Active Specimens is inspired by the way in which scientists record exotic animal life in the rainforest that often includes the use of a euthanized specimen. The aim of this project was to explore the recording of animal species further as a designer by using a more poetic approach. Through textiles, which offer the qualities of movement lost in current physical samples, the activity of three different animal species found in the rainforest were recorded. These include the harder to capture: puss caterpillar and two types of leaf hopper nymphs, one of which is believed to be the same species discovered in 2013 by Trond Larsen. This project started with an immersive residency with Labverde in the Amazon Rainforest to experience and record plant and animal life.
Three final textile artifacts were produced as part of PhD practice research that explore aspects of the movement or behaviour of each insect, which serve as a record for further development and discovery:
Leaf hopper nymph 1 embellishment artefact – A leaf hopper nymph which jumps away when touched is represented through the application of magnets sewn into each embellishment which jump to and away from each other when handled. The leaf hopper nymph secretes waxy tendrils as a defence mechanism, mimicked through the use of banana fibre embellishment dipped into wax, attached using a hybrid wig-making embroidery technique.
Leaf hopper nymph 2 embellishment artefact – This recently discovered nymph produces glass-like waxy tendrils and hides deep in foliage. The secretions are replicated in glass yarn and embellishments are hidden to communicate their evasive nature.
Puss caterpillar embellishment artefact – The movement of this toxic caterpillar is replicated using segmented and highly tactile embellishment layers, hand manipulated using manila hemp and organic cotton.
Labverde is an art immersion programme in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil, for artists and designers to reflect on nature and landscape and explore the connection between science, art and the natural environment.