Mastermold Reliefs Capture the Beauty of the Unseen in OpenLands Lakeshore Preserve


The natural beauty of Openlands Lakeshore Preserve – Photo from

The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highwood, Illinois is a scenic retreat from urban life where Chicago area residents come to enjoy nature and the splendor of Lake Michigan. Its paths feature stunning scenery, as well as art installations like The Soil is Alive, a set of 10 bas reliefs by local artist Sharon Bladholm.


Sharon Bladholm’s art installation along a nature path – Photo from

According to Bladholm, they “depict the microscopic creatures that live in healthy soil and create soil by breaking down organic material. The detailed reliefs show many species of bacteria, algae, actinomycetes, protozoa, tardigrades, mites, springtails, fungi and rotifers.”


Bladholm’s work in studio – Photo from

She cast the bronze pieces using Abatron’s Mastermold 12-3, a flexible moldmaking paste used for restoration, art, and architectural reproduction. It allowed her to recreate the organisms in intricate detail that in life is mostly invisible to the naked eye. One can only see this kind of detail through a microscope. She spent 3 years researching, drawing, sculpting, and making numerous site visits to complete this project. She also consulted with scientists to ensure that the organisms depicted are found in the soil at the 74 acre Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. The result is an inspiring marriage of art and science.

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The protozoa and fungi reliefs from the installation – Photo from

View more photos of the installation and the rest of her sculpture and design work on her website