Category Archives: Art

Saturday…with Turkish Delight ( and an Online Creative Course Teaser )

August 19, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - colour - Summer - texture - workshops

It always kind of takes me by surprise when I see something out of the corner of my eye and then suddenly know I have to get to the table and create a new composition.

The table is the best blank canvas I’ve ever had, I suppose because it’s never really blank, it’s always living and has now become an essential part of my creative and domestic life ( it’s currently living with a blueish accidental paint mark which I’ve become quite fond of ).

I think of my compositions as visual maths…everything is in the right place but everything is also variable. It’s an improvisation in colour and texture and atmosphere.

I have days where I’m obsessed with colour and others where I’m obsessed with texture ( I even have another Instagram account @outsidesense where I can indulge my abstract texture collecting ) but the most satisfying days are when I can bring it all together. When I paint I have to work at bringing it all together and I often consider my photographic compositions as sketches which always inform my painting at a later date.

So, I thought I’d share some of my rather ad hoc inspiration…

…and yesterday, it was this shelf in Asda…I stopped, as I always do, and looked at what is my domestic equivalent of an art shop. These are the shelves I love most in the Winter; when my garden is barren and brown, when everyone’s going on about how little colour there is…these shelves in the ‘foreign foods’ section are my life saver.

I found a couple of new ‘textures’ today. I’m always looking for colourful food textures but today I was taken with white sago and clear sugar…and then I saw the turkish delight, which sort of reminded me of some of the dahlias from Thursday and also some roses in my garden, and that was that…

I have a special case where I keep all my foody textures…it’s sort of akin to my big bag of paints but which has a much spicier smell! I like being quite selective and choose things which I instinctively want to work with so today the ingredients were:

Red peppercorns, Juniper berries, Sumac, Popping Candy, Breadcrumbs, Tapioca, Sugar, Star Anise, Dahlias from the fride ( the ones whose heads had come of on the car journey ), Rose, Valerium, Marjoram, Perennial Pea, Japanese Anenome, Rose hips, a plant I can’t remember the name of ( please let me know if you know it! ) and Turkish Delight…

I take lots of pictures as I go as more often than not, it’s the textures and items themselves which lead the composition… I also like to play around with the formats so take photos in landscape, square and portrait as sometimes I’m surprised by how different the atmospheres are within them… I also take pictures when I feel I finished as, again, the ‘ingredients’ can still surprise me, and it always somehow feels less pressured when I know I’ve got one in the bag anyway…

…and that happened today…I was about finished when I took the photo below and realised that it had all the feeling and colour nuances I’d wanted to create in the first place…I added some extra sugar…slightly altered the composition…

and then felt I could leave it.

Editing the images is the part which I consider brings my images to life; it’s another artistic element which feels to me a lot like painting. I don’t have a recipe which works every time as I like to consider each image in it’s own right and then tease out the atmosphere and how I really feel about what I’m working with. The image on the left is how the iphone sees the table, the image on the right is how I see and feel about the table…

I often think of that Helena Rubenstein quote “ There’s no such thing as an ugly woman, just a lazy one “, as I kind of feel the same about photo editing…If I think I’ve taken a rubbish photo I don’t dismiss it until I’ve edited the life out of it first!

This is a recent example below…I was on the train walking down the aisle and suddenly noticed the sky and St Michael’s Mount. I rushed to the window and took the shot as we raced past not very hopeful I would catch anything useable. However with a bit of editing I was able to pull out the colour and composition much more clearly to create a cleaner image.

Sometimes, as a bit of a treat, I also play with Instagram Layout as it always turns up something I’m not expecting…

I never think of my table compositions as just something a bit pretty, and to be honest I quite like adding a potentially ‘ugly’ element; maybe it’s because I like a bit of a challenge as well as some instinctive yin and yang…‘Consciously Creative’ – A New Online Creative Course

I’ve been asked a lot over the last few years about my working practice, my influences and inspirations, my techniques and tips, and I’ve been able to share lots of them during my one day workshops and one to one coaching, but I’ve felt for a while now that although these workshops are a lot of fun, I can only scratch the surface of how to work creatively. So, I’ve spent some time recently putting together a 6 week online creative course which will lead you to discover more about looking, seeing, colour, texture, atmosphere and all your senses as well as equipping you with a feeling of your own personal, ongoing creative journey…one which isn’t just about social media, but one which is about creating more of a daily practice and encouraging you to feel the importance of experimenting and process rather than focusing on clickable content.

I’ve been a self employed creative artist for over 20 years…many of those years really didn’t feel very fruitful at all, but all of those years, in some shape or form, have directly influenced what appears on my table, in my photographs, my paintings, my products and the way I live…it’s an ongoing process, like life I suppose, and I really want to be able to help people start that practice of creative ‘doing’ .

It will be a very personal course where I’ll demonstrate and chat Live on our private Instagram account for an hour each week as well as answer questions, set and assess homework, create weekly inspirational Pinterest boards, have a group Facebook page ( although you’ll be able to post and comment on our Instagram account too ) and also remain flexible and open to inspirations which may crop up during the 6 weeks. Because I want it to be as personal as possible, the course numbers will be limited and the 6 weeks will cost £300 per student and will run from 11th September – 16th October 2017. ( If you feel you would prefer a one to one version of the course I’m also happy to discuss that option via email ).

I’m planning to have the course ready to launch in the next couple of weeks so if you already know you’d like to be included on the course or want to be notified just prior to the launch date please send me an e-mail via the form below.

It’s a new project for me and I feel genuinely excited about sharing my work and exploring areas I love with other interested and inquisitive minds.You don’t have to have to be an artist or even someone who’s always been naturally creative to do this course…it’s a course to help anyone, artistic or not, to reconnect to the excitement of creativity, look at things with new eyes, see new colours, and inspire confidence and clarity to your own personal projects.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions..and look forward to meeting you!

Friday…with ‘Perfume’ at Somerset House

August 4, 2017

Filed Under : Art - exhibitions - London - Summer

This week I was invited by Somerset House to experience their current exhibition ‘Perfume’ – A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent and I also had the opportunity to create my own, personal scent with the Experimental Perfume Club. I was really excited as those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know how inspired I am by scent and the incredible memories and stories it provokes.

Last November I created a scent installation for the Artists Open Houses in Brighton which you can read about here in my post about ‘The Scented Shed’  and there are also links to some of my other scent related blog posts at the end of this one. The exhibition is about the journey of contemporary, niche perfumery; perfume as works of art creating a whole experience rather than just a fashion accessory.

There are 10 perfumes exhibited, in simple, atmospheric installations where you can soak up the scent and allow your memories and imagination to mingle with the perfumes. The perfumes are representatives of key moments of the 21st Century shift into using synthetic scent. The perfumes are exhibited unlabelled so as not to hinder your sensory journey. But before you explore the exhibits there is a table of perfume history…L’Origan by Coty, 1905,  ( below ) was the first floral oriental perfume and was pioneering for its use of synthetic ingredients in conjunction with natural materials and Chypre by Coty, 1917, ( below ) is regarded as one of the scents that defined modern perfumery… Shocking by Schiaparelli, 1937, ( below )  was arguably the first multi sensory perfume and captured the high glamour mood of the 1930’sPossibly the world’s most famous perfume, Chanel No 5, 1921, ( below ) created for Coco Chanel by Ernest Beaux… Youth Dew by Esteé Lauder, 1953, ( below ) created to be an accessible luxury for the emerging, post war middle classes and marked a transition in global perfumery, shifting its influence from Europe to America…Opium by Yves St Laurent, 1977, ( below )…it is considered one of the most controversial scents of the century, apparently bringing illicit thrills to a decade which embraced more casual conversations around sex…( my mum wore this one in the 1980’s!! ) After exploring the table of scent history we explored the main exhibition and were encouraged to make notes…and maybe create a new sort of descriptive vocabulary… Being a synaesthete I was in my element being able to make visual notes rather than trying to use words…even though I didn’t have time to complete them.

I don’t want to spoil things for you in case you’re able to get along to the exhibition so the following photographs show how the perfumes are displayed and how you interact with them, ie; there are objects in all the images which were infused with the scent. You can spot them by noticing a hole or circular mesh, rather than just telling  you what they are or who the artist was behind them…( although I list the artists and perfumes at the end of the blog post so you can have a stab at guessing. ) 

After the curated tour of the scents we then had the wonderful experience of creating our own personal scent in Le Petit Parfum workshop with Emmanuelle Moeglin from The Experimental Perfume Club; using our instincts to select our favourite olfactory notes and accords…
I discovered that I’m naturally drawn to citrus top notes, spicy heart notes and woody and oriental base notes and I managed to blend a perfume I was really happy with!

…and then to the shop, and of course I had to go home with the complete set of exhibition scented postcards! …and in my dreams Daniela Andrier’s ‘Rain Cloud’ would have been the scent I would have really liked to take home… …instead I satisfied myself with a shot of one of the wonderful staircases at Somerset House as I left the building, but very definitely followed by olfactory ghosts which stayed with me for days.The exhibition runs until 17th September and the 10 perfume ‘provocateurs’ are: Mark Buxton’s ‘Comme des Garçons 2′, Geza Schoen’s ‘Molecule 01’, Antoine Lee’s ‘Sécrétions Magnifiques’, Bertrand Duchaufour’s ‘Catholic Mass’, Daniela Andrier’s ‘Purple Rain’, David Seth Moltz’s ‘El Cosmico’, Lyn Harris’s ‘Charcoal’, Andy Tauer’s L’Air Du Desert Marocain, Killian Wells’s ‘Dark Ride’ and Prada’s ‘Iris’ 

If you wanted to read about some of my perfume and scent projects here are some previous blog posts: Monday…with Pop Ups and Perfume, Saturday…with Scented Reflections and Thursday…with Floris and Scent

Tuesday…with ‘Breathing Colour’ by Hella Jongerius at The Design Museum

August 1, 2017

Filed Under : Art - colour - exhibitions - London - Museums - Summer - trips

Last month I visited the new Design Museum in Kensington, London for a look around the ‘Breathing Colour’ exhibition by Hella Jongerius.

I didn’t know much about it but knew that it would definitely appeal to my obsessive sense of colour…

What I hadn’t anticipated was how the exhibition and the way in which Hella Jongerius explores and works with colour, would form part of a new appreciation I am personally exploring at the moment with colour, light and shadow.

I recently read Tanizaki’s ‘In Praise of Shadows’ which opened up so many questions and thoughts about how I view light and shadow, and so to then walk into an exhibition which examines how colours change and ‘breathe’ with times of day was not only serendipitous but also completely fascinating.The exhibition examines how we perceive colour and encourages us to be receptive of the effect that shape, texture, pattern and colour have on each other and Hella Jongerius has created a collection of Colour Catchers and textiles in an immersive light changing environment which leads you to experience metarism where colours come to life, changing and morphing at different times.

Hella Jongerius says of the Colour Catchers which she creates;

‘These Colour Catchers are an abstaraction of all the daily objects which surround me. They are the ultimate shapes for researching colour, shadows and reflections. They are my canvases.

She also says:

‘The colour phenomena and optical effects demonstrated in this exhibition are not just abstract theories. The exhibits are designed to provide knowledge about colour that can add value to practical objects and improve our daily lives.’ I have always found the perception of colour fascinating and when I was studying Art A Level my  art teacher completely opened my mind to seeing colours in places I had never seen them before. My work at that time became way too obsessed with colour, because it really was like I was seeing the world with new eyes…shadow and tone went out of the window and to be honest, they are still always something I have to work harder to see.

This exhibition really re-awakened my interest in colour as well as colour theory but also opened another door into the joy of shadows, alongside the Tanizaki I’d been reading.

The exhibition is a brilliant contemplation of colour and really lets you think and look at the world around you; the visual, tactile world as well as the intangible, ever changing world of light and shadow around us.

If you are in London over the Summer and up to 24rd September, you really should try and get to see the ‘Breathing Colour’ exhibition and visit the Design Museum itself. It’s an inspiring study and collection of work focused around colour which would appeal to fellow colour enthusiasts like me, but also those people who struggle with colour.

More information about the Design Museum here

Saturday…with Georg Jensen and London Craft Week

May 6, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - exhibitions - London - Museums - Spring - trips

This week I was invited by Georg Jensen to visit their Mount St store in London to watch one of their Danish silversmiths from Copenhagen, Tina Bentzen, demonstrate some of her techniques, her sketches, answer questions and show us some of her amazing hand made pieces.

It was an event which was part of London Craft Week which runs from May 3rd – 7th 2017. London Craft Week is an annual event showcasing exceptional craftsmanship through a programme which features hidden workshops and unknown makers alongside celebrated masters, famous studios, galleries, shops and luxury brands.

I was really excited to visit Georg Jensen as I absolutely love their designs and also the fact that they champion design collaborations between architects and fashion designers such as Zaha Hadid and Ilse Crawford.

Tina Bentzen started at Georg Jensen as a silversmith apprentice in 2006 and finished in 2009 and since then has worked on various hollowware products and has an extensive knowledge and expertise, often being involved in product development projects, like Kengo Kuma and the re-launch of the Bernadotte cocktail set.

I have always been interested in craft and design, choosing to study the History of Design at Manchester Met years ago… a course which unfortunately I never finished as I decided to train at RADA instead . I’ve always loved design and been fascinated by working processes, so being able to have a glimpse into how a silversmith works was perfect…

Below is the original 1939 design for the Bernadotte Cocktail Shaker… There are hundreds of hammers to use in the workshop, but each silversmith has one  personal hammer which they make themselves, and the one below is Tina’s… The finished Bernadotte Cocktail set…Hours of work goes into each piece with different specialists working on different elements: there is a chaser who is able to create the marks within a piece and a spinner who works on a machine to create the shape. I hadn’t realised that often silverware is a collaborative process between different craftspeople.

The soup tureen below was also made by Tina and took over 600 hours of work and used at least 7 different solders…After the demonstration I popped downstairs to have a look at their new cocktail set Manhattan as I’m particularly in love with the bowls…I just love looking at them as their smoothness and reflections are incredible…I was inspired by seeing Tina work and thought how amazing it is to have a particular craft and talent to make such exquisite pieces. I thought the personal touches, like making her own hammer, which is such an integral element of her work, was really important; creating and adapting your work tools is part of what makes every piece of art unique; it’s the artist’s hand, the artist’s movement and the artist’s personality, is what creates a truly beautiful piece of work.

I realised when I got home that I also had a favourite hammer, and although it’s only used for domestic chores, it was made by my grandfather who started off as a carpenter and it’s precious because this was his hammer…
The following day I visited the V & A Museum to see the Silver Speaks: ‘Idea to Object’ display in the Silver Galleries with a talk from Design critic, journalist and curator, Corinne Julius, which was another London Craft Week Event…
Corinne Julius discussed the works on display with a selection of the makers and there were demonstrations with silversmith Abigail Brown from Contemporary British Silversmiths as well as Tina Bentzen from Georg Jensen… Tina was working with the tea leaf container from the new  Kusa tea set , designed by Kengo Kuma, before the oxidisation process which turns the inside elements to a charcoal black finish. Tina would then polish the outer silver giving it the 2 tone effect. This is one of the Georg Jensen images of the finished set…The Silver Speaks: Idea to Object display was also really interesting as it was virtually all non functional silver and explorations in design from contemporary British silversmiths alongside some of their workings such as notes, models and found objects. ’Animus’ by Kevin Gray ’Ice Tea for One’ by Rajesh Gogna Pillow Cutlery set by Angela Cork Silver and Leather Clutch by Kyosun Jung ’Urban’ Candle Holder by Anna Lorenz Alistair McCallum’s Silver Vase with Makume Gane Rim alongside his spontaneous sketches ( on betting slips! ) Rebecca de Quin’s ‘Four Vessel Set’ (with a group of her paper models below ) Below was my favourite piece in the display ‘Boscawen-Un’ Vessel by Abigail Brown who was interested in the symbiotic relationships between man and stone and lichen and stone. The vessel was designed to evoke a monolith much like the standing stones in Cornwall, which is where Abigail lives. Abigail was also demonstrating in the silver galleries and having learned what chasing was the day before, it was brilliant to actually see a silversmith doing some deep relief chasing; the silver vessel being supported and filled with pitch, made from Stockholm tar, pine resin and tallow, so that the silver still has movement when being hammered.

After the talk and demonstrations I had a look around the Silver Gallery.

There is an original Georg Jensen tea pot set from 1911, made by Georg Jensen himself for a cabinet maker friend who had designed his bedroom furniture!The Silver Galleries are spectacular and show something of a completely different age…I was trying to explain to my son a couple of days ago what decadence was…I reckon a trip here would probably illustrate that pretty well!
The decadence of this giant wine cooler, in my personal opinion, is dwarfed by the simpler, stylish tea set…
…or coffee pot It was so brilliant to have a wander around part of the V & A Museum which I had never been to before. The museum has so much to offer that you can never really squash it all into one day. I’m obsessed with The Antiques Roadshow ( it really is my favourite television programme ) and I loved looking at all the little bits and pieces in the cabinets, imagining them turning up in a box of bric a brac at a car boot sale, waiting to be discovered by a potential visitor to the Roadshow! It was hard to pull myself away and head back to Brighton; there was so much to tempt me to stay longer all the way to the exit, so I will definitely be going back to spend more time exploring soon… It’s been such a fascinating and inspiring couple of days for me which has really left me fired up to connect to my own painting and making again.

You can still catch London Craft Week as it runs all over this weekend, so if you’re in London you really should have a look at some of the events which are happening all over the capital…I certainly feel very lucky, thanks to Georg Jensen, that I was able to experience and learn so much about silver.

Friday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 4 )

April 28, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - Gardens - London - moving stills - My Home - Spring - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

For the final part of this project one of the things I thought I’d look at something I reckon we’re all pretty scared about which is pain and this led me to visit Chelsea Physic Garden as I was interested in historical Native Remedies for pain.

When I was reading a witness statement from Witnesses To Modern Biomedicine I was amazed that until about 1965 there was an enormous amount of ignorance about pain and subsequently there was a lot of acute pain particularly in end of life situations and the thought that ‘men didn’t need powerful drugs’ for pain but women did, seems extraordinary.

A large percentage of us have usually experienced some form of severe pain or at least witnessed it as often it occurs at births and deaths.I certainly remember that after having my emergency c-section I would lie in the hospital bed listening for the sound of the pain relief trolley rattling down the corridor, desperate for it to arrive…

And then when my father was in his last days in hospital he would suddenly have an attack of awful pain which was swiftly taken away by a dose of morphine…the magic of seeing that was incredible, and such a relief, to witness.

The relatively recent advancements of pain relief are something that I am personally so grateful for but also just amazed that it is possible.

The witness statement below is from Dame Cicely Saunders, physician and the founder of the Modern Hospice Movement

Going to St Joseph’s Hospice, which was virtually untouched by medical advance, I was able to introduce records and the regular giving of morphine, which they hadn’t started, and according to one of the sisters of the ward that I was first in, it was the change from painful to pain-free. Having been given four patients to look after, I was soon looking after every admission into those 45 beds. So I began keeping records in detail, pre-computer, on a punch card system, and making tape recordings of patients talking about their pain from 1960, and I realised that what we were looking at was what I described later, in 1964, as total pain. And I will quote from one patient, when I said to her, ‘Tell me about your pain, Mrs H.’ She just said, ‘Well, doctor, it began in my back, but now it seems that all of me is wrong. I could have cried for the pills and the injections, but I knew that I mustn’t. Nobody seemed to understand how I felt, and it seemed as if the whole world was against me. My husband and son were marvellous, but they would have to stay off work and lose their money, but it’s so wonderful to begin to feel safe again.’ And so she has really talked about the physical, the psychological, the social, and her spiritual need for security to look at who she was, coming to the end of her life. And for another patient it was, ‘All pain and now it’s gone, and I am free.’ It is not possible to treat pain in isolation. We have to consider the whole person.

and this one from Professor Duncan Vere, Clinical Pharmacologist

I will say that until about 1965 there was entrenched ignorance, a tremendous amount of severe pain. Patients who were in severe pain, or dying with pain, were often given the Brompton cocktail, or Mist. Obliterans, as it was politely known, and it was a matter of patients being rendered so that they didn’t know what they were doing, by doctors who certainly didn’t know what they were doing. They were using medicines with actions that they couldn’t understand, because they had this complex mixture of cocaine, morphine, gin, sometimes with phenothiazine added. Parsimony was the order of the day, which rendered control impossible. Pain breakthrough was frequent, and intermittent control is disastrous, if only for the reason of the self-augmentation of pain. Hospice care had, of course, begun but somehow it didn’t seem to have come across into the general medical and surgical field in hospitals and general practice.

I think for a lot of people the idea of hospitals is really terrifying particularly for births and deaths. I think it probably has a lot to do with the lack of comfort there, and consequently a prevention of relaxation. They’re public spaces after all, so I can absolutely understand why treatments at home would be preferable.

It was also really interesting to read about some of the advancements into home treatments, like Home Dialysis for example. The witness statements below are from parent and patient and actually illustrate the difficulties of coping with being treated at home;

Dr Jean Northover, Scientist and parent of Dialysis patient

Diana had two siblings and really dialysis had to be a normal part of the family pattern; it couldn’t take priority. The other two children needed attention. The last thing I would like to say is that the funny thing about home dialysis is that when we had got past the ten-year mark – we went on for about sixteen years before Diana got a transplant in 1985 – what we found was that you worked so hard and you had so little rest, that when finally you’d finished with the dialysis, the Kiil (part of the dialysis equipment) was put on the local dump and the transplant was working, you couldn’t really remember what you had been doing a lot of the time. So this was extreme, emotional, psychological, and mental fatigue. I don’t know what the two sides of the brain were playing at! But I kept a friendship going with another dialysis mother, and she said, ‘I need you as my witness, because I have got to talk to somebody, I have got to know that we really went through it.’ She suffered from the same thing. So when people say, ‘Oh, go and learn French by total immersion’, I have to say that what we learnt on home dialysis was certainly ‘home dialysis by total immersion’.

Mrs Diana Garratt, childhood Dialysis patient

I am a renal patient, started in 1969. It was January 1970 when Rosemarie Baillod came round to set me up at home on haemodialysis with my first shunt and I remember the room very well. We had a de-aerator, it looked like a toilet cistern, high on the wall above the bed. Actually, I think I was dialyzing on the table at that time, we hadn’t organized the bed. The rest of the family went on around us; we had a small TV, my younger brother and sister and the cat, who went very soon after because it was sitting there watching the pulsating blood lines and that was very nerve-wracking, very, very nerve-wracking. We got through it, but it was an enormous effort. Every day you were either on the kidney machine, or you were hoping that the machine, which was not at all reliable compared with the modern machines, would work, that the kidney would not burst, that you wouldn’t have a blood leak.

When I gave birth to my son, it was a tricky time and there was no way we’d both still be alive if I’d have had a home birth. I had the continual intrapartum fetal monitoring when I was in labour which worked out to our advantage so it was really interesting to read that in the 1960’s when that technology was in its infancy, the enthusiastic obstetricians and midwives carried screwdrivers in their top pockets so that they were able to adjust the temperamental new apparatus when required.

But what I found really intriguing this week was the subject of Native Remedies and how there is a feeling that a lot more research could be done into these areas…

The witness statement below is from Consultant Anaesthetist, Dr Mark Swerdlow

We set up a study in the early 1980s in three developed countries and three underdeveloped countries to see what the situation was at that time, what sort of treatment patients were receiving and what sort of pain relief, if any, they received. At that time I went to two or three very poor countries, to see cancer patients in hospital, and it was pathetic to see the worse-than-basic conditions within the hospitals. I remember the women’s ward in one hospital in Sri Lanka in particular – there must have been 12 or 14 women there with really advanced cancer – and as I walked round the ward, none of them seemed to be in great pain. I asked the young doctor who was in charge of this ward what treatment they were receiving. He said, ‘They get two tablets of aspirin a day’, and I just couldn’t believe it. I asked, ‘Do they not receive anything except two aspirin tablets a day? Don’t they get any sort of native herb treatment of any kind?’ He said, ‘Well, yes, they do get a native medication,’ and when I asked, ‘What’s in the native medication?’, he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know that.’ I have often wondered since then why somebody hasn’t gone out there to study those herbs and what’s in them, because they looked to be pretty effective.

I was really interested in this notion of native remedies being on hand and able to control pain so I thought I’d visit The Chelsea Physic Garden as I know that so much can be gained by what plants have to offer humans and this garden had beed dedicated to that since the 1673.
I was amazed at how beautiful the garden was, but actually I was more amazed at what I learned there…obviously I knew plants were good for your health, but I hadn’t appreciated how integral they are to medical science.

I felt quite ignorant discovering that the source of Aspirin was a perennial herb!
As a teenager I had epilepsy and I took a drug called Sodium Valprorate for years, ( even during my pregnancy which has recently been in the news as a dangerous drug to take at this time ).

But I had absolutely no idea that it was actually synthesised from a plant called Valeriana Officinalis and there it was growing in Chelsea Physic Garden.…along with many other useful and common plants and weeds ( I also liked how chocolate had been advised for consumption! ) The opium poppy is fascinating too..It’s the source of morphine, but unlike other pain relief, it works on the brain rather than the nerves, preventing the perception of pain rather than stopping it. It’s so interesting that a drug which we know can be so destructive when taken as heroin, can actually be used in such a beneficial way.

Another witness statement from Dame Cicely Saunders, physician and the founder of the Modern Hospice Movement concerning morphine is below:

At about the same time, in March 1948, I was impelled by the stories of my patients that I had experienced first as a nurse, but most of all as a social worker. I knew I had to do something about end-of-life pain and I went, as a State Registered Nurse volunteer, to one of the early homes. There I found that the nurses seeing the prescriptions of morphine four-hourly ‘PRN’, pro re nata,
as needed or as requested, by the doctors, quite quietly took ‘PRN’ off and gave the drug four-hourly, so as to prevent pain ever happening. This regular oral four-hourly giving of morphine dates back to 1935, fairly soon after the Brompton cocktail was put together. Now I was very impressed by this, because the patients were so much better with the pain control than the ones I had seen in hospital before then. During that time I took Mr Norman Barrett, the surgeon I was working for, to see this, and to visit a patient at home and so on. When I said to him, ‘I am going to have to go back and nurse the dying somehow,’ he said, ‘Go and read medicine. So many doctors desert the dying, and there’s so much more to be learnt about pain, and you will only be frustrated if you don’t do it properly, and they won’t listen to you.’ So I did read medicine.

There seem to be quite a few plants which have this duel capacity; my teenage son informed me that nutmeg can also be hallucinogenic and cause severe illness if taken in large quantities…( I think the quantities have to be pretty large though! )And then we come to Cannabis…Reading about some of the research on Cannabis I was surprised to learn that there has been resistance to utilising patient based information from volunteers who had used cannabis during illness with marked benefits.

A study on 6 mice who got better was heralded as ‘actual proof’, as opposed to research of 4500  patients, 1000 who got better, but which was said to be irrelevant because of the different quality of data.

However since 2010 Sativex, a specific extract of Cannabis , was approved as a botanical drug in the United Kingdom as a mouth spray to alleviate neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis .

Witness Statement below from Dr Geoffrey Guy, Industrial Pharmacologist

A large number of patients have reported, in the vernacular, that use of street cannabis in smoked, cooked or other forms, was giving them marked benefit. My temptation was to believe them. Why other people didn’t, I’m not sure. What was interesting when we started the programme was that as soon as we announced it, people started writing to us. We had a secret address and still do, but they wrote to the newspapers that covered the stories; they wrote to the BBC; they wrote to the Home Office. We used to receive a mailbag from the Home Office once a week. Over time, we had about 4500 patients who wrote to us and about 30 per cent of them had experience with cannabis. We then drew up, I think, a 70-point questionnaire and wrote back to them all. We wanted to know everything about what they did: where they found their cannabis; what type it was; whether they felt some was better than others; what caused them to take more; what caused them to take less – supply was the problem that caused patients to take less, not side effects – and what other medicines they’d been on. We found a very clear picture of what the material could do and what we had to do then was to try to maintain that. Information from David Baker’s research, and a lot of research throughout the world, was beginning to add biological and scientific credibility to a quality of data, which, sadly in this day and age, physicians don’t heed very well. I think it is at their risk that they don’t heed and don’t seem to listen to the patients. I know that David’s study was absolutely heralded as ‘the actual proof ’, in that six mice got better; so that was fine. The fact that we had 4,500 patients, 1,000 of whom had got better, was irrelevant, because it was a different quality of data.

And finally I wanted to touch on one of my favourite paragraphs from Witnesses To Modern Biomedicine by Dr César Milstein, Molecular Biologist, Immunologist and Nobel Laureate which has the heading of ‘Laziness’

Laziness is the mother of good science. Creation comes from moments when you don’t have anything to do. When you have no teaching, and basic admin, and extra commitments are seen to interfere with research, what if you have strong motivation, and don’t know what to do? If you are teaching, you can fill your gaps by teaching, but researchers have to fill the gaps with thoughts. Applications of science are important and socially attractive but they detract from the single mindedness of research.

I also really liked what Dr David Wheatley, Consultant Physchiatrist says in his Witness Statement:

I learnt more in unofficial discussion around the swimming pool, than I did from any of the formal presentations, because I met people, I talked to them informally, and I got many ideas and contacts from that very nice relaxing two hours. There is a lot to be said for not overburdening your conferences with too many papers.

I suppose I like these last 2 witness statements as being an artist I often spend time, rather guiltily, either sitting doing nothing other than drinking tea and looking into the distance, or doing things I love, like gardening or cycling, when I feel I should be working. But it’s usually in these moments that I have my best ideas or inspiration…they’re important moments when the pressure is off.

Reading these statements reassures me that this is all just part of the process, both scientific and artistic and over the last couple of months since working on this project I have become more aware of creative similarities between researchers and artists.

This project has been a real journey of discovery and the stories and witness statements I have focused on here in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and this Part 4 are only the tip of the iceberg. Some of the other stories I found fascinating involved Facial Recognition, the Familigram, Self Experimentation, Obstetric Ultrasound and the first designs of the Ultrasound Scanner, but there are loads and if you are curious you really should have a read of Volume 50 which is an A–Z, comprising of a series of extracts from previous volumes, contributors include clinicians, scientists, patients and numerous others involved in modern biomedicine, in the UK and beyond. Topics in it range from ‘age discrimination’ to ‘Zantac’, and feature memories from every decade between 1930s and the present. The History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group hosted its first Witness Seminar, on monoclonal antibodies, in 1993 and since then more than sixty such meetings have been held. These all sought to go behind-the-scenes of contemporary biomedicine to find out ‘what really happened’.

I have genuinely been surprised at how inspired I have been artistically from science and medical based information and so excited when the science, the research, nature and art have all come together.

It has also meant that the ‘fear’ element of all things medical has definitely been shifted for me…my mother was SO right when she told me that if I took great interest in something it would become less intimidating, less fearful, and far more interesting, and I have personally found that I can now add ‘inspiring’ to that list of benefits.

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here  my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.

Thursday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 3 )

April 20, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - moving stills - Museums - short poem films - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

In this third week of my work with The History of Modern Medical Science, I wanted to look at a recurring theme which seem to run through quite a few of the stories from Witnesses To Modern Medical Science.

It became apparent to me that the element of hobbies, external interests and passions often lead to a greater understanding or insight into some aspect of research.

Professor Estlin Waters for example was an epidemiologist ( the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. ) as well as a keen naturalist and spent time on the island of St Kilda  writing notes for ornithological journals about birds, particularly the wrens, and grey seals and he could later see the connection with monitoring wildlife to population based research.

( below is the Witness Statement from Professor Estlin Waters, Senior House Officer – MRC Pneumoconiosis Research Unit )

In my case, there was an overlap between counting birds and epidemiology. I had been interested in birds from a very young age but I was also interested in the scientific side of birdwatching, especially bird migration and bird numbers. When I was on St Kilda I wrote about a dozen papers and short notes for ornithological journals and for the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London on various aspects of birds and on the grey seal. I was interested as a naturalist. At that time I didn’t have any real knowledge of statistics. It was my birdwatching that kept me scientific during my medical student days. I used to read some of the bird journals; the medical journals were too heavy to read as a student. I don’t know how some of our medical students now manage, but they can and do. I felt the teaching we had at London was not very scientific, it was more of an apprenticeship: I do this, so you do this. The birdwatching kept me critical of the scientific side of things. When I joined the MRC it was very much the other way round. It was the epidemiology that was the scientific side, and I think I have been able to apply a bit of it to my birdwatching. The two have run together, one perhaps ahead of the other, but the two are related. I think that someone who wants to count wrens on St Kilda has got something in common with someone who measures the haemoglobin level in a population. My experience of working alone on St Kilda and writing papers on natural history probably helped me when starting in medical research.

I was inspired by his witness statement to take a trip to my local Natural History Museum in Brighton; The Booth Museum. I also wanted to look at some wrens close up as he had been so intrigued by them.

The whole museum is like a historical exhibit in itself, being primarily full of Victorian stuffed animals, and collections of insects and minerals… While I was there I also wanted to look at the collections of butterflies and moths as there were another couple of stories relating to them…

Professor Peter Harper, medical geneticist, describes how important it is to sometimes stand back from immediate specifics in one field, whether that’s serology, paediatrics or obstetrics for example, and look at it as a kind of research problem from first principles. He describes how Sir Cyril Clarke, a physician and geneticist, was particularly talented in this area. He says in his witness statement:

Workers in genetics use model organisms all the time, and now in human genetics one shifts, as indeed Cyril did then, between one species and another without much trouble. We know the genomes are all very similar. I think Cyril may have chosen butterflies as a rather unorthodox model organism, and I am quite sure one of the reasons he chose them was because they were more enjoyable than something like Drosophila ( fruit flies ) to work with.

I was also interested by the statement below from James Lovelock, who then worked in the Common Cold Unit, about how Sir Christopher Andrewes (  the virologist who helped discover the influenza virus ) used to take the researchers to the New Forest looking for butterflies as entomology was his sideline:

One of the things I remember most fondly about the days at Harvard Hospital were visits from the parent institute in London of Christopher Andrewes, Forrest Fulton, and other scientists, and there would be the most long and intensive discussions on the virology of the problem. Andrewes had a wonderful trick of suddenly coming into one’s lab in the afternoon and saying, ‘I say, would you like to go for a walk in the New Forest?’ He had a car and, of course, in those days very few people did, and we would be driven into the New Forest and he would be carrying his butterfly net, because his sideline was entomology, and there, while walking along the path, one would talk about what experiment should be done next on the common cold.

I really loved looking at the butterflies and moths as amazing and incredibly detailed manifestations of design and which then in turn completely inspired a new project for me into silk scarf designs, and so although I have taken the aesthetic qualities of something in nature, I can absolutely see how a scientist could look at the genetics of an insect and be inspired to take their research into areas they may not have considered before.There was also a witness statement which made me think how much easier life is, especially for the medical profession, now that we have plastic.

Now plastic isn’t something I usually get excited about ( although there’s a great song by The Beautiful South you can listen to here about Tupperware and Plastic! ) but reading about how it has basically revolutionised work in hospitals is staggering, and to imagine life and health care without it it is actually a bit scary. The fascinating witness statement here is from Professor David Galton ( physician and secretary to the MRC working party on Leukaemia )

I think very few people below a certain age can remember our working conditions in the early 1950s. For example, nowadays people use butterfly cannulas for intravenous transfusions and they can do all kinds of things with them. In our day we had dreadful glass syringes; they had a central nozzle and there was no way you could get into a small vein – we always had to use the cubital fossa veins. If we wanted to put up a drip, for example, we had to rummage about in a great cardboard box where there were lots of rubber tubings of different sizes, and we had to fit these up and stick them into a glass rod that fitted into a hole in a cork in a bottle – we didn’t have any plastic transfusion equipment. All this took a great deal of time.
and Dr Pamela Davies, ( consultant paediatrician ) who worked in Neonatal Intensive Care describes how essential the introduction of plastics was for their department:

In 1962, Victoria Smallpeice in Oxford started feeding babies who weighed 1,000 to 2,000g at birth early, with expressed breast milk. The relatively newly available polyvinyl feeding tube passed into the stomach was a great advance over the teaspoon and ‘fountain pen’ dropper. An enthusiastic young nursing staff showed that even ill babies could be fed small amounts frequently from soon after birth with indwelling tubes strapped in place.

This was of particular interest to me as my son had been in intensive care immediately after he was born, and I remember those feeding tubes leading to his stomach, which I hated, but which were helping to keep him healthy. This story made me realise just how much I personally take for granted with these recent advancements which weren’t available before the 1950’s.

And there was one story, connected to plastics:

Dr Ethel Bidwell ( research scientist in blood coagulation ) was working in Haemophilia research in 1950 and was helping pathologist, Professor R G Macfarlane, to devise new ways of treating haemophiliacs. She had to collect blood from the local slaughterhouse for her research and only had her Vespa to transport it. It conjures up a bit of an odd image but illustrates again how important plastics are:

I went down to the slaughterhouse on my Vespa motorbike and I came back with a large glass container. I got concerned lest I tipped off my motorbike and tipped blood on the floor. People don’t realise that plastics were only just coming in. It cost me about the equivalent of a week’s wages to buy a plastic container to put the blood in so that it wouldn’t break on the road to Oxford.

And finally there was a short witness statement which, as a very slow reader, I found really interesting ( and which inspired me to create a tiny stop frame film ), from Professor Alan Baddeley ( Director of MRC Applied Psychology Unit ):

At the Applied Psychology Unit, John Morton, among other things, used to do some research on speed-reading, at least he used to do practicals on speed reading. This would involve all the students being encouraged to bring a paperback book and to read it for x minutes, followed by a period when John would urge them to go faster and faster and faster, and demonstrate then that they could actually read a lot faster, and that there was nothing very magical about it. It was just that we tend to read slowly – it’s a habit.

Speed Reading stop frame film below…

Just  to go briefly back to what I said earlier in the post about being inspired by butterflies but in a slightly different way from Sir Cyril Clarke, here are some of the patterns I’ve created from elements of this particular post which are now silk pocket squares. I had absolutely no idea that this project was going to lead me into designing a selection of textiles, and I’ve really enjoyed the fact that my passion for aesthetics has been able to be informed by genetic research, epidemiology, early plastics and the psychology of speed reading!

Next Week I’ll be focusing on various elements of comfort within modern medical history including pain relief, native remedies and advancements into home care.

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.

Saturday…with The Welsh House Arrangement

April 15, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - collaborations - Spring - texture - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

Whilst I was staying at Ty Unnos with artist Sophie Abbott as part of my field trip for The History of Medical Science project I’d had an idea that I could work on an arrangement with some copper piping, and then quite wonderfully, Dorian who owns and runs these utterly beautiful welsh cottages knocked on the door bearing heather, lichen, blossom, pegs and a feather…

We then sat about chatting, stood on chairs, drank cups of tea, laughed a LOT and sort of organically let the arrangements appear…while Mrs Jones looked on ( Mrs Jones helping… )

For more information about Ty Unnos and the other cottages you should go to The Welsh House website HERE and have a look at my previous post about the house itself…it’s amazing and I massively recommend it!

You can see The Steller Story version of this post is here

Thursday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 2 )

April 13, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

This week’s instalment of the project for The History of Modern Medicine is much more of a visual essay showing a bit more of my process and how a story can inspire an image…

I’d made a plan to go on a field trip to Wales as I had read in “Witnesses to Modern Biomedicine” by Tilli Tansey ( you can read more about it in Part 1 here ) that there had been lots of population based research in South Wales started by Archie Cochrane, the renowned epidemiologist, and largely carried out or supervised by Peter Elwood ( Director of the MRC Epidemiology Research Unit in South Wales ). He and his collegues carried out research into pneumoconiosis,  glaucoma, dust diseases in flax, asbestos, steel and slate workers, with later work on iron deficiency anaemia, environmental lead, migraine, asthma, and two high-profile trials showing improved survival following a heart attack with regular use of aspirin and with consumption of a diet rich in oily fish.

I wanted to be able to capture a sense of going back in time as research had started in 1960 and the essence of Fieldwork seems to have had to change considerably over the last 50 years. My starting point was St Fagan’s near Cardiff; an open air museum which chronicles the historical lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people ( you can read my post about it here )

I had decided that I wanted to concentrate on 2 particular elements which were the research into Environmental Lead and early X-rays given to Welsh miners with potential occupational lung disease.

I took some copies of x-rays of lungs with lesions with me so that I could see how they appeared in the environment and also in the buildings. Somehow the fact that respiratory problems had crept up on, and grown, almost silently, with a community working for years in the mining industry felt very melancholy but a part I felt important to include.

I was also fascinated by the visual similarities between the capillaries in lungs and leafless trees, wattle and rib cages and the open doors of the ironworker’s houses at St Fagan’s. I thought they had echoes of lungs too; being at the centre of the buildings, like they are in the body, and like the lungs, letting in essential air. They also echoed of the old days of fieldworkers being able to knock on an open door and have a chat with locals which enabled them to discover some incredibly useful information.

So, below you will find a combination of witness statements, together with my images which have been inspired by them…

( Witness Statement by Mrs Janie Hughes: Population-based Research )

Fieldwork has changed enormously because people distrust you nowadays, whereas, perhaps even 20 years ago, working in the Rhondda, in particular, was easy because everybody left their keys in their door and you just turned the key and shouted, ‘Can I come in?’ and they would say ‘Yes’, without even knowing who you were. In the early days, I think I am right in saying this, we didn’t even write to the people and say we were coming, we just cold-called, which we are not in favour of doing at present [2000]. Years ago people knew their neighbours, they knew lots about them, they knew the people across the road, they knew the people down the road. Nowadays no one wants to tell you anything about anybody, because they are always afraid of being accused of revealing things to agencies like the DSS (Department of Social Security), and so it’s a closed shop. You can rarely get any information from neighbours these days. You cannot call at the corner shop, or the post office, which is what I used to do a lot, to learn about people’s movements, that’s out now.

( Witness statement from Dr Philip D’Arcy Hart: Population-based Research )

We worked from a schoolroom, which was lent to us and did clinical examination of the miners, X-rays, some sort of respiratory disability tests, rather crude ones I have to say in retrospect, was all we could do, and history taking. There was no X-ray set-up there and we used a mobile van, Portable X-rays Limited, which trundled round the valleys, and it is amazing what beautiful X-rays they took for the period. We confirmed by X-rays and by post mortems that coalface workers who had not worked in hard rock did have serious, disabling lesions. And they did not look like classical silicosis. So this confirmed the suspicions that had been around…We were able to do that, not by following people along, of course, but by taking people who had been for different periods at Ammanford colliery, and matching them against the lesions they showed in their X-rays.

( Witness statement from Professor Owen Wade: Population-based Research )

One of the interesting differences between the survey work I did in south Wales, and my later work in Belfast was the names. I don’t think we realised how difficult it was going to be when surveying miners in south Wales where so many men had names like Jenkins, Jones, Thomas, or Williams. Archie Cochrane solved this by ensuring that every man X-rayed was also photographed holding a board with his X-ray number and his name. When the unit returned four or five years later to re-X-ray that pit, it was possible to identify and radiograph the right Mr Jones. Of course, the miners all know each other by Jones ‘longtuff ’ or Jones ‘big nose’ or some phrase of that sort, but that wasn’t very useful to the survey team.One of the brilliant things about looking back into medical history is seeing how so much has been achieved in a relatively short space of time…the transition from a basic way of living, with no medical research and little help, to detailed investigation and a subsequent knowledge of environmental illnesses, and then offering practical solutions or choices, is really incredible. Whilst on my field trip I stayed at the most amazing traditional Welsh cottage, Ty Unnos, near Carmarthen which felt very inspirational and just the right place to create more images…( the blog post about my stay there is here )
Another branch of population based research which was carried out in Wales helped define problems occurring from Environmental Lead and this also really interested me.

( Witness Stement from Dr Peter Elwood: Population-based Research )

The MRC Epidemiology Unit conducted studies on environmental lead from 1976 to 1982 and chose three areas in Wales with different levels of traffic, from a rural area to a very heavily polluted area. The heavily polluted area was Port Talbot, where there’s a motorway, which is elevated above houses. Along this motorway we chose houses on the main road and houses with the motorway over above, and we did lead sampling in blood and lead air sampling, and confirmed that the lead levels were very, very high, and air lead levels were very high.

I was intrigued by the witness statement below about the high levels of lead in people’s blood where there was lead piping and then the subsequent drop in levels when the piping was replaced by copper pipes.

( witness statement from Dr Peter Elwood: Population-based Research )

The Welsh Office asked the MRC Epidemiology Unit to look at water lead. Some of the areas in Wales have a very acid surface water and old lead pipes. One or two studies had shown that the lead levels in the water were really quite high, higher than the WHO recommendation. We went to north Wales and did a number of surveys of water lead and blood lead, and estimated that the contribution that water was making to blood lead levels was quite substantial.

As a lover of classical history I was aware that the use of lead pipes in Roman times was extensive and I couldn’t understand why all the Roman’s hadn’t died of lead poisoning…I then discovered that, unlike today, there was a huge amount of calcium in the water during Roman times which formed a crust within the lead pipes, therefore unwittingly protecting the population from lead poisoning. I also discovered that the word ‘plumbing’ comes from the Latin word for lead ‘plumbum’ and that after the fall of Ancient Rome water supply and sanitation stagnated and even regressed for the next 1000 years!

I liked the idea of an image where copper pipes could be visible within nature; to show the beauty of a simple copper pipe which works to protect us and keep our water clean which is why I included lichen in the images which naturally only thrives in clean air.

Working on the image above then led me back to the x-ray…the images from the day before had felt quite bleak and now I felt that I wanted to breathe some new Welsh Spring life back into the lungs…
I had also been struck by the description of how beautiful the early x-rays had been so I wanted to embrace some more abstract images, making patterns from the x-ray; making them beautiful again.( Nb…I wouldn’t encourage anyone to pick or damage lichen as some are protected by law…the pieces here were found on the ground )

Next week I’ll be looking at the importance of hobbies, vocational passions…and laziness!

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here  my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.