Ideas vacuum now gone! Head full of ideas! BUZZING! (but also a little mentally drained). How exciting to have come upon a series of TED talks about gut bacteria and mental health, dementia, etc. This came about when I stopped imagining ‘food’ as a medium to be used and began thinking more of ‘food for thought’, using it more as a concept to work with alongside mind to inform what to make with textile techniques …. perhaps, some representation of the dual brain idea I have been learning about… a sort of textile piece, info-graphic about the relationship of our gut biome to the brain via the vegus nerve.

Much of what I have listened to and followed up on is quite intuitive on one level, but it is fascinating to hear the ‘science’ behind how important bacteria are in our lives. This however, comes as a bit of a shock (below) and certainly provoked some raised eye-brows followed by interesting debate about what it means to be human in group crit about our initial research and ideas for the week.

Also… the gut biome is as large an ‘organ’ as the brain!

I went on a hunt for textile supplies to experiment with and found a range of yarns and embroidery threads to play around with.

Palette and tools
  1. I found some gorgeous, silky, grey, chunky yarn that made me think ‘bowel’ and some double knitting wool in grey that said ‘brain’ to me. Not the usual thoughts I have when browsing in the wool shop! – but hey ho, that’s Fine Art for you.
  2. I selected a range of colourful double knitting yarns and matching embroidery skeins. I’m thinking that the colours will make bacteria (wool in the gut) and neurons (embroidery thread) in the brain…. matching motifs that speak of the relationship between the bacteria and brain function. The colourful aspect also references the interesting theory put forward by Neal Barnard in his TED talk about colourful food (antioxidants) promoting a good gut flora and supporting their role in preventing the formation of free radicals in the body and oxidised metal plaques in the brain.
  3. To represent the vegus nerve that connects the bowel and the brain as John Cryan put it in his TED talk ‘the bi-directional gut brain relationship’ I chose some shiny metallic threads – thinking electricity and neuron firing – because they are sparkly.
  4. I have started to French Knit the double knitting yarn to create the brain. It is serendipitous that it coils itself up as you knit and quite spontaneousy looks like brain folds in the grey matter – woolly gyrification!

I wanted to make embroidery thread ‘ropes’ in a similar way to weave through the grey matter and represent the communication pathways in the brain but found that my French knitting dolly was too large for the fine thread. Rather fun – I made a narrower gauge one with an empty bobbin and some pins made out of bent floristry wire – very successful!

Interestingly, or more ‘surprising’ really, was finding – in group crit- how few others have even heard of French Knitting!

5. The French Knitting can become quite monotonous so, for relief from that, I have a bunch of other activities to pick up and put down for a bit of a change. Making tiny pompoms for example.

6. I am making a range of motifs to represent bacteria using a variety of techniques, French knitted tube motifs, crocheted shapes etc. The plan is that there will be a ratio of 10:1 bacteria motifs that relate to knitted neurons motifs (in the embroidery thread). I will weave the bowel yarn around the former and the brain wool around the latter…. applique-ing them onto a hessian back has come up as an idea. Through the whole will run stitching of the sparkly thread……. much experimentation to do!