Visit Tiffany Ard's Web site, and you'll see ABC and number cards for babies, a children's book, and nursery prints, all rendered in the beautiful, whimsical watercolors you might expect from a children's artist. But within seconds of browsing the site, you'll realize there is something very, very strange going on here.
"I have a really weird sense of humor," Ard says. Her tongue-in-cheek products for "nerdy babies" take the parenting obsession with educational products like Baby Genius and Baby Einstein "to its logical extreme," she says. She puts on a hilarious mock coo. "So H is for hydrogen bonding, and you have to know that, baby."
"It's like a litmus test to find out if your friends are nerds," Ard explains. If you saw the painting in a friend's nursery from far away, she says, you'd have certain expectations.
Boundaries between science and art seem to be fluid for Ard, who claims she always knew she wanted to be an artist, but at the same time always had a fascination with science. She credits her "Renaissance man" father, a pilot, violin maker, machinist, writer and artist.
Maybe that's why she draws freely from math and science for her nerd-delighting artwork. Her easy traversal of the line between art and scientific ideas landed her an invitation to SciFOO, a "Unconference" hosted by Google and organized by IT publisher O'Reilly and the Nature publishing group. One of the running topics for the Unconference was getting the public interested in science.
"It's kind of a weird conversation for me," she says. "At least for kids, that's like sitting around talking about, 'How do we get our puppies more interested in chewing?' That's all they do. Even grownups are interested in science if you can convince them they're allowed to be." We hope you let Ard's artwork convince you.