Mindy Baumgartner — a crafty physicist in love with the sky
Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you’re in love, you want to tell the world. — Carl Sagan
Artist Mindy Baumgartner’s favorite scientist is Carl Sagan. This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with her work. Coming across her masterfully painted watercolor galaxies and cosmologic dreamscapes, one is immediately transfixed by her love for science and the uncontrollable need to share it with the world.
Mindy, also known as the Crafty Physicist on Instagram, Etsy and the Chicago crafting communities, is a multi-talented artist and scientist. Her passion for Astronomy started by staring at the sky in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: “We had nice dark skies, so my parents would wake me up in the night for celestial events… things like meteor showers, eclipses, and the aurora borealis. That’s where my love of the night sky (and science) began to grow.” And more than the sky itself, she found her path by talking about it. “I loved talking to others about science. I loved the look on their faces when you shared some amazing science fact with them. I loved to think about how they’d go and share that fact with someone else… that maybe that fact would spur them on their own journey for discovery.”
After obtaining a degree in Physics, with minors in Museum Studies, Mindy launched into a successful career as a science educator in science museums. She learned communicating science effectively, getting “comfortable being uncomfortable”, and “learning to have fun communicating with others”.
All these skills remained useful even after she stopped working at science museums and started the new adventure of building her family. But Mindy found it was impossible to leave the joy of communicating science behind. She needed to “connect creatively with other about science”, and thus she started lettering science fact and quotes. It was then, in 2017, that Crafty Physicist was born.
Watercolor is like a science experiment every time you put paint to paper. The amount of water, the minerals in the paint, the absorption of the paper… every time you change one of those factors, your output can change dramatically, and I love that.
In time, she developed new skills. Today, her portfolio is vibrant and variegated. It includes lettering pieces, watercolor nebulas, mixed media pieces that include printed textile and paper collages.
She experiments with new media with the same curiosity a scientist does with their research. “Watercolor is like a science experiment every time you put paint to paper. The amount of water, the minerals in the paint, the absorption of the paper… every time you change one of those factors, your output can change dramatically, and I love that. I love the tactile nature and dimensionality of paper-cutting and embroidery. Adding lettering to any piece gives an additional layer of emotion.”
She never left her roots, and all of her work continued to draw inspiration from science. Nor she left behind her mission as a science educator. “I want to bring people in with beautiful imagery and then sneak in a fact or two, or get them thinking about their place in space. I want people to feel more comfortable with science and appreciate what it has to offer and how they can connect with it. Art has been an unconventional and wonderful tool for doing that.” She told us.
Art and science are ways of looking at the world, one more analytically and one more emotionally, but by combining the two in sci-art, we get this beautiful view of the human experience.
When asked why she only focuses on #sciart, instead of broadening to other subjects, she replied: “I make science art, because that’s what moves me. I find science beautiful and I am driven to share that view with others. My goal with my art is for others to find a connection with and appreciation for science. I want to break down the barrier that science is just for scientists. […] Art and science are ways of looking at the world, one more analytically and one more emotionally, but by combining the two in sci-art, we get this beautiful view of the human experience.” These are just a few of the inspiring insights we got by talking with the artist. You can read the full interview here.
More exciting adventures are on the horizon for Mindy. She is working on setting up Science Craft Nights in the Chicago area. Her vision sees her teaching craft skills to attendees, while a scientist gives a lecture in the background. You can follow her work, and her future endeavors, on social media (@craftyphysicist on Instagram) and on her website.