Friday 5: My Other Hobbies

Okay, this post is going to be completely non-scientific, but I want to post it anyway.  Be forewarned!

When I’m not working, spending time with friends or family, or photographing things, I typically have  SOMETHING in my hands I’m working on.  I am a huge craft geek.  I don’t think I am an expert at any of the crafts that I do, but I enjoy the process of creating something from raw materials regardless of how the final product turns out.  It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that insects make their way into a lot of the crafts I do!  I think insects are beautiful and, apart from a few “cute” insects like butterflies, ladybugs, and dragonflies (I really don’t understand why dragonflies make the “cute” insect list…), they are entirely underrepresented in most crafts.  So, I make insect things.  Today I’m going to share a few projects that I’ve particularly enjoyed making.  Please note that I only photograph the things I make so that I remember what they looked like after I give them away (because I give nearly everything I make to someone else), so these photos are FAR from spectacular.


I am hard on clothes.  Any biologist that does field work is going to have an occasional catastrophic wardrobe malfunction, and I am no exception.  However, I am also a tremendous clutz and I walk too close to walls, so I have ripped more holes in knees and torn more pockets entirely off by catching them on doorknobs than I care to admit.  So, patching holes in my clothes is something I have to do on a semi-regular basis.  But why settle for a boring patch when you can embroider an awesome invertebrate one?  Though this isn’t an insect, it IS an invertebrate and it IS aquatic, so it’s my very favorite patch to date:

Daphnia patch

Daphnia patch

Is there anything cuter than Daphnia?  I think not!  And how many people have Daphnia embroidered on their pants?  Probably not very many.  I’m sure some people think I’m weird for sporting a large Daphnia on my pants, but I don’t care.  I think it’s fun!

Block prints

One of my very favorite things to do is carve things.  I don’t know why exactly, but one day when I was 10 or so, I picked up a piece of wood and a pocket knife and two hours later had a pretty decent kachina doll on my hands.  I was hooked from that moment on!  Block printing is my very favorite art form entirely because it involves carving things.  I have a limited ability to draw so my prints tend to be rather simple, but I enjoy it anyway.   This was my first attempt at a large print:

Luna moth print

Luna moth lino block print

It was too boring with just the outline, so I turned the series of prints into mixed media pieces with the block print as the base, guache for the color fills, and metallic marker for the detail on the body.  I like the way they turned out.


I have always enjoyed decorating t-shirts, ever since I was a kid.  I use a variety of techniques from drawing directly on the shirt with Sharpies or bleach to screenprinting to using my linoleum blocks to stamp the design on.  For this shirt, I painted the rectangle with metallic silver paint (because silver glitter paint = feminine) and then block printed the beetle on top:

Dung beetle shirt

Dung beetle shirt

I have a thing for dung beetles.  They have the most beautiful, elegant shapes yet spend most of their lives seeking, forming, rolling, and otherwise working with dung.  I also really like the juxtaposition of entirely non-girly things with super girly things.  Hence, dung beetle printed on a women’s tee with glittery paints.


My second favorite artistic medium behind linoleum is metal.  I’ve done everything from casting shapes from molten metal to upcycling soda cans.  You can make really fun luminaries by drilling holes in empty, clean cans, though they are surprisingly time-consuming to make.  I timed how long it took me to make this one as an argument against my sister making luminaries for her wedding:



I’m sure they would have been beautiful at her evening reception, but she had dozens of other projects planned and that simple little dragonfly took me close to an hour to do with a hand drill.  Probably would have gone faster with a drill press, but neither I nor my sister have one.  (Yet at least.  I’ve had a drill press on my Christmas wish list for 3 years now. Someday…)


When I’m in the mood for a fiddly project that takes a long time, I always start a new handmade book.  But, they’re a ton of fun to make!  This the only book I’ve made that I’ve kept for myself, and only because it is covered with this amazing paper one of my best friends sent me a while back.  The paper features three different aquatic bugs, including two of my all-time favorite insects:

Blank book

Aquatic insect covered book

Coolest paper ever?  I made this book quite a while ago, but still haven’t used it for anything.  Has you ever gotten that feeling where you have a blank book and are paralyzed by the possibilities of what you can put inside?  I should just suck it up and use this book for taking meeting notes at work because my current meeting notebook get a lot of use.  Otherwise, I’m going to spend forever trying to come up with something “good enough” to put in my aquatic insect book…

Do any of you do any sort of insect crafts or artwork?  Got photos online somewhere?  If so, I would LOVE to see what you’ve done!  Just leave a comment below and I’ll be right over to take a look.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth


25 thoughts on “Friday 5: My Other Hobbies

    • Yes, I am aware of your painting – I LOVE it! Someday I’m going to have to buy a piece from you because I think you do amazing work, and in a medium that I find utterly unmanagable. Thank you for posting the link to the flickr insect art group! There is some amazing work in that collection! I look forward to looking through more of it.

  1. Most excellent crafts!!!!!!! My wife, other than being a full time math professor iis also a craft geek. I love her originality with crafts. Matter of fact Bunny (my sweety of 44 years) is Stamp Booking tomorrow afternoon as I chase bugs (I am the 45 years experienced Horticuulturist). Carry on-Carry on !!! Floyd McHenry & Bunny.

    • I’m so happy to hear to hear about a math professor who is a craft geek! You don’t hear about mathmeticians doing that sort of thing all that often, but I’ve found that they do some amazingly wonderful things when they do. Mathmeticians just see the world in a different way than the rest of us do! A while back I read an article that discussed how many, many scientists (and that included mathmeticians, biologists, physicists, engineers, and several other disciplines) were also artists in one form or another – photographers, novelists, painters, sculptors, etc. I thought it was great to read that because it dispelled the idea that we’re this stuffy, unimaginative bunch with no taste.

      Enjoy your bug chasing! You looking for anything in particular?

    • I have only very recently purchased a woodburning tool and have only done two little projects with it so far. I saw some gorgeous wood burned wooden spoons by an artist a while back and decided I needed to try my hand at doing something similar. I’ve done one spoon and one wooden spatula so far, both with very simple dragonflies on them. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet – and certainly don’t have your skill at drawing either. Your Scarborough Fair images are beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing them!

    • I have actually been into the arts FAR longer than I’ve been into insects, but I really do like to combine the two now. Thank you for the link to your work! I LOVE your DOM installation! So beautiful. I have a special fondness for mobiles and fiber arts, so I am thrilled you shared your work so I could see it.

  2. I agree insects are under represented in art. I got a beautifully made felt bee for my Christmas that could have been used as a keyring but I hang it from my jeans because its too cute to hide.

  3. I loved seeing your other hobbies – that is way cool. Thanks for taking time to write them up and post some photos too. I think it was a great idea for a post.

    Does the ink on the shirt wash off? It seems that being on top of the silver paint it wouldn’t set enough.


    • The ink on the shirt is heat set, so it’s fairly permanent. The shirts I’ve done with Sharpies have been less permanent and I have to go back over them from time to time to refresh them, but the paints seem to be pretty durable.

    • I think scientists have the same sort of addictive personalities as artists – we are obsessed with finding answers! My obsession with insects lies in my fascination with their behaviors, my desire to observe as much as possible about the insects around me.

      Love your Personification series as well!

      • Thanks! Yea definatly agree with artists and science similarities :) the personification is all about our relationship with insects behaviour… The way we see some of their personalities in us :) or visa versa by putting human names on them :)

  4. Yay, insect crafts! I especially love your block-printing stuff–it’s always intrigued me, but I am intimidated to try it, and yours is lovely.

    I haven’t done much in the way of insect crafts (I should!), but I did embroider some snails a few years back, although I never finished turning the embroidery into garters.

    • Aw, thanks! I really enjoy block printing and I highly recommend it as an artistic medium! It’s not difficult to do simple prints like the ones I do – and it doesn’t involve any expensive equipment. You can get everything you need to get started at Michaels! (Hint, hint.)

      Love the snails! Those are super cute. Might steal your design and do that on the next pair of pants I need to hem if you don’t mine. I’ve taken to embroidering my hems to make them more interesting, and I think your snails would make a great hemline. Thanks for sharing!

      • I actually have some block printing stuff I got in an art supply box from a charity auction, so I have very little excuse not to, other than Fear of Carving.

        I got the snail design from Kim Brody Salazar’s “New Carolingian Modelbook,” which is really hard to get ahold of these days–they’re her design, and I assume cool to use so long as you’re not selling it!

        • I’ve never sold any of the embroidery I’ve done, so shouldn’t be a problem! I just like making fancy hems on my pants, and embroidery is a good way to do it.

          If you’ve got your printing gear, you should just choose a simple pattern and go for it! My only recommendation is that you never cut toward your fingers – always away from you. I can tell you from personal experience that ramming a cutter through your finger is quite unpleasant… That dung beetle on the shirt was the last time I ever cut toward my fingers – and I will never do it again. Bought one of these the same night:

          Gives you something to push your block against for support, but keeps your hands out of the way. Very handy!

  5. You certainly like to keep busy with all the projects you’re involved in – I feel exhausted reading about all your activities but equally inspired by your seemingly endless energy!

    It won’t come as a surprise that I agree insects are underrepresented (and often misrepresented) within art in general. (..though apparently not in tattooing ..) The imbalance is even greater in the fine arts than the crafts – but who knows where future trends will lead?

    A quick fix would be for some – celebrity/intellectual/statesperson – to wear some form of insect artwork (mine preferably) on prime-time TV to help get the ball rolling …

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