Kate McKinnon

team leader
Contemporary Geometric Beadwork Team
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Since 2011, I've been leading the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork team. Our mission has been to explore the edges of mathematical and geometric beadwork, find the overlaps between this ancient art and the worlds of Nature and science, and use each to help understand the others.

We've spent tens of thousands of hours working to solve outstanding questions, add techniques, and bring our finds about surfaces and structure to those who can use them. Our morphing, cycling & spoofing surfaces have overlap with materials science, stealth and chemistry, our modelling structure with physics and topology, and our ways of folding polygons are leading to new ways to work in space and at sea.

The bangle below represented two early discoveries.

Horned and Layered Bangle
Horned and Layered Bangle
8 x 13 x 13 cm
Sewn Beadwork: precision glass cylinder beads and thread

This was one of the first pieces that demonstrated our use of the traditional herringbone increase in peyote stitch to make a very untraditional structure - a fabric with symmetrical horns that rise up from a flat fabric. It also showed our groundbreaking layering technique, combining two stitches into one to create a new threadpath.

At a recent meeting of the APS in Boston this Spring, mathematician Sabetta Matsumoto agreed that studying the traditional stitching arts could revolutionize materials science. She said, "By selecting a stitch, you are not only choosing the geometry but the elastic properties, which means you can build in the right mechanical properties for anything from aerospace engineering to tissue scaffolding."