The Creation of a Chickweed Pollen Grain Temari

Chickweed, Stellaria Media, is common and widespread in both North America and Europe. A chickweed pollen grain has a beautiful geometric structure. Before the grain swells up, it looks like a dodecahedron with concave sides.

temari 76 chickweed pollen grain

How could I resist creating a chickweed pollen grain when it encompasses polyhedron structure (a long time interest), temari making (a relatively new interest, only 2 years), felt (a revived interest) and pollen (bane of my existence). Being able to combine several interests and poke fun of my allergies at the same time was a worthy challenge.

The temari developed quite naturally, with each element of the structure and techniques suggesting themselves. When looking at electron microscope pictures of chickweed pollen grains and reading about the structure of pollen grains, I could see the different parts as different materials or techniques.

The electron microscope images of pollen grains found on internet are rendered in grayscale then colored for visual clarity. Here, for my pollen grain temari, I have used “artistic license” for coloring without any extreme diversion from the natural color of pollen.

A chickweed pollen grain basically resembles a dodecahedron, a twelve regular pentagonal sides, except the sides are concave with a circular hole (pore) in the center of each. This outside skin that takes the shape of a dodecahedron, is called an exine (or exospore). Felt seemed like the obvious solution to creating this outside skin. A lovely warm yellow was hand dyed for this project.

pollen grain temari 7

Scattered across the surface of the exine of a chickweed pollen grain are little spines (spinuli) that could easily be represented by French knots.

pollen grain temari 8

Poking through the holes, or pores of the exine are cells that also look like French knots. These make slightly curved mounds in the circular pores. A temari ball as a base would make  a perfect base to create the slightly raised circular areas of knots and create a solid base on which to add the felt exine with its spines.

pollen grain temari 9

The only structural challenge was to figure out how to pad the cavity between the ball and the outer felt skin so that it would keep its polyhedron shape and not cave in with any pressure against it. I thought of couching down multiple strands of yarn, but realized it would be easier if it was a single large strand, which suggested upholstery cording. Then to smooth over the cord shapes, pieces of felt were stitched on top of them, giving it a nicer contour.

pollen grain temari 10

The following are pictures of the work in progress:

pollen grain temari 1

Temari marked as a C10 with felt pentagons- both ready to be stitched on

pollen grain temari 2

Building the dodecahedron shape with upholstery cording and felt on the ball

pollen grain temari 3

Stitching the felt exine together into two parts

pollen grain temari 4

Stitching French knot on ball using a felt template for circle placement

pollen grain temari 5

The two felt halves partially stitched together and adding a few more knots along opening

pollen grain temari 6

Felt exine on ball being stitched closed. A few more knots were added along the seam

temari 76 chickweed pollen grain

To finish the temari, the felt was tacked down to the ball near the circular openings to create the concavity of the sides

This was one of those projects that was very satisfying to make with it presenting an interesting challenge and then having all the ideas come together to create the intended form with a pleasing result.

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One thought on “The Creation of a Chickweed Pollen Grain Temari

  1. That is so amazingly cool. There are so many unusual shapes in regards to pollen and acteria and fungi and all other kinds of stuff in the natural world. I’d love to see some more Electrom microscope inspired temari-stle pieces!

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