Bromine is primarily found in the ocean and in brine pools as a colorless crystalline mineral salt. At room temperature it is a fuming, toxic and corrosive liquid.

Bromine has many uses in our daily lives. It spends time in hot tubs around the world. Bromine is to hot water what chlorine is to cold. It helps kill all kinds of bacteria and things we don’t want floating around in the hot tub with us. Bromine is also a primary ingredient in the fire retardant applied to children’s pajamas – over 250,000 tons of bromine are consumed in fire retardant production. Formerly used in pesticides, bromine is found to be highly reactive to sunlight and is very effective at ozone depletion. Due to this unwanted side-effect, bromine use has been abandoned as a pesticide ingredient. Amazingly enough, bromine is also found in lemon/lime soft drinks – including Mountain Dew – and is responsible for that almost glow-in-the-dark yellow/green color.

To interpret this element as a quilt, I used a Mountain Dew kerchief as the background and then a photo transfer of “baby Jeanne” in some pjs that we assume were treated with fire retardant. The spiral of wool roving “smoke” represents the noxious fumes while the white button attempts to represent the bromine tablets that are used in spas and hot tubs.


Gallium, as represented in this original cartoon drawing, is based on one of the tales told in Sam Kean’s book The Disappearing Spoon and other tales of madness, love and the history of the world from the periodic table of the Elements. Kean does a remarkable job sharing the stories behind the discovery of the elements in an interesting and very readable book, even for those of us non chemistry majors.

Gallium has one of the lowest melting points of any of the elements at 84 degrees Fahrenheit and was used as a practical joke by chemists when they molded spoons out of the metal and then watched the spoon disappear as their guests were served hot tea or soup. Today, other applications for gallium include electronic uses as a laser light in CD players, in LEDs and as a semi-conductor in computer chips.


I love archives. I  love the smell of old paper and the thrill of going through old documents and stumbling on a treasure trove of information. I love to look at old photographs and what they tell us about the way people lived and how they thought. And it breaks my heart when I see these wonderful pieces of our history crumbling away through the ravages of pollution, time, and damaging storage environments. An archivist once told me that one day, as he worked among the stacks of an old film collection, he could literally hear the films flaking apart all around him. He said it sounded like it was raining.

Argon is one of the noble gases. As with most noble gases, it is chemically inert and does not form bonds with other elements which makes it an ideal medium in preservation efforts because it refuses to react with any other substance. When the National Archives and Records Administration built the Charters of Freedom display for the  Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in the new rotunda at the National Archives Building in Washington DC, it built argon-filled titanium cases to display these pricelss pieces of our history.


This soft, silver-gold metal has a melting point of 82 degrees F, which makes it one of 5 metals that are liquid near room temperature. One of its distinguishing characteristics is the brilliant sky-blue it emits when burned.

Cesium also decays at an exceptionally stable rate; therefore when the scientists of the world decided to regularize our timekeeping, they turned to cesium. In early definitions, the length of a second was based on calculating fractions of the apparent motion of the earth and sun which they found meant that a second is not always a second–sometimes it’s longer, sometimes it’s shorter. That’s no way to run a universe. So in 1967, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures used an isotope of cesium to help define an unequivocal second: “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom.”


Cesium is used in atomic clocks. In this piece, I depicted an atomic clock with a kind of steam punk esthetic.


Two hydrogen atoms are in a bar. One says, sadly, “I think I’ve lost my electron. . .”

“That’s terrible!” says the other. “Are you sure?”

“I’m positive!”

Hydrogen has atomic number 1 and is represented by the symbol H. The name hydrogen means “water maker” in ancient Greek. It was chosen because water is a product when hydrogen is burned in air. It is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, is found in giant gaseous planets and plays a role in powering stars. Because H2 is lighter than air, with approximately 115  the density of air, it was once widely used as a lifting gas in balloons & airships.The largest applications of H2 are in the processing (“upgrading”) of fossil fuels and in the production of ammonia. Much research is underway to determine if we can move to a “Hydrogen Economy” to shift from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas to hydrogen. Free hydrogen does not occur naturally in quantity and must be generated from some other energy source by steam reformation of natural gas or another method and, so, hydrogen fuel is not yet considered economical or energy-saving.

Creating the block was fun — I chose a blimp graphic to represent the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg and printed it on muslin. I used a metallic fall leaf for the explosion/fire and added beading and embroidery embellishments.


by Jan Flack

Gadolinium is a chemical element with the symbol Gd and atomic number 64. It is a silvery-white, malleable and ductile rare-earth metal. Gadolinium has exceptionally high absorption of neutrons and therefore is used for shielding in neutron radiography and in nuclear reactors. Because of its paramagnetic properties, solutions of organic gadolinium complexes and gadolinium compounds  are the most popular intravenous MRI contrast agents in medical magnetic resonance imaging. Gadolinium is also used in other medical imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

For the block I chose to reprint a brain scan found online — it is a “normal” brain and was printed on treated muslin. Hand applique using purple DMC thread and beading complete the block.


Tantalum is a rare, lustrous, blue-grey metal used as a substitute for platinum in alloys, but its main use is in capacitors used in everything from cell phones to computers. Tantalum is wonderfully chemically inert and does not absorb chemical solutions even when submerged. This characteristic led its discoverer to name it after Tantalus, a figure in Greek mythology who was punished by the gods to spend eternity submerged to the chin in water which would drain away if he tried to drink and tantalised (tantalise=Tantalus, get it?) by ripe figs hanging just above his head which would be blown out of reach if he tried to take one. Horrible fate to spend eternity suffering from unending hunger and thirst, but then Tantalus was a pretty horrible guy. He stole ambrosia from the gods and in exchange, served them dinner he concocted by sacrificing and boiling up his son Pelops. Ugh.

In its natural form, tantalum always occurs with niobium, named after his daughter (who wasn’t much better than her father by all accounts).


Named for the Siberian-born chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, who is the creator of the periodic table. He spent most of his career teaching at St. Petersburg. I thought it was important to emphasize his left side brain activity typical of a scientist, a mathematician. He was known as a genius for leaving gaps in the periodic table for elements yet to be discovered. As Director of Weights and Measures, he formulated a new standard for the production of vodka: all vodka had to be produced at 40% alcohol by volume. Mendeleev was a scholar who won a gold medal for being 1st in his class. He was awarded the Davy medal in 1882. He is also known for his work with petroleum, engineering and agriculture. He wrote books and developed theories, his peers knew him as a great physicist and scientist. He is credited with introducing Russia to the metric system. He drew worldwide recognition from scholars, universities and academies. He believed that science must be complemented by knowledge of religious and artistic sources. Russia lost a great scientist when he passed away in 1907. Just prior to his death he had been contemplating a journey to the North Pole by hot air balloon.

by Diane Siekaniec


This essential mineral is very important for good health, it boosts heart health and helps keep blood pressure in check, it is responsible for muscle contractions, sending oxygen to the brain, and regulates heartbeat. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood, animals, birds, beans, greens, grain, seeds and dairy. I wanted to depict the variety of foods providing an interesting buffet of potassium. This small art project does not begin to encompass all the possibilities of potassium rich foods, it merely gives you something to ponder.


This element is a rare metal that has many characteristics similar to tantalum and the two always appear together. In fact they are so similar, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. It was first discovered in 1734 and named columbium by Connecticut governor John Winthrop the Younger. However, because chemists of the time were unable to isolate it from tantalum, they decided it wasn’t an element after all. It was rediscovered in 1844 by Heinrich Rose. Apparently Rose must have been feeling puckish the day he officially named this element, as he decided to change the name from columbium to niobium — making niobium and its close relative tantalum the only father-daughter combination on the periodic table.

In junior high, I developed a fascination with Greek and Roman mythology that continues to this day. I don’t know why because these stories are pretty ghastly. The gods are not nice, people.

The myth of Niobe is particularly beastly. She was the daughter of Tantalus and queen of Thebes. She was a beautiful, proud and fecund woman who you would think would have know better after what happened to her father. At a celebration to honor the demigoddess Lantona, mother of gods Apollo and Diana, she sashayed in to the temple and announced that people were wasting their time worshiping such a weak goddess. Wasn’t she more beautiful? Wasn’t she richer? Wasn’t she more fertile? After all, she had seven sons and seven daughters instead of only one. Why were they wasting their time worshiping such a puny little person? Apparently the Thebans couldn’t think of a good reason so they left the temple with the ceremony unfinished.

Of course, the gods did what the gods do — they smote her. Each of her children died a horrible death at the hands of Apollo and Diana, until Niobe desolate and immobile with grief, turned to stone.

The moral of the story is, don’t mess with the gods. I’m just saying.