Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bead Art at the Joint Mathematics Meetings 2012

I just got back from Boston, MA, where I gave a talk on "Using Tiling Theory to Generate Weaving Patterns with Beads (PDF)" at the Joint Mathematics Meetings.  This image shows the basic idea of what I presented. 
I also showed five of my beaded star weaves bracelets in the Mathematical Art Exhibit which I designed using the ideas I presented.  Here I am posing with my bracelets and the handout I distributed at the meeting. 
You might recognize some of these beaded bracelets.  From left to right, they are Kepler's Star, Archimedes Star, David's Star, Night Sky and Snow Star. You can see my beads at 0:57 in this short video about the exhibit narrated by Robert Fathauer, a regular curator of mathematical art.
Someday soon, I'll finish a complete paper explaining all of the details of my talk, with my coauthor Blake Mellor.  Blake and I met at the meeting to review our paper together (version 14), and after years of writing, we are getting close to being done and submitting it for publication.  (You might remember Blake as the mathematician with whom I wrote about the symmetry of beaded beads. He is a mathematical rock star as far as I'm concerned. If you don't want to buy the journal's version of our paper, you can download a PDF file of the pre-print for free here: beaded beads paper.  The publisher's version has undergone peer review and revision by the editors at the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.  The writers and editors of JMA are many of the same people who spoke gave talks on mathematical art, and showed their work in the mathematical art exhibit.)  Here you can see me with about half of the exhibit.  
I am happy to report that the JMM mathematical art exhibit has been getting noticeably larger every year as more people hear about it, and the organizers of the meetings provide more space to show all of the entries.  This year, there were over 80 artists showing their work, but only three sets by beaders.  In addition to me, the folks over at The Beaded Molecules showed three pieces.  You can see me standing right next to their giant beaded beads above.  Susan Goldstine and Ellie Baker also had a nice set of bead crocheted bracelets, and Ellie let me take a picture of her next to them below.  
Susan gave a slick and elegant talk on how they designed their bead crochet patterns right before I spoke.  It was nice that they scheduled the talks of beading together.  In general, the JMM are amazingly well organized.  Mathematicians are good like that.

Here's a little history of JMM and bead art (and me):  Last year (January 2011) my Ionic Beaded Beads were the only bead art in the exhibit, and the year before (2010) I didn't exhibit, so I got the task of writing an article about it for JMA instead.   The only beads in 2010 were bead crochet bracelets, by you guessed it, Susan Goldstine and Ellie Baker and this time joined by Sophie Sommer.  In 2009, there were no beads, and in 2008, Laura Shea showed a few pieces with triangle weave.  Laura also showed triangle weave and beaded polyhedra in 2007.  In 2006, I showed a selection of symmetric beaded beads, and they were the only beads in the exhibit. Blake and I also presented a talk on our associated paper that I mentioned above.

The first art exhibit at JMM that I participated was in 2005.  There were only 21 artists that year and nobody submitted any beads, including me.  I hadn't started beading yet, but I did paint, and my piece was gouache and ink on paper, called Symmetry 1.  Maybe you can see that what I was doing then with ink and paint is similar to what I'm doing now with beaded angle weave designs.  I believe the art exhibit started in 2004, but that year's exhibit is not posted on line.  As far as I know, there were no beads in the exhibit or contributed paper sessions before mine in 2006.

Here is a link to the complete list of related mathematical art exhibits organized within Bridges and the JMM, just in case you'd like to sit here a while an appreciate more mathematical art.  I know you'll find more of Laura Shea's bead work in the Bridges' conference exhibits there every year from 2006 to 2010, and perhaps a few other pieces of bead work if you search for it.  They've got the eye-and-brain candy if you have the time.  Go make a cup of tea.  Stay a while.


  1. You commented that no fiber or bead work had won a prize at JMM. Is it true about other discrete forms as well? I'm thinking of the quilt like paper or painted arrays for the most part. Is it possible that the continuous work seems more like "art" while the discrete seems more "crafty"?

  2. I want to clarify that to the best of my knowledge, no needle craft has won an award at this show, and also, the awards are relatively new, only going back three years, I think. I would not claim that the preference for awards has gone to continuous over discrete, but I will say that if I had been the juror, I only would have chosen less than half of the same pieces for the ribbons in the last three shows. I clearly have a different aesthetic from the folks who choose the winners, which is just one more example of why I generally don't care for art contests. I enter the JMM shows to exhibit my work to a large mathematical audience, and not to enter a contest. You might notice that I didn't mention the contest in this article, and that was not an accidental omission.

  3. Gwen this is really fabulous! Congraulations!!!!

  4. I am so enthralled by all this, Gwen. I was heavily into fractals for several years (using UltraFractal) but never understood the math! I love the beads you make and the geometry involved. I just don't understand the math part -- only the beauty! Congrats on this accomplishment. That's awesome!

  5. Thnk you Mandy, and thanks to you too Sally. I really love the JMM. I am always inspired when I return home from one. No matter how much you know, there is always so much more math to learn!

  6. Gwen, you are such a geek and I mean that in the best of ways. :) I enjoy your reading about your approach. I am good at math; I like the puzzle aspect. These day I hardly do anything more complex than balancing my check book and cooking. Thank you for sharing this was fascinating.

    By the way, I agree with you on art contests.

  7. Kj, thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I have been learning to love my inner geek more and more each year. I hope this blog post shows that I fully embrace her now. I'm not holding back, anymore. If my work speaks to someone, even just me, then I won.

  8. That's just great!!!
    Thank you, that you share this with your readers!
    Best wishes and greetings for you from Lower-Austria:

  9. OK, I still haven't looked at everything, but this is a total treasure trove. I loved looking at your history of beaded art at the JMM, and seeing the paper crafts makes me want to pick up some origami paper and start folding. Geek art is the best!

  10. Uli and Cindy, I'm glad you enjoyed this article. I got a little carried away with the links, but I couldn't stop until I did them all. The origami art has been pretty amazing, although quite limited to a handful of artist. Most of the art is 2D, and I think most of those are prints designed on a computer. I hope to see bead art and other needlecraft increase at the exhibit in the coming years.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...