Weird Science - Design Bureau

“If people go away from my working looking at the world with fresh eyes, then I am happy.” – Rob Kesseler 


Kelleler and the Gulbenkian Science Institute created microscopic flower images for a new porcelain line for Vista Alegre. 


Goat willow pollen grains


Common mallow pollen grain

soil bacillus

Soil bacillus

Screen shot 2013-05-03 at 11.20.27 AM 

Viola riviniana


Viburnum leaf hairs from Kesseler’s solo exhibit at Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens

Weird Science

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Rob Kesseler turns the stuff that makes you sneeze into art

At the age of 10, Rob Kesseler received a life-changing gift from his father - an old brass microscope. But it wasn't until the late '90s that it inspired him to make art. "It occurred to me that no one was working creatively with microscopic plant material," says Kesseler, a professor of ceramic art and design at Central Saint Martins College in London. His childhood fascination with nature has led to an innovative body of work  ranging from fine art books and gallery exhibitions to a 200-piece china set adorned with images of pollen. 

DB: So, what are we looking at here? These things can't be real.

Rob Kesseler: Some of these images are pollen grains collected from European wildflowers magnified up to 3,000 times. It's hard to believe that what we can only see as dust could have such an astonishing array of forms. 

DB: Can you describe your technical process?

RK: The pollen images are initially created on a scanning electron microscope. The images from the microscope are black and white and I introduce color through Photoshop, usually based on the color of the original flower. For the images of plant sections I used a razor blade to cut ultra-fine sections through the stems of the plants and stain them in organic dyes. I then use a conventional light microscope and take up to 600 close-up shots across the surface at a high magnification, which I spend several days stitching together to give me an HD image up to six feet across.

DB: They come out looking so vibrant.

RK: Nature uses color to attract an audience of insects to pollinate the flowers and disperse its seeds. I use color to attract a human audience to show them things they're capable of. 


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