Crystalline Constellation

Crystalline Constellation, lighting phase 1 (without UV)
Crystalline Constellation, lighting phase 2 (with UV from fluorescent lights)
Crystalline Constellation, detail
Crystalline Constellation, clear module, three-fold axis
Crystalline Constellation, clear module, five-fold axis
Crystalline Constellation, visitors enjoying the installation at Collect 2017
Production process

This new body of work grew out of a Residency in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at King’s College, London in 2016. It extends my fascination with five-fold symmetry and research into a new generation of molecular structures that respond to light. Each module is cast from a 3d print in an adaptation of the traditional ‘lost wax’ process and assembled to create a stellated dodecahedron. Some of the modules are cast from a glass that turns green in response to the UV light given out by fluorescent bulbs inside the plinth. The project was supported by Arts Council England and the Crafts Council and was installed for the first time at Collect at the Saatchi Gallery in February 2017. Please click on the final image to see an animation of the printing and casting process.

Forbidden Symmetry: Zonohedra

Forbidden Symmetry: Zonohedra 1
Forbidden Symmetry: Zonohedra II (amber)
Forbidden symmetry: Zonohedra III (amber)
Forbidden symmetry: Zonohedra IV (amber)

This series, created in collaboration with the mathematician Sir Roger Penrose and completed in November 2015, explores the dynamic five-fold symmetry of quasiperiodic lattices: interlocking patterns that extend to infinity without repetition. First discovered in a meteorite by Nobel prize-wining crystallographer, Dan Schectman, this new type of structure has become a source of fascination for both scientists and philosophers alike, as it raises the fundamental question of entanglement: how does each atom ‘know’ how to position itself in order to maintain this perfectly regular disorder.


Polytope series: Triacontahedron
Polytope series: Great Rhombicuboctahedron
Polytope series: Icosidodecahedron

A series of hot glass pieces reflecting the geometry of the Archimedean solids and building on the Essential Symmetry work.


Strand series - binding sites
Strand series - DNA fragment 1
Strand series - aperture
Strand series - Bravais lattice
Reciprocal Space

This body of work is part of an ongoing collaboration with the X-Ray crystallographer Professor Brian Sutton at King’s College London, inspired by the diffraction patterns that are projected in reciprocal space by shining light through the symmetrical lattice of a crystal such as DNA. The techniques used here build on the matrix encapsulation and rapid prototyping processes developed with the technical teams at the Royal College of Art in London.

Essential Symmetry

Essential Symmetry series: Icosahedron
Essential Symmetry series: Icosahedron detail
Essential Symmetry series: Dodecahedron
Essential Symmetry series: Dodecahedron detail
Essential Symmetry series: Pyramid
Essential Symmetry series: Truncated Octahedron
Essential Symmetry series: Truncated Octahedron (detail)
Essential Symmetry series: Cuboctahedron
Essential Symmetry series: Cuboctahedron (detail)
Jerwood Makers Open installation

This series was developed as part of the Jerwood Maker’s Open commission and inspired by the geometry of archetypal forms and their association with the elemental forces of earth, air, fire, water and aether. Technically, these pieces build on the layering process developed for the Moire Matrix series: a masonry saw is used as a milling machine, the glass embryo cast into plaster at a specific angle, placed on a moving platform and passed under the spinning blade many hundreds of times to create a flat surface that is then ground and polished by hand.


Moire matrix 9 - hybrid form
Moire matrix 9 - hybrid form
Moire matrix 10 - intervals
Moire matrix 6 - IGE
Moire matrix 6 - IGE
Moire matrix 3 - thirds
Moire matrix 5 - seam

This ongoing body of work explores dimensions of real and reciprocal space through of points and vectors located on multiple levels within a hot glass form. Each piece is built up in a series of layers of glass that are annealed or cooled before the next element of the pattern is applied, reheated and gathered again. At the end of the process, each piece is carved and polished by hand.


Residency with the Bristol Eye Hospital
ReachOut RCA Schools programme
Standing Waves Music Festival

These images and videos are selected from a range of public engagement projects in hospitals, schools, galleries and museums.

© Shelley James 2014