Natural Science (
Natural Science by Heather Miller Art

Title: Natural Science
Year: 2010
Size: 10″ x 10″

Natural Science was made using 28 different types of crystals & gems in glass test tubes, larger quartz crystals, and a selenite crystal mounted onto a multi-panel picture frame.

The Story:

I’m writing this story in 2016, the piece was created in 2010 so I’ll do my best to remember.

This is the complete list of crystals in this piece:

  • The flower-like design is made from quartz points.
  • The large crystal in the lower right is selenite.
  • In the upper right panel, from left to right:
    • quartz, mother of pearl, coral, rose quartz, rhodonite, leopardskin quartz, garnet, red tiger’s eye, red jasper, goldstone, carnelian, tiger’s eye, citrine, onyx.
  • In the lower left panel, from left to right:
    • unakite, serpentine, Chinese chrysoprase, peridot, aventurine, malachite, turquoise, amazonite, aquamarine, blue lace agate, sodalite, iolite (blue goldstone), amethyst, hematite.

Natural Science was born out of my love of geology.  When I owned my gift shop, I sold all manner of crystals & gems.  I also have a deep love of all fields of science.  Those three things combined served as the inspiration for the piece.

The basis for the design came from the random purchase of the test tubes.  I love the site American Science and Surplus for the sheer randomness of materials you can find.  I bought a bunch of test tubes from them.  Why?  At the time I had no real reason.  Seriously, I didn’t.  Once they arrived, I thought I should put them to use.  Several pieces were born from that purchase, Natural Science being only one of them.

Natural Science (
Natural Science (Detail Image)

Filling test tubes with all types of things mounted in clear adhesives was a ‘thing’ of mine for a while. I had some gemstone chips lying around so they became part of my little trend.  I found the picture frame on sale one day and realized it was perfect.  Unlike my past pieces, the addition of the two vertical frames would allow me to mount different, but related objects adding more visual interest and impact to the piece.  This piece was created alongside Screw Obsolescence, although that was probably obvious.

The background of each panel has a piece of highly textured scrapbook paper.  I wanted the background to have a bit of added visual interest, especially for the vertical frames.  Finding the right background was a lot harder than one would think.  I bought about a dozen sheets of gray & black sheets, each a slightly different shade, some with texture & some flat.  I think using the deep gray with the texturing added a nice compliment to the overall piece.

I decided to stagger the test tubes rather than have them aligned simply because I thought it was more interesting that way.  I had done other pieces where the tubes were perfectly aligned along their bottom edge but that didn’t seem to look right when I tried it on this piece.

The biggest challenge to this piece was finding enough types of gemstone beads / chips in the correct colors without paying a small fortune.  Keeping this piece under $150 was a huge challenge for that reason alone.  When I lived in Ohio, I had local suppliers, including a gem shop that sold wholesale at really good prices.  Unfortunately, by the time I started devoting real time & effort to art, I had moved to Virginia.  That mean resorting to a lot of online wholesalers and retailers.  Prices can vary so wildly that it was a struggle to find what I needed.  In the end I managed to find exactly what I needed and at the right price.