are very very rare.

I'm linking up with link-a-finish-Friday, TGIFF, and as always, Nina-Marie's.

13 comments:

  1. I do, it's a fabulous quilt. I really like the colours!

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  2. This is absolutely awesome! So pretty! The colors are just fab, your quilting is beautiful!

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  3. Interesting. I see lots of patience with those tiny tiny details you make.

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  4. Just color-wise this is intriguing. Knowing what your inspiration is makes it more so. I passed along your link to my sewing group to see your mole quilt, btw. Keep doing the hand work, it's er working.
    LeeAnna Paylor
    lapaylor.blogspot.com

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  5. This is so awesome!! I loved the science lesson that went with it too. What an interesting job. I've impressed people before with my limited knowledge of rods and cones in vision but this was like a whole new world of cool knowledge. From a moose too, huh? Interesting, very interesting. This is a great finish. Thanks for sharing and linking up with TGIFF! As an aside my oldest son and I gushed over your dinosaur quilt too.

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  6. Very cool indeed. :-) Reminiscent of work done by a colleague of mine, Patti Morris...http://www.morrisfabricartdesigns.com/gallery.html (scroll down to "H1N1"...) Enjoy!

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  7. Wonderful piece. The rainbow yarn for quilting creates a marvelous effect. You really need no explanation for this piece--it stands on its own...and dances!
    best, nadia

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  8. I love science related art :) Great work.

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  9. This is delightful, I love the rainbow yarn.

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  10. Your colors and shapes are great! Best of luck with your work!

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  11. I also LOVE the alligator on the top of your blog. He's a hoot!

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  12. The colors and design caught my eye first, and the science content blew me away. I love this!

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