More Martha!

It seems that Martha Stewart really does have a thing for bugs! Here are a few pictures from her latest issue (Oct. '07) showing the use of real insects in flower displays. She says "The insects are (a) nod to the old masters, who viewed them as symbols of transience".

In her first display, you can see that she uses beetles, a butterfly, and even a wasp (I have added the text so you don't miss anything!)

Here, she is using a real, dried beetle on a pomegranate. Below, a wasp alights on a flower stem.

In her second floral display, Martha uses another beetle and a butterfly. I'm really pleased to see all the beautiful beetles! Their appearance is very Victorian, and they look quite formal on her pages.

In another section of the magazine, you can find this page that includes more insects:

In this collection, you can see several natural objects, including butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles. (also on the left is one of my personal favorite orchids, Paphiopedilum!)

All in all, Martha proves that decorating with insects (even crazy ones like beetles and wasps!) is in style! Thanks for reading!

Martha Stewart on Insects

If Martha loves it, it must be in style! Here's an excerpt from her March 2007 issue of "Living" magazine. She's referring specifically to insect jewelry, but I think her sentiments could be applied to Insect Art as well!

If you have ever been captivated by a butterfly alighting on a thistle or a ladybug meandering along a garden wall, chances are you will adore insect jewelry. The playful pieces allow you to delight in nature's beauty...without anything buzzing or crawling. Yet these bugs are imbued with vibrancy and personality, as if they were really alive. These are several of the traits that prompted Nancy Heckler, a Martha Stewart Living contributing editor, to start amassing insect brooches thirty years ago. "I'm drawn to the whimsical quality of these pins," says Heckler, who displays the creatures on framed velvet panels in her bedroom and wears them often. Her menagerie includes nearly two hundred pieces, many of which appear here, and spans almost a century of styles.Insect jewelry flitted into fashion in ancient Egypt. Flies, mosquitoes, and scarabs were popular emblems for signet rings and necklaces set with stones such as lapis lazuli and quartz.Interest in bug motifs waned in subsequent centuries as religious designs proliferated. The genre made a comeback in the 1800s after Napoleon I of France adopted the bee as his insignia; the insect soon adorned everything from neoclassical earrings to chokers.During the Victorian era, a romantic fascination with nature led to a swarm of butterfly brooches, beetle hat pins, and fly pendants made from gold filigree, enamel, and semiprecious gems. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Rene Lalique created bejeweled bug necklaces, combs, and pins in elaborately curved, intertwined designs.The discovery of King Tut's tomb, in 1922, ignited an Egyptian revival that inspired Art Deco-style jewels, including scarab brooches by Cartier. In the next decade, the trend turned toward more fanciful pieces made of colorful Bakelite and Lucite. The 1950s saw a boom in mass-produced costume jewelry: lapel pins, corsage ornaments, charms, and the like.These days, bug accessories are as plentiful as the critters themselves. Heck­ler finds hers at antiques dealers, vintage-jewelry stores, flea markets, and online auctions. Prices vary widely depending on materials, condition, and rarity. Grasshoppers and moths, which are relatively scarce, are more valuable than ubiquitous butterflies and spiders; jewelry by famed designers (Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli) can cost thousands of dollars. Items in Heck­ler's cache range from a $3 pipe cleaner cricket to a $500 Victorian ivory bar pin inlaid with bugs.To begin your collection, you could focus on a single species of insect. Or you could follow Heckler's approach: Buy whatever catches your eye and brings you joy. Getting bitten by a bug has never been such a pleasure.

Making Insect Art

Hello Everyone,

I thought perhaps you might be curious about how I make Insect Art. Now, don't get your hopes up...I'm not going to give you step-by-step instructions (hey, I have to protect my trade secrets!), but I thought some insight into my process might be interesting. The number one question I get asked at art shows is "Do you collect your own insects?". When I tell people no, they seem disappointed. I wish I could say to them "hey, Rachael over in the next booth doesn't mine her own silver!" ( for her awesome jewelry!). I don't really have the heart to kill even a bug, plus we don't have very many awesome bugs that live around here, so for those two reasons, I buy most of my insects from a dried insect dealer. I get them directly from Asia, since that's where lots of cool bugs live (and are farmed for this purpose). They come to me all dried out and folded up. See the picture for examples of some butterflies and beetles:
Now, the trick is getting the bugs unfolded and re-positioned. Being dried out, the bugs are extremely fragile. Before I can begin to unfold them, they must be re-hydrated in a process that takes 24-48 hours. Once they are pliable again, the hard part starts. When I was first beginning to make Insect Art for myself, I ruined plenty of butterflies. You can hardly touch them at all if you want to keep their color intact; butterfly scales rub off very easily. Of course, some species will give you more trouble than others. Unfortunately, all the famous ones in the group Papilio are especially bad. I used many creative methods and a lot of trial and error before I was confident enough to handle some of the more expensive species. Trust me, plenty of "surgeries" are done on my dining room table...antennae and legs break off all the time! Beetles are a little more forgiving; they don't really have any scales to rub off. However, it does take a bit of skill to locate and unfold all of their various legs and feeding parts. Beetles are insects, so they do have wings. Most traditional dried insect displays don't capitalize on this fact, so I like to bring them out. That part is a bit tricky, but it was definitely worth learning how to do. After I have the insects all positioned, I let them dry back out and then they are ready for use. I collect them off of my spreading boards and place them in very sophisticated storage containers (as you can see!)
Depending on size, I can "spread" up to six butterflies per night. The picture to the right is the effort of several spreading sessions. After the insects have been prepared, they are ready for use. I decide which insects I want to use in a particular frame, then I match them up with a coordinating art background. Sometimes my backgrounds are ready-made pieces of art paper, and occasionally they are sheets of handmade paper that I order in. I hope to get into the practice of painting some of my own art backgrounds, for for heaven's sake, I don't want to ruin or take away from the natural beauty of the insects! I have taken a Chinese brush painting class in the past, and may try my hand at a few simple, hand-painted backgrounds. However, I don't consider myself a painter. The real artistic work I do is in the preparing, positioning, and coordinating of materials that have been provided to me by Nature. So no, I do not catch my own butterflies, but I certainly do spend plenty of time turning those those raw materials into a finished product! I hope you have enjoyed this brief insight into how my Insect Art is made, and thanks for reading!

Hello and Welcome to my new art webpage! My name is Katie and I have a small business called "Insect Art" in Lawrence, KS. I make framed art out of real, dried insects. I use everything from butterflies to beetles to dragonflies, and the aim of this page is to share my art with you. I began as a simple site (, and after eight months there, I felt the need to upgrade. continues to be my store site; it's the place where nice people like you can buy my art. This new, main webpage's goal is to expand on that and to share other art-related updates and photos that can't be incorporated into my store.
So, without further adieu, please sit back, relax, and learn how I came to be an insect artist!

I’ve been fascinated with bugs ever since I can remember. My mom read lots of science books to me, and I was out collecting cocoons and caterpillars as soon as I was able. I had several “bug boxes” full of captives, and I spent many hours reading bug field-guides. I used many of the insects I found outside to make my own “closet museum”, which included everything from bird eggs to fossils.
When I grew up, I took a class at KU called “The Biology of Spiders”. That class rejuvenated my scientific inclinations. It taught me how to professionally collect and display spiders, and I became very interested in making my own “grown-up version” of the closet museum I had as a kid.
It's easy to buy a butterfly mounted on white paper, but I wanted something more, something unique that would be suitable to display outside of a stuffy museum. In other words, I wanted an insect display that was also a piece of art. Thus, the concept of Insect Art was born. I found someone who would sell me dead bugs, and went to work making a few pieces for myself. After I had handled a few butterflies, I decided to move onto insects that you wouldn't find in your usual nature shop. After all, who doesn't have a Blue Morpho these days? It’s much more fun to impress your friends with jewel beetles and cicadas that are as beautiful as any butterfly. It’s my goal now to make pieces of art that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

On a personal note, I feel like, in my own small way, I am carrying on the message of my hero, Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter). His mission was to help the world understand and love creatures that aren't cute or fuzzy. Bugs don't usually fall into either of those categories, but they are beautiful nonetheless, and worth saving. Besides teaching the public to appreciate Nature, the dried insect trade is eco-friendly. Insects are part of a sustainable crop in third-world countries, where people farm or catch them. This trade is much preferable to mining or logging, and gives the people a motivation to preserve natural habitat.

I am fascinated by insects and their diversity. There really is something for everyone! I always get a kick out of seeing people's reactions when they find out the bugs I use are real. Some people don't like "bugs", but they say my pieces are beautiful, regardless. That makes my work worthwhile in the end.