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University of Exeter commission 'Understanding Microsporidia Parasites

Read the full University of Exeter article by Emily Sedgley

A fascinating 3D sculpture has been installed at the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute, helping to raise awareness of its research on microsporidia.

Despite their importance, these parasites are not well-known by the general public, with most people never having heard of them.

The ’Understanding Microsporidia’ project allowed Jacky to work with the team at the University of Exeter, who shared their knowledge generously with Jacky. The fascinating stages of development of the microsporidia spores as they germinate inspired this piece. 

A visit to the laboratory allowed Jacky to see the spores first hand and have discussions about how the parasite works. These explanations, supported by numerous diagrams which showed the striking visual development of the spore as well as lab notes, have all informed the final outcome to create a multi-layered piece. 

In her workshop Jacky followed her own series of experiments, this time how to present aesthetically and technically different aspects of the story of microsporidia. The final outcome makes use of the traditional silversmithing process of raising, transforming a flat sheet of metal into a dished form, combined with soldering, etching, piercing and patination.

These pieces have been themselves a series of experiments; the initial idea was to translate a graphic diagram of the spores in wire. Through tests, discussion, and reflection, a piece has developed that has embraced many more of the facets of these fascinating spores. The forms and words are there to themselves provoke dialogue and hopefully encourage more people to consider microsporidia parasites. 

Talking about the project, Jacky said: “I have a passion for learning, working with others and making, so the ‘Understanding Microsporidia parasites’ commission was the perfect project for me to work on.

“ I was fascinated by the beautiful, but deadly stages of germination, with coiled up polar tubes ready to pierce other cells. The final piece, Coil and Spring illustrates this development through five hand-raised forms, containing etched and pierced text. These words invite the viewer to consider the subject matter, without attempting to explain the complexities, but hopefully intrigue them enough to spend time themselves to investigate and try to understand microsporidia.”

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