Connectivity. When I thought about this title, set by Nick Parker, the curator of Stone Lane Gardens, for the Caradon Granite-sponsored exhibition, my mind raced. Over the last few years, I have read a lot about recent research into the brain, into the gut, and the anatomy of mushrooms, and their connections. I felt the need to carve this into stone. My artwork is a way to cement my understanding of things – to resolve and join up dots. I have tried to pictorialise biological connections in this work, and halfway through making it, realised that I was carving in the tradition of medieval masons who carved bible stories in stone.


The overall form is that of a mycelium hypha – the threadlike filament that runs underground, creating a vast network and joins up to create the fruiting body, the mushroom. With its rocket-like shape I wanted to emphasise the role of the spitzenkörper – the tip body of the hypha that simultaneously directs its growth, communicates with the rest of the mycelium, builds its cell walls by firing the tip with vesicles (bubbles of an unknown compound shown on the back of the lower section as cut-outs) up to 36000 times a minute; absorbs all the water and nutrients it needs from the surrounding area, and maintains the internal pressure of the hyphae with up to three times more force than that of a car tyre. We don’t understand how it does this. Somehow I feel the need to create another piece, just for this incredible example of biological engineering.


I hope to have captured a sense of dynamic movement in the sculpture. On the lower section I have shown the mycelium reaching through the soil, absorbing nutrients, and growing mushrooms as part of their life cycle; connecting trees and plants and transferring nutrients between them by way of exchange. Above that I have shown the gut microbiome, connected to mycelium not only by the ingestion of mushrooms, but also by the interaction with microbes and the prevalence of fungi in our own system.


The gut microbiome is fascinating. With over 4 trillion individual microbes in our gut, controlling digestion and benefiting the immune system, the connectivity within it is truly awesome They are arguably what make us human, and the way they interact in our system for our mutual benefit, affects every part of our life and social structure. The gut microbiome produces hormones, affects immune responses, and so much more. I have shown its connection to our brain with the inclusion of the vegus nerve, the vital nerve responsible for the regulation of many human internal organ functions – shown by the character appearing to pull some levers. What we eat and what our gut wants can have a massive effect on our brain function and our behaviour.


After the gut, the brain – a truly incredible place with myriad connections and functions running simultaneously, both in and out of our control. We are learning so much about brain function. One area that has fascinated me hugely is the difference between the left and right lobes, where the left, primarily concerned with focus, logic and speech, does not accept the presence of the right, whereas the right has a much wider comprehension of the bigger picture. It does what it can to temper the ambitions of the left, and the two in combination create the whole.


Coming out of the brain on the left are vocal waves, and on the right the labyrinth of comprehension and thought, and all the connections we make and maintain with these. I have tried to evoke movement in this piece by using a variety of tooling techniques which also show off the unique characteristics of granite.


A note on the title. I have called it Mycelium connections/Please take off your shoes both in honour of the myriad connections that mycelium make (eighteen miles in a teaspoon of soil), and because I feel we have lost our connection to nature. We have been separated from it and consider ourselves apart from it. The simple action of taking off your shoes when you can and connecting to the ground beneath us, can go some way to change that. It is also good for our feet! Soil is alive with electrical impulses to which our feet and our bodies are sensitive.


My one hope for this piece it is that it can help us recognise our connectivity to nature. We are an indivisible part of it, not separate. We are learning so much about our connections to nature, and all it can teach us. We desperately need to realise this and bring it to the front of our minds.



Reading list


The Master and his Emissary Ian McGilcrist, the divided brain and the making of the western world.


10% Human by Alanna Collen


Microbiota Current Research and emerging trends Caister academic press


Entangled life by Merlin Sheldrake


Radical Mycollogy Peter Mcoy


Where the slime mould creeps Sarah Lloyd



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