A Medical Student Creates Intricate Anatomical Embroideries of the Brain, Heart, Lungs & More

My first thought upon seeing the delicate, anatomy-based work of the 23-year-old embroidery artist and medical student Emmi Khan was that the Girl Scouts must have expanded the categories of skills eligible for merit badges.

(If memory serves, there was one for embroidery, but it certainly didn’t look like a cross-sectioned brain, or a sinus cavity.)

Closer inspection revealed that the circular views of Khan’s embroideries are not quite as tiny as the round badges stitched to high achieving Girl Scouts’ sashes, but rather still framed in the wooden hoops that are an essential tool of this artist’s trade.

Methods both scientific and artistic are a source of fascination for Khan, who began taking needlework inspiration from anatomy as an undergrad studying biomedical sciences. As she writes on her Moleculart website:

Science has particular methods: it is fundamentally objective, controlled, empirical. Similarly, art has particular methods: there is an emphasis on subjectivity and exploration, but there is also an element of regulation regarding how art is created... e.g. what type of needle to use to embroider or how to prime a canvas.

The procedures and techniques adopted by scientists and artists may be very different. Ultimately, however, they both have a common aim. Artists and scientists both want to 1) make sense of the vastness around them in new ways, and 2) present and communicate it to others through their own vision. 

A glimpse at the flowers, intricate stitches, and other dainties that populate her Pinterest boards offers a further peek into Khan’s methods, and might prompt some readers to pick up a needle themselves, even those with no immediate plans to embroider a karyotype or The Circle of Willis, the circular anastomosis of arteries at the base of the brain.

The Cardiff-based medical student delights in embellishing her threaded observations of internal organs with the occasional decorative element—sunflowers, posies, and the like…

She makes herself available on social media to answer questions on subjects ranging from embroidery tips to her relationship to science as a devout Muslim, and to share works in progress, like a set of lungs that embody the Four Seasons, commissioned by a customer in the States.

To see more of Emmi Khan’s work, including a downloadable anatomical floral heart embroidery pattern, visit Molecularther Instagram page, or her Etsy shop.

via Colossal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, February 3 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates New York: The Nation’s Metropolis (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Visual Introduction to Kintsugi, the Japanese Art of Repairing Broken Pottery and Finding Beauty in Imperfection

Kintsugi, the Japanese art of joining broken pottery with gleaming seams of gold or silver, creates fine art objects we can see as symbols for the beauty of vulnerability. Surely, these bowls, cups, vases, etc. remind of us Leonard Cohen’s oft-quoted lyric from “Anthem” (“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”) Writer and artist Austin Kleon touches on this same sentiment in a recent post on his blog. “The thing I love the most about Kintsugi is the visible trace of healing and repair—the idea of highlighted, glowing scars.”

Kintsugi, which translates to “golden joinery,” has a history that dates back to the 15th century, as Colin Marshall explained in a previous post here. But it’s fascinating how much this art resonates with our contemporary discourse around trauma and healing.




“We all grow up believing we should emphasize the inherent positives about ourselves,” writes Marshall, “but what if we also emphasized the negatives, the parts we’ve had to work to fix or improve? If we did it just right, would the negatives still look so negative after all?”

A key idea here is “doing it just right.” Kintsugi is not a warts-and-all presentation, but a means of turning brokenness into art, a skillful realization of the Japanese idea of wabi-sabi, the “beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete,” as Leonard Koren writes in Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Objects that represent wabi-sabi “may exhibit the effects of accident, like a broken bowl glued back together again.” In kintsugi, those effects are due to the artist’s craft rather than random chance.

When it comes to healing psychic wounds so that they shine like precious metals, there seems to be no one perfect method. But when we’re talking about the artistry of kintsugi, there are some—from the most refined artisanship to less rigorous do-it-yourself techniques—we can all adopt with some success. In the video at the top, learn DIY kintsugi from World Crafted’s Robert Mahar. Further up, we have an intensive, wordless demonstration from professional kintsugi artist Kyoko Ohwaki.

And just above, see psychologist Alexa Altman travel to Japan to learn kintsugi, then make it “accessible” with an explanation of both the physical process of kintsugi and its metaphorical dimensions. As Altman shows, kintsugi can just as well be made from things broken on purpose as by accident. When it comes to the beautifully flawed finished product, however, perhaps how a thing was broken matters far less than the amount of care and skill we use to join it back together.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch The Insects’ Christmas from 1913: A Stop Motion Film Starring a Cast of Dead Bugs

Kind Reader,

Will you do us the honor of accepting our holiday invitation?

Carve five minutes from your holiday schedule to spend time celebrating The Insects' Christmas, above.

In addition to offering brief respite from the chaos of consumerism and modern expectations, this simple stop-motion tale from 1913 is surprisingly effective at chasing away holiday blues.

Not bad for a short with a supporting cast of dead bugs.




Animator Ladislas Starevich began his cinematic manipulations of insect carcasses early in the 20th century while serving as Director of Kaunas, Lithuania’s Museum of Natural History. He continued the experiment after moving to Moscow, where he added such titles as Insects' Aviation Week, Amusing Scenes from the Life of Insects and famously, The Cameraman’s Revenge, a racy tale of passion and infidelity in the insect world.

The Insects' Christmas is far gentler.

Think Froggy Went a Courtin’, or Miss Spider’s Wedding with an old time Christmas spin

Shades too of Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann and other stories wherein toys wait for their human owners to retire, so they may spring to life—though Starewizc’s sleepy doll seems to have more in common with the Christmas tree's absent owners than the tiny Father Christmas ornament who clamors down to party al fresco with the insects.

Contemporary composer Tom Peters underscores the wholesome vintage action—skiing, skating, squabbling over a Christmas cracker—with a mix of traditional carols and original music performed on ukulele, drum, and a six-string electric bass with a 5-octave range.

And the moment when Father Christmas conjures festive decorations for a Charlie Brown-ish tree is truly magical. See if your littlest Hayao Miyazaki fan doesn't agree.

Enjoy more of Ladislas Starevich’s stopmotion ouevre on YouTube, as well some of Tom Peters’ other scores for silent films.

Related Content:

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912): The Truly Weird Origin of Modern Stop-Motion Animation

The Tale of the Fox: Watch Ladislas Starevich’s Animation of Goethe’s Great German Folktale (1937)

The History of Stop-Motion Films: 39 Films, Spanning 116 Years, Revisited in a 3-Minute Video

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Cape-Coddities (1920) by Roger Livingston Scaife. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

20+ Knitters and Crochet Artists Stitch an Astonishing 3-D Recreation of Picasso’s Guernica

Softness is perhaps not the first quality that springs to mind when one imagines recreating the chaos and anguish of Picasso’s Guernica in a 3-dimensional representation.

Though how else to describe the primary medium of the urban knitting group Sul filo dell’arte?

More than 20 fiber artists worked for over a year, meticulously crocheting embroidering and knitting the most familiar elements of the painting as stand-alone figures, to mark the eightieth anniversary of the bombing of the small Spanish town depicted in the 1937 masterpiece.

Students from the State Art School of the Royal Villa of Monza contributed the frameworks over which the fiber pieces were stretched.

The result, Guernica 3D, was later displayed as part of Metamorphosis, a Picasso-themed exhibition at the Royal Palace in Milan.

A look at Sul filo dell’arte’s Instagram page reveals that Picasso is not the only artist to inspire their needles. Frida KahloMagritteKeith HaringAndy Warhol, and Vincent Van Gogh are among those to whom they have paid painstaking woolen tribute.

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Behold an Anatomically Correct Replica of the Human Brain, Knitted by a Psychiatrist

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, January 6 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Cape-Coddities (1920) by Roger Livingston Scaife. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

“Don’t Try”: The Philosophy of the Hardworking Charles Bukowski

If Charles Bukowski were alive today, what would you ask him? Best to avoid the standard questions put to writers about how or why they chose to become writers — not just because Bukowski would surely respond with a few colorfully choice words of dismissal, but because he embodied the lack of choice that characterizes the life of every serious creator. According to the Pursuit of Wonder video essay above, Bukowski dropped out of college halfway through in order to write. After a period spent "bouncing around the United States, doing short-term blue-collar jobs while writing hundred of short stories," none of which broke him into the literary big time, came a highly unproductive period of blue-collar jobs without the accompanying writing.

At the end of a writing-free decade, Bukowski "nearly died from a serious bleeding ulcer." This got him back on track, as brushes with mortality tend to do: he subsequently quit his job at the post office and returned to writing full-time. It was only a few years before he went back to work at the post office, but this time he kept writing, putting in the real work at the typewriter before each shift at the day job. He did so without the prospect of success anywhere in the offing, at least not before he reached middle age. "It took Bukowski years and years of writing and toiling and trying to finally have circumstances work out in his favor so he could gain traction and find success as a writer," says the video's narrator. And yet, as we've previously noted here at Open Culture, into Bukowski's gravestone are chiseled these words: "Don't try."




"How could a man who became successful in fulfilling his idea of himself — a man who, although it took a while, found immense respect and recognition for his craft, all because of his relentless trying — how could this man leave the words don't try as his final offering?" We might interpret them in light of a letter from Bukowski to a friend, the writer and publisher William Packard. "Too many writers write for the wrong reasons," declared Bukowski. "They want to get famous or they want to get rich or they want to get laid by the girls with the bluebells in their hair... When everything goes best, it's not because you chose writing, but because writing chose you." Bukowski didn't decide to be a writer; nobody actually dedicated to a pursuit ever had to decide which pursuit it would be.

"We work too hard. We try too hard," Bukowski writes to Packard. "Don't try. Don't work. It's there. Looking right at us, aching to kick out of the closed womb." He may have meant, as the video's narrator puts it, that "if you have to try to try, if you have to try to care about something or have to try to want something, perhaps you don't care about it, and perhaps you don't want it." And "if the thought of not doing the thing hurts more than the thought of potentially suffering through the process, if the thought of a life without it or never having tried it at all terrifies you, if it comes to you, through you, out of you, almost as if you're not trying, perhaps Bukowski might say here, try, and 'if you're going to try, go all the way.'" That quote comes from Bukowski's novel Factotum — the story of a writer in search of blue-collar work that won't get in the way of his one true craft — and we might do well to take it one sentence further: "Otherwise, don’t even start."

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Is Charles Bukowski a Self-Help Guru? Hear Five of His Brutally Honest, Yet Oddly Inspiring, Poems and Decide for Yourself

Charles Bukowski Explains How to Beat Depression: Spend 3-4 Days in Bed and You’ll Get the Juices Flowing Again (NSFW)

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Long Game of Creativity: If You Haven’t Created a Masterpiece at 30, You’re Not a Failure

Orson Welles directed the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane, at age 25, with only a limited knowledge of the medium. When Paul McCartney was 25, he, along with his fellow Beatles, released the era-defining album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. By age 29, Pablo Picasso revolutionized modern art by developing cubism.

If hearing such stories sets off an existential panic attack because you squandered your 20s with too much reality TV and graduate school, then take heart -- you’re not necessarily a failure.

As Adam Westbrook points out in his video essay The Long Game, Leonardo da Vinci was a total loser before he painted The Last Supper at age 46. As a youth, Leonardo planned grandiose projects that he wouldn’t be able to finish. This, of course, did little for his reputation and even less for his career as a freelance artist.




But he continued to work, eking out a living by enduring the demands of picky, small-minded clients, and, through this lean period, Leonardo emerged a great artist. Robert Greene, in his book Mastery, calls this period "The Difficult Years." Every successful creative slogs through some form of the Difficult Years, even child prodigies. Mozart just went through his struggles at a time when most children are learning to read.

In other words, “genius” has less to do with innate talent than just doing the work. Of course, that isn’t nearly as good a story as that of the romantic genius. But it is encouraging for those of us who haven’t quite yet won that MacArthur grant.

You can watch Westbrook’s video essay in various parts above.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in April 2015.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

What to Wear to a Successful PhD Thesis Defense? A Skirt’s Worth of Academic Rejection Letters

Some people are paralyzed by rejection.

Others, like Michigan State University’s Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD candidate, Caitlin Kirby, sport rejection like a mantle of honor... or more accurately, a pleated skirt falling to just below mid-thigh.

"Successfully defended my PhD dissertation today!" Kirby wrote in a Tweet that has since garnered over 25,000 likes. "In the spirit of acknowledging & normalizing failure in the process, I defended in a skirt made of rejection letters from the course of my PhD."

The custom garment, which Kirby teamed with a dark blazer and red waistband, was organized in two tiers, with a tulle ruffle peeping out beneath.

MSU’s Career Services Network’s Director of Employer Relations, Karin Hanson, told the Lansing State Journal that rejection comes as a shock to many high achieving MSU students.

Kirby’s decision to upcycle 17 disappointing letters received over the course of her academic career was partially inspired by a Parks and Recreation episode in which the skirt of Leslie Knope's wedding dress is a wearable collage of newspaper articles about the character, drawn from earlier episodes

More to the point, Kirby’s skirt is part of an ongoing campaign to acknowledge rejection as a necessary, if painful, part of academic growth.

The whole process of revisiting those old letters and making that skirt sort of reminded me that you have to apply to a lot of things to succeed. It seems counterintuitive to wear your rejections to your last test in your Ph.D, but we talked about our rejections every week and I wanted them to be a part of it.

And, as she later noted in a tweet:

Acceptances and rejections are often based on the traditional values of academia, which excludes POC by not valuing the approaches, research questions, and experiences that POC tend to bring to their work.

Kirby’s letters were culled from a variety of sources—scholarship applications, submissions to academic journals, and proposals for conference presentations.  Unfortunately and We regret to inform you are recurrent motifs. About 8 letters were left on the cutting room floor.

But she is prepared to lower her hemline, when she starts applying for jobs, following a stint at the Research Institute for Urban and Regional Development in Dortmund, Germany, the result of a successful Fulbright application.

Follow Kirby’s example and turn your temporary setbacks into a power skirt, using the tutorial above.

via Boing Boing 

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Gertrude Stein Gets a Snarky Rejection Letter from Publisher (1912)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, resurrects Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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