Tiny Tapestries
September 19, 2022 5:06 PM   Subscribe

The Tiny but Mighty exhibit was in Knoxville, TN in conjunction with Convergence this summer. This was the biennial un-juried small format show for members of American Tapestry Alliance. One hundred thirty eight small tapestries hung at the Emporium Gallery from July 1-29th . The emphasis this year was in “new approaches to design, materials and/or techniques in creating a small tapestry.”
posted by Bottlecap (7 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
These are cool! Thanks for sharing this.
posted by latkes at 7:31 PM on September 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Those are fun, thanks for posting! It’s not my jam but I really like to see what the tapestry folks get up to. Especially when they work small.
posted by janell at 9:25 PM on September 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

That last fish tapestry is brilliant. I just keep looking at it.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:46 AM on September 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

the wrapped one is a technique I've seen before but the brilliance of the yellow framing and the colour mixing is just beautiful and captivating. I so badly want to touch all of them!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:22 AM on September 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

These are lovely. I especially appreciate the walnut tree.

Despite the following being dangerously close to a self-cite, I have to comment, because I have loved the concept of tiny but mighty tapestries for decades. It's so fun. There's a whole scientific community that focuses on this. Only, for us "tiny" doesn't mean 10 inches by 10 inches, but rather closer to 1 micron by 1 micron -- one hundred times smaller than the width of a human hair. To make tapestries that small, we don't weave with our hands, but rather we design molecules that weave themselves, using single strands of DNA as thread. Back in high school, my (wonderful) physics teacher used to snark at us when we weren't trying hard enough, "what do you think this is? underwater basket weaving?" Little did I know that soon that would be my main expertise.

Let me show you some example of our field's work!

The opening image of the Tiny but Mighty exhibit appears to be a 10 by 10 inch tapestry of a virus. That's about a magnification factor of about a million: a typical virus is about 100 nanometers in diameter. This reminded me of researchers who wove a 1x1 micron tapestry with an image of a bacterium, only this image was roughly life-size. They also made a rooster, a circuit diagram, a chess board, and the Mona Lisa. Admittedly, the artistic quality does not match the Tiny but Mighty exhibit, but still, they are tiny!

The yellow framed tapestry of the exhibit reminds me of a series of papers where the authors wove DNA origami frames to help them clearly observe DNA structural changes and enzyme activities.

A bit more like macrame than tapestry, some other scientists made a 200 nanometer image of hummingbirds and flowers to show off their latest DNA design skills.

This art form got started about 15 years ago, when a scientist at Caltech figured out to reliably design DNA molecules whose computer-design sequences contain information specifying where each one should go in the final tapestry, such that all you have to do to actually make it is email the sequences to a DNA synthesis company, mix all the tubes of DNA together, add a pinch of salt, heat it up and cool it down. Then image it on an atomic force microscope -- you can't see the tapestries with an optical microscope, because the wavelengths of visible light are from 400 to 800 nanometers, so these self-assembled tapestries are smaller than a photon! Anyway, he made 100 nanometer tapestries with pictures of snowflakes, of the double-helix, and a map of the Americas. He called it "DNA origami".

Here's an oversimplified computer-graphics animation of the self-assembly / weaving process. And a short TED talk. And a longer one.

OK, so maybe that's amusing to some of you who like tapestries. Or maybe not, and maybe this is just an inappropriate derail -- some of the links above are to work by my wife and by a close friend. Editors, please delete this comment if it violates Metafilter policy!
posted by brambleboy at 10:05 AM on September 20, 2022 [18 favorites]

This is amazing and so so deserving of a fpp itself! Holy wow! Thank you for sharing this.
posted by Bottlecap at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Thank you, Bottlecap, for the FPP, and thanks to brambleboy for the fascinating comment and links.
posted by winesong at 3:03 PM on September 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

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