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New online business captures the beauty of insects through art

'I'm hoping to inspire the beauty of insects to other people, because I think they're beautiful'

Two Guelph friends and business owners who love bugs are hoping to share their passion and knowledge through art.

Samm Reynolds and Kat Cantera are co-owners of Arthropod’s Garden, a business that sells sustainable insect art. Using glass bottles, the duo create scenes using former living insects, flora and fauna to create scenes. Besides these pieces, this business also sells framed art with insects and insect-themed Christmas ornaments.

“We both really want to create, basically little miniature gardens, to preserve the insects so that they could sort of live in their natural environment for the rest of their days, so people could admire and learn from them,” said Reynolds.

Wanting to offer more than pinned butterflies for insect enthusiasts, Reynolds explains they use dragon flies, cicadas and other insect species within their art. For any of their framed insect art, she adds they press their own flowers and buy their frames second hand.

"I'm hoping to inspire the beauty of insects to other people, because I think they're beautiful."

The insects used come from the University of Guelph and other organizations that study insects. Currently pursuing her PhD, Reynolds mentions she noticed scientific studies being done on one type of insect, were attracting different insects with their traps, resulting in a lot of 'by-catch.' She said most of this by-catch would be thrown out.

After noticing this, Reynolds began asking if she could take them home.

“I thought, ‘Oh, these are beautiful, and I think there is an opportunity to show people how beautiful these are instead of letting it go to waste,’” she said.

“We’re just trying to find partnerships with people where the insects die naturally, because I don’t want anyone going out and killing bugs on our behalf."

With all the materials on hand, Reynolds said it can take up to a few hours, depending on the shape of the bottle. 

“It’s kind of like building a ship in a bottle," said Reynolds, "But for others that are easy to access, it can take an hour or two, instead of three or four.”

Since launching on Nov. 29, Reynolds said she has been ‘blown away’ by the response online and demand for custom orders.

“I didn’t realize there was such a market for this stuff,” said Reynolds. “I thought, ‘If it was going to work anywhere, Guelph is going to be the place where it’s going to work.’" 

While the duo recently launched their online store, Reynolds mentions they both had been wanting to do this for years, starting after they had first met during an field course about entomology in both of their undergrad studies.

From that field course, Reynolds said it helped shape her career trajectory, and Cantera's, who now works for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“I knew I loved insects, growing up, I was the kid that was very much like, ‘Don’t kill it! Let’s bring it outside,’ or was not ever scared of spiders, and things like that,” said Reynolds, “and when I started learning more about them I was like ‘These are so fascinating!’”

“From that field course, that’s kind of where I found my path, and Kat did the same."

Reynolds mentions wasn’t until each went to a psychic for a tarot card reading on Halloween that they decided to give their business idea a shot.

“She basically told us that she could sense that we wanted to start a business endeavour together and that we had been putting it off and that we should stop putting it off," said Reynolds, "and it was freaky, but we were like, ‘Yeah, we should do it.’”

As they test consumer’s interest in their work, Reynolds notes she would love to expand the platform to also provide information on the species they feature, becoming more of a science communication business.

“I really like teaching people about insects because I feel like they are something people don't know very much about," said Reynolds. "They are an undervalued part of the environment, so I really hope that we can expand it into not just art, but education for people."

To see what products are available at Arthroprod's Garden, you can check out their Instagram page here.