Dezeen recently posted a story on Natural History, an exhibition of biologically inspired jewelry at Selfridges & Co. The work presented by Tobie Kerridge, in particular, caught my eye. Dubbed Biojewellery, Mr. Kerridge, in collaboration with designer Nikki Scott and bioengineer Ian Thompson, has created jewelry out of human bone cells. For those of you who have weak constitutions, I’ll give you a second. In the words of those behind this project,
The aim of Biojewellery is to strike up a range of relationships with an audience over the issues that surround biotechnology, tissue engineering in particular. The collaboration is between a core team of a bioengineer and two designers. Our backgrounds, interests and previous work provide this collaboration with some unusual features, which we hope will engage an audience in an exciting way.
The designers focus on working with couples from the get go, as Biojewellery is intended to create an expression of their affection. The extent that the chosen couples are involved in the creation and design of their pieces is quite extensive. Thus the jewelry is both biologically and aesthetically unique.
The technique involved in creating this form of jewelry is pretty straightforward. The bone cells are harvested from the wisdom teeth, which have been removed from the participant. These cells are then seeded onto bioglass, a bioactive glass-ceramic whose biocompatibility allows its use in repairing damaged bone. The construct is then grown inside a bioreactor, a sealed chamber which mimics the body’s biological environment, for up to 10 weeks. It’s fascinating that techniques that are generally used for scientific pursuits can readily be applied for artistic ones.
At the heart of this endeavor is the unionizing of science and art. Scientists often sequester their knowledge of science from the public behind an edifice composed of technical jargon and mystique. This hinders free discourse on scientific matters and breeds misinformation. Such an attitude on the part of scientists has contributed to the lack of public understanding on evolution, but that’s a topic for another day. Although, artists themselves foster a certain amount of mystique about their craft, people generally perceive art as being more accessible. Which is why you’ll find more people talking about Dali than Darwin. By placing science into a framework of art, the designers have instantly made science more accessible and relatable.
For more information visit the Biojewellery website.
Dr. Thompson, as of the 2005 completion of the project, claimed that “this is the most committed attempt ever undertaken to convert ceramic scaffold into bone.” However, this claim is highly dubious as previous attempts had been successfully made and the technique that he employed is antiquated.