We — a surgeon, a research nurse and a synthetic chemist — looked beyond science to discover how people steeped in artistic skills might help to close this 'haptic gap', the deficit in skills of touch and object manipulation. We have found that craftspeople and performers can work fruitfully alongside scientists to address some of the challenges. We have also discovered striking similarities between the observational skills of an entomologist and an analytical chemist; the dexterity of a jeweller and a microsurgeon; the bodily awareness of a dancer and a space scientist; and the creative skills of a scientific glassblower, a reconstructive surgeon, a potter and a chef.