Eukaryote, Bacteria, and Virus Models

These are sculptures I made using Sculpt It! air drying clay and painted with Liquitex medium viscosity acrylic.  I’m involved with science outreach and education because it’s fun and rewarding.  My intent is to make visual representations that can engage the imagination of the audience.

My first attempt at this was the animal cell.  I made the cell membrane by hollowing out a small foam dodge ball and covered it with clay.  Then I painted it with acrylic and let it dry.  The organelles were made separately, then painted and glued onto the membrane.

Then I figured I should make this into a series!  I made an E. coli  cell, which was tough to make interesting because there’s nothing much going on in a bacteria.  I decided to include details like the cell wall and the cell membrane as separate layers.  I also decided to make tiny ribosome balls instead of just painting them on.  I had to cover the inside with a fine layer of glue and just arbitrarily throw the ribosome in it because it’s pretty tough to place them in such a tiny space.

I really wanted to make a plant cell, but they are surprisingly more complicated and I was just not up to that kind of challenge, so I decided to make a T4 bacteriophage.  The most difficult thing was the size because it doesn’t give you much room for error and you have to be extra precise with brush strokes.  The shape of this virus is also complicated because it has a prism structure, so I’d have to create sharp edges somehow.  At first I tried just making the edges with my hands but that failed.  Finally I knew I needed to create a football-shaped clay and just shave off the sides.  I managed to find a wood shaver and that’s how I pulled it off (art has serious problem solving too!).  The spider-like legs were also tough because they needed to be spindly and at the same time support the protein capsule head.

Short and Sweet

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