Making Of...

Lots of people have been interested in how Insect Art is made. Here's a little glimpse into what I do.

Here's how the bugs start out; I order them from various worldwide suppliers, and they are dead, dried out, and carefully packaged like this: (stay tuned for a report on my research into how the bugs get to this point)

When I'm ready to begin preparing the insects, they are placed into my "hydration chamber", which is actually a tupperware container full of moist paper towels and an anti-fungal agent. Here's a picture of some butterflies in the chamber:

After 24-48 hours in there, they are usually moist enough to handle without breaking. At this point, I am able to move their wings and legs easily. Here's a picture of a butterfly being unwrapped:

Now, I have to carefully unfold the wings and position them in place so they can dry out again. I also position the legs and antennae so they can dry in place. I do this on a styrofoam board that I made myself for this purpose. Most people use little strips of paper and pins to hold the wings in place, but I have come up with the idea of using glass plates instead. I find that this produces a nicer, flatter, result and it allows me to easily see what I'm doing. I do use pins to hold the rest of the body and antennae in place, but I don't put the pins through the bugs; I don't want to make holes in them! This is definitely the hardest part of the whole process; even through they are re-hydrated, the insects are still very fragile! I also have to watch the wings of the butterflies; if I touch them too much, scales will come off and they will look bad. I have special tweezers to help touch the wings for me.

Here's a picture of what a butterfly looks like after it has been spread out to dry:

Beetles usually take a lot more work than butterflies, because they have more parts to set. They are also shaped such that I cannot use glass plates on their wings; having to use pins on the wings is a challenge! See how many pins I used on this Jewel Beetle? (Image courtesy Lawrence Journal World)

Once the insects are all dry again (24 hours later), I remove the pins and move the bugs to storage containers until I'm ready to put them in frames. It's kind of neat to see all the different insects in my storage containers, so here's a few pictures of insects that are all ready to use:

Finally, when I'm ready to use the insects, I choose a frame and a background for them and glue them into place with a special glue. I really love the paper selection from a company called Basic Grey; they make the most beautiful backgrounds. I'm always on the lookout for more papers and frames that I can use, though. Sometimes I even make my own backgrounds, but I'm not very good at drawing, so the ones I do make are abstract. I've also used various fabrics and handmade papers. Here's a look at some of my paper and frame selections:

Here's the end result! My "gallery wall" of Insect Art allows me to enjoy some of my work before the pieces are sent to their new homes! I always work by the philosophy "If I wouldn't hang it in my house, it's not worth making". I continue to strive to search for the beauty in all insects, and it's my goal to be able to display them in a way that maximizes their beauty and impresses people who normally wouldn't be impressed by "a bug". I hope you enjoyed this "Making Of..." entry!


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