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Some people are so good at gift-giving, it’s almost like they wrote a how-to guide. But with Marie Kondo’s influence; the Great Pacific Garbage Patch growing, even the greatest gift-givers are struggling to show their generosity this holiday season.

The best gifts are personal, unique, and it’s increasingly important they minimize harm to planet Earth. Satisfy those three criteria, and you have a solid present right there.

An elite gift is all that and consummately represents something the recipient wants but does not need.

This is not a riddle. It’s an invitation to discover something rare to be cherished.

Allow me to introduce Tyler Thrasher, the naturalist artist whose crystalized cicadas and crustaceans caught my glittering eye. For those less inclined to creepy-crawlies, Tyler’s candied cactus branches are another application of his most peculiar craft.

Tyler’s drops are as uncommon as his creations, that’s why it was truly magnanimous when earlier this month he posted one of his treasures for $1, asking to please save it for a fan who is “ballin’ on a budget or … couldn’t grab a piece from the mad rush of the weekend.” And while I wasn’t able to get my hands on a Tyler Thrasher original, I did score an interview with the creator.

Tyler, thank you for connecting with me here! If you had to summarize yourself/your work into a short statement, what would you say?

My work and focus balances a fine line between creative expression and a deep, unquenchable fascination with nature.

How did you get into such a unique field? Was there one defining moment you can remember or more of an evolution to where you are today?

It was a gradual path. I was a very curious kid, like most other kids. As I got older I found less and less contentment in conventional paths. The things that ignited my curiosity were pushed towards the back by educators, and I found myself being funneled down a route I felt was entirely pointless (if I’m being honest).

During college, I fought like hell to work those curiosities back into my life. My weekends were spent hiking and caving, sitting out in the Ozarks sketching plants and insects, revisiting my childhood love of plants.

Crystals and chemistry made a strong comeback, and I found myself deeply enamored with these things, all of which had nothing to do with the path I was gently pressured into taking.

What did you study to prepare you for your craft?

I’m mostly self-taught. I read chemistry textbooks, science journals; I spend my free time traveling and speaking with other patrons of nature and science. I make efforts to surround myself with others who keep their flames roaring and learn from their inspiration.

What about in elementary school, what subjects fascinated you?

Art, science, and not being in a large brick building.

I love that.

Yeah, I looked forward to the time not spent inside and felt I learned much more on the other side of the window, or even at home. I remember being a child and feeling like some aspects of the education system were silly or tedious. I did however find some shimmering hope in my art class and science class because I felt like I could take these things home with me to some degree. They felt more important because they had relevance outside of school.

Who are some of your influences?

It’s hard to say. I find myself so distracted by my own projects that I don’t spend much time following other bodies of work or makers. I wish I could give an honest answer to this, but I’m in my own head so much, always making or taking on new projects that I find it hard to slow down and admire other works. I’ve made a habit to not look at other artists and work while also staying offline. After coming out of a long creative stretch I have to sort of rediscover what else was inspiring me or keeping my mind going.

Maybe a better question is if there’s an artistic period or movement that inspires you?

I find a lot of inspiration in alchemy. Specifically alchemy that fed into modern chemistrynot spiritualism. The dangerous and outlandish ambitions of mad men in the woods under their furnaces inspires me. Those so driven by curiosity and a pursuit of something new and mysterious that it often times led to their deaths. I’ve also always been a fan of landscapes and plein air paintings. Thomas Moran is a huge inspiration as his love, reverence, and respect for nature makes up the foundation of his paintings. I feel like I could fall into them.

Do you listen to music when creating?

I used to. I had to stop because I also enjoy making electronic music. I found that if I listened to music while making art, my brain would start making music. I would catch myself beatboxing, humming and composing electronic music in my head and would lose sight of the current project. Before I knew it, I would be at the computer composing. So I had to stop, lest I get no single thing done.

How much of your process is experimentation? Do you lose/break/ruin anything when experimenting? Is that frustrating or just part of the process?

Most of what I do is experimentation.

I don’t find much enjoyment in anything with a foreseeable outcome.

The mediums I work with are largely unpredictable, the way I like to create follows that same vein. I want to be surprised—I want to learn something from my work as well

I envy your attitude. Anytime I’m creating, I want perfection; I want instant results.

I find it doesn’t do my process or brain any good to start a week- or month-long project that has an outcome I can clearly see. I like to take the principles of chemistry and science and apply them in unconventional ways, soak up the surprise and excitement and try it again and again—learning something new every time.

Favorite piece (or pieces, as I’m sure your style and abilities have evolved)?

I’ve always enjoyed synthesizing the crystallized cicadas. Each one is so unique and differentI’ve yet to get bored.

Lately I’ve been delving deep into synthesizing opal which has yielded some of the more intriguing pieces and projects I’ve taken on such as opalized cicada shells and opalized flowers.

I love cicadas. When I hear their chorus, I know it’s August, which is beautiful but melancholic because I know summer is winding down. Any shout-outs, plugs, a personal mantra, or uestion you wish I’d asked?

My personal mantra is

Nature is patient, and you’re the only one in charge of keeping your flame roaring and braving the weather of others.

Great advice from one creator to another. I can’t thank you enough for giving us a glimpse into the world of Tyler Thrasher art. Cheers!

Jillian Conochan

Jillian Conochan is a professional amateur; writing and editing just happen to be two current pursuits. Opinion range: strong to DNGAF.

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