Honeycomb Jewels.

Author:Mason, Brittany Sue

An ongoing interest in apiculture and perhaps a cross-pollination of concepts has joined art jeweller Brittany Sue Mason and geneticists Mackenzie Lovegrove and Gertje Petersen. Honeybees have been a topic of Brittany's work for some time, both in studio practice as well as in the "honey house". For the past year, Brittany has been working with a local beekeeper, (1) helping to prepare the hives for next season.


Through the hours spent scraping the honeycomb from the frames, I think of the similarities between finishing my jewellery work for sale. Each scrape of honeycomb from the wooden frame is like the file against the rough edge of freshly cut silver. Slowly the hive tool polishes the remaining beeswax against the frame, like burnishing the edges of metal to a shiny smooth finish. As the removed beeswax heats slowly on the stove, the smell of honey fills the room. Even hours after being home from work, I could still smell the scent of honey embedded into the fibres of my clothes. I thought how delightful it would be to capture this aroma and take it with you everywhere.

This sparked the beginning of my bee-inspired studio practice in early 2016. I was first intrigued by the hexagonal patterned structures of the honeycomb, surprised by the geometric shapes created by these tiny creatures. How could such a small organic life form construct such rigid and uniform patterns? The female worker bees produce malleable wax platelets from the wax glands on the underside abdomen sections. Mixed with oral glandular secretions, the wax produced by the worker bees is chewed and ready for use. (2) There is an architectural basis for this construction of regularly shaped and spaced parallel hexagon tunnels--to achieve maximum effective use of space. (3)

Honeybees fulfill all the criteria for a eusocial society: a colony includes only overlapping generations of one family (dimorphism), a division of labour exists within the worker caste, and they have the ability to communicate messages about worthwhile food sources using motion signals. (4) Listening to geneticists' research, I began to question my attendance as an artist, until I heard Mackenzie's description of the honeybees' ability to communicate using pheromone messaging. Mackenzie explained her research into the eusocial society of honeybees and specifically the presence of the Queen Mandibular Pheromone. (5) The social structures and politics within communities of honeybees is...

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