RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab is a treasure trove of rare curiosities. A playground of scientific exploration, the campus resource allows students to explore the patterns and structures found in nature to create uniquely organic approaches to design.
On a typical weekday, RISD students can be found on the first floor sketching the anatomy of the human skeletal system using bony models (see photo above). Others snap photos of pretty snakeskin to whip up their next piece of digital fabric.
“So many of these patterns found in nature can be applied to textiles, painting and more,” notes Margaret Parish 15 SC who works at the lab. “There’s endless inspiration to draw upon here.”
And there are plenty of things that make the skin crawl. Snakes, poison dart frogs and hissing cockroaches inhabit plexiglass cages. Egg sacks containing hundreds of praying mantises are captured in terrariums. Spiky puffer fish line ceiling rafters. “You can find some real freaky things,” says Parish with a laugh.
Tucked away in a cabinet is a jarred baby fetus, a morning dove and a hoard of amphibians. Embalmed in formaldehyde, their delicate structures will remain unchanged. “I don’t spend much time poking around here because it smells a bit,” notes Parish.
If the pickled specimens fail to incite a shudder, visitors can move on to the microscopes. Through a lens, the amateur scientists witness tiny creatures eating, moving and procreating (usually unnoticed) in a bead of water. The organisms appear to be slinking around among groups of cells.
"It’s important to remember that there are living things – whole creatures – living in the minute details,” notes Parish. “It sparks the imagination.”
Can’t get enough of the creepy-crawly items found in the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab? See this video produced by Etsy!