Category Archives: collaborations

Christmas Eve…with a Floris Advent Gift in St James’

December 24, 2017

Filed Under : collaborations - London - My St James - Winter

It’s the final day of the St James’ Advent Calendar of gifts, and today you can win a Bespoke Fragrance Appointment at Floris!

Floris is the oldest, family run perfumers in the country, dating from 1730, and their scents are absolutely incredible; their fragrances have so many layers, with echoes in history as well as unique personal experiences. The way they approach scent is more like art; creating fragrances inspired by places, people and time, and today you have an amazing opportunity to win a Bespoke Fragrance appointment.

To enter, you should follow the @StJamesLondon Instagram account where they will reveal the gift to be won each day and how to enter on their Stories. You should also have a look over on their website for more details and terms and conditions and you can read a blog post all about my trip to Floris last year here Their Jermyn St store has a museum of their perfume with scents which have been worn by incredibly significant figures over the years including Florence Nightingale, Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier… Rose Geranium, below, was worn by Marilyn Monroe The shop itself is beautiful and always worth a visit, but with a bespoke perfume appontment you’ll also get to see the pefumery… Don’t forget to head over to the @StJamesLondon Instagram account and look in their Stories today to find out what you need to do to win! Good Luck, and Happy Christmas!

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Wednesday…with a St James’ Advent Prize

December 20, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - London - My St James - Winter

The Sims Reed Gallery in St James are offering the advent prize today which is really amazing…

You can win a special Valentine’s Day Dinner at the Gallery where the artist Humphrey Ocean RA will be giving a talk about his work to introduce his new exhibition there called ‘I’ve No Idea Either’ which is a retrospective of his prints but which also includes 2 new prints and some sculpture.

Humphrey Ocean RA started off as the bassist with the band ‘Kilburn and The High Roads’ but has had an incredible career over the past 30 years including painting portraits of Paul McCartney and Philip Larkin, exhibitions at The Tate, The Whitworth, Dulwich Picture Gallery and his acclaimed ‘A Handbook of Modern Life’ at The National Portrait Gallery in 2012. His work has a real sense of time, place and living and his vibrant prints often lead you to focus on the everyday nature of objects, which has inspired my own image at the top of the post today.

Since 2012 Humphrey Ocean has been Royal Academy Professor of Perspective, a position once held by J. M. W. Turner, so to actually hear him speak about his work over dinner is a truly inspirational prize!

If you have a look on the @stjameslondon Instagram account, there are details of how you can enter and there are more details about the whole advent calendar in St James Market Pavilion  this year on their website here

You can also read my recent blog post about the St James Advent Calendar here
The two pieces of work shown beloware by Humphry Ocean…

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Friday…with a Christmas at Home

December 15, 2017

Filed Under : Arrangements - collaborations - colour - My Home - Winter

My memories as a child of decorating for Christmas were basically doing the tree with my brother. I can’t remember any ritual surrounding the choosing of a tree, one just always appeared. I was obsessed with tinsel and always wanted to wear it and I remember how upsetting it was that my brother always felt the need to comment on the fact that the beautiful fairy doll my mum had made, had no knickers on!

Christmas always seemed excitingly chaotic; I loved seeing a white table cloth appear, shiny cutlery coming out of boxes and a general sense of sparkly specialness happening…

As an adult I can’t say that I don’t complain about having to go into the loft and find the Christmas boxes, but I can say that it’s so worth it once they’re out…
Every year I forget what’s in them, and every year I fell a sense of excitement and melancholy about the passing of time..

I remember years ago that my son was so happy to have made a christmas lantern out of a yellow Post-It note that I’ve never been able to throw it away!
We choose a new bauble or decoration each year for our collection…
…and I also like to add bit’s of family history as decorations like these glass droplets from a broken chandelier which belonged to my great grandmother, some of my granfather’s horse brasses and some vintage christmas cards which belonged to an old friend… These are 3 of my favorite decorations: The turquoise bauble and purple pair were bought for my son’s first Christmas when he was 4 weeks old and the trumpet was the first decoration he chose himself… This is the ‘Infant Phenomenon’ which we use as a fairy ( it’s where the ‘INF’ bit of my name comes from ) …and this is a new 2017 decoration
So you probably know by now that I have a bit of a thing for collections, which is partly why I was so happy that Georg Jensen wanted me to work with their Christmas Collectables

Georg Jensen designs always have such simple and clear lines but also the shine on their work is to die for!

Their Christmas Collectibles started in 1984 with the intention of bringing a new one out each year for 10 years, but they proved so popular that they’ve now become a Georg Jensen tradition and this year they’re designed by Alfredo Häberli, who focuses largely on the angel to represent Christmas….

I wanted to use them to decorate the tree but also in other areas including my table as, really, decorating the table at Christmas gives me the most joy; it is my adult version of how exciting tinsel was…
but first the tree… I have a small house and this is the biggest tree we’ve ever brought home but the shape was so perfect! I always secure the base in an old galvanised bucket with a load of bricks and large stones wedging it in…I like using a worn bucket as it feels a sort of outside friend for the tree somehow…

I also like creating little Christmas areas… Part of the Georg Jensen Christmas range this year are these amazing tree candle holders which are the best things ever! I have a Swiss friend who always lights candles on her tree and I’ve been so envious over the years but never managed to find any that are beautiful and practical and these are both, apart from anything else, they are weighted perfectly… I know that the candles should be lit on Christmas Eve, but I can never resit fairy lights, so have to have both…And so now, onto the table…taking a brief moment to take in this incredible Georg Jensen pitcher designed by Ilse Crawford…I mean, I have no words for how much I love this perfect design…and SHINE!!
It’s impossible for me to embody a Christmas of muted tones; I relish playing with colour combinations and also really enjoy absorbing the usual home decor into the Christmas one, so the table is simple but with colouful punctuation, and this year, combined with Danish shine from Georg Jensen… The Christmas collectables can add  a lovely sparkle to a wreath too……or a hidden heart amongst the mistletoeI can’t wait for Christmas Day…I love cooking, I love getting the table sorted, I love having a proper day off and I just love being at home!

I hope you all manage to take time off and have a wonderfully festive and sesonal celebration.
( Thank you so much to Georg Jensen who have kindly sponsored this post )

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Friday…with a St James Advent Calender

December 1, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - exhibitions - London - My St James - trips - Winter

Today, being the 1st of December, means that it’s the first day we can officially open the first door of an advent calendar…

When I was a child we either had some glitter encrusted nativity scene ( and is it me or was glitter different and much messier in the ’80’s ? ) with little windows to open containing, often less than relevant, seasonal images. I loved them!

It’s something about the anticipation of Christmas combined with the contemplation of each day leading up to it which feels so cosy.

So this year I was really excited when St James told me that they had asked London Fashion Week Men to curate a physical advent calendar in St James Market Pavilion with a selection of twenty-four amazing gifts to be won every day; presents gifted by exceptional retailers, restaurants, art galleries or hotels in the St James area.

To enter, you should follow the @StJamesLondon Instagram account where they will reveal the gift to be won each day and how to enter on their Stories. You should also have a look over on their website for more details and terms and conditions.

I was at the launch of the Advent Calendar last night ( with gorgeous mulled wine and Scandinavian canopes provided by Aquavit ) where the first window was opened by Dylan Jones and Caroline Rush with carols sung by The London Gay Men’s Choir. It really reminded me of the illuminated shop windows in Jermyn St, which at this time of year look incredibly pretty.

If you’re in London over the festive season you really must go up to St James…it’s so beautiful and very atmospheric, even if you’re just having a wander around. It also feels like a true piece of London which isn’t losing it’s character; full of authentic independent retailers, galleries and restaurants.

I have been asked to work with 2 of the advent ‘windows’ for the 20th and 24th of December which have really wonderful prizes, and I’ll be posting about them on Instagram ( @5ftinf ) on the day, so do keep your eyes peeled for the reveal.

So I thought I’d give you a taste of some of the shops in St James…( some of which are participating in the advent calendar ), as well as a bit of the atmosphere from last night…
( Jermyn St is just a short walk accross the Regent St from St James Market ) Floris Paxton and Whitfield
Grenson Shoes…Thomas Pink… Turnbull and Asser… New and Lingwood…Hilditch and Key…Trickers…Sims Reid Gallery…
D R Harris… Cubitts…Emma Willis…Fortnum and Mason… I particularly love Jermyn St, but there are also loads of other beautiful streets with some lovely windows to have a look at..
I will be telling you a bit more about the gifts offered behind these 2 windows on the day they are opened via my @5ftinf instagram account but do keep an eye on the @StJamesLondon IG account for details of how to enter each day…and good luck!

You can read more about St James and the area on a few My St James blog posts here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

* This post has been very kindly sponsored by St James

Sunday…with my Makers4Refugees Silk Scarf Auctions

September 24, 2017

Filed Under : Art - Autumn - collaborations - colour - Cornwall - Shop Discounts - texture

Something I regularly feel shamed by is how helpless and impotent I know I am when it comes to the Refugee Crisis…it’s such an important global issue with tendrils reaching into so many aspects of what feels wrong to me in the world at the moment; racism, rage and and a general feeling of hate seems just below the surface of so many global problems right now, but when it comes to doing something about it I feel under prepared, under informed and and overwhelmed, holding onto what feels like some generalised views which have probably been perpetrated through social media…

But I’m no activist…and that’s what basically makes me feel a bit ashamed…

It takes a pretty special and totally commited person to be an activist; a person who is able to do things I’m not able ( or maybe prepared ) to do, a person with such a strong sense of belief that they know they have to go out there and speak for all of us who are too scared, too comfortable, or who have too much responsibility in other areas to be able to fight in the way they do…the activist has my total respect, which is the main reason I have to come out and admit that I am not one.

( One of the most incredible activists I know though, is Jaz from The Worldwide Tribe who took me to the Calais Jungle last February )

I feel strongly about supporting the refugee crisis and make donations both financial and with food and clothing, and I try and keep abreast of what’s going on. I visited the Calais Jungle last year to try and raise awareness through my Instagram account…but I still feel an awkwardness about not doing more…

When the opportunity arose for me to be part of Makers4Refugees and auction some of my work with ALL profits going to Help Refugees I knew I wanted to be part of it and raise some actual money for this cause…if I can use my skills as an artist and maker to do something which helps people, I at least feel that I’m not doing nothing. Makers4Refugees is the initiative of ceramicist Pip Wilcox and consists of over 40 global Makers across a variety of disciplines who have come together to make a difference by selling their work.

So I have designed 5 silk scarves which all measure 100cm x 100cm, I’ve hand rolled and sewn all the edges and… now I want you to buy them!

The scarves for the Makers4Refugees auctions have developed from my love for texture, nature and the blending of the two.

Japanese aesthetics are really important to me and each of these scarves have a sense of wabi sabi about them; a sense of impermanence and a sense of becoming and dissolving at the same time.
A leaf pressed against a greenhouse window, a cracked pane of glass, wet and worn cornish granite, fading dahlias and an unfinished painting…there’s an evanescence about them all.
There will also be one auction for a bespoke scarf…an assemblage or table arrangement which I will compose for the winning bidder; maybe with an object which has some personal significance or using colours which resonate with you.

The photos below are of each scarf to be auctioned and the bespoke auction will be on the 6th day ( with a slightly higher reserve price of £65 ).

They are digitally printed in the UK by a small business in Warwickshire and are 100% silk twill; an incredibly soft silk with a lovely weight which means the silk hangs with a gentle flow.

In my online shop my silk scarves sell for £120 each, so you could even grab yourself a bargain as I’m starting these off at each auction at a reserve price of £50. Postage will be free, wherever you live in the world!

Each evening next week I will post an image of the particular scarf up for auction on my Instagram account @5ftinf  and you will be able to place your bids in the comments below the image. The auction will last 24hrs.

The winning bid will be the highest bid at the close of the auction and the winning bidder will be expected to make the donation to the Makers4Refugees fundraising page immediately ( this is so that by the time the next maker has their auction week, all the previous week’s fundraising is sorted out).

So you can see the areas of aid where your money is likely to spent, here are some examples sent by Help Refugees …

        • a meal for one person in Athens – 25p
        • a mosquito net for a family’s tent in Greece – £10
        • a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes – £15
        • baby milk for one baby, for a week – £20
        • a buggy and cot – £25
        • a warm sleeping bag – £30
        • a refillable fire extinguisher – £35
        • the cost of a bread-maker and the ingredients for one person to make their own bread – £65 for the machine, 75p for ingredients for one person for the month
        • to support an unaccompanied child to live with a Greek family for a month – £400
        • fresh fruit and vegetables for 1 camp on average for 1 month – £2500
        • running a mobile sexual reproductive health clinic for a month – £5500
        • a rescue boat on the water for 30 days – £23,000

If you feel that you could be part of bidding for these exclusive, hand finished silk scarves next week it would be so brilliant to have you on board…making a practical and significant contribution to a very human crisis.

 

MONDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

GREENHOUSE LEAF- 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

TUESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

CRACKED GLASS- 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

WEDNESDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

FADING DAHLIAS – 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

THURSDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

WET CORNISH GRANITE – 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

UNFINISHED PAINTING- 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER AUCTION:

BESPOKE ASSEMBLAGE – 1m X 1m, 100% silk twill

( You can also have a look at other examples in my online shop here if you wanted ideas for this last auction ).

Please email me via the form below if you would like any more information about the scarves or the auctions.

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Friday…with Wyld Wood Organic Cider

September 22, 2017

Filed Under : Autumn - collaborations - Gardens - Museums - texture - trips

Yesterday I went to Hereford with Wyld Wood Cider to visit their organic cider farm and apple orchards.

It was a really interesting experience visiting Weston’s; a fifth generation, family-run business founded by Henry Weston in 1878. They harvest the apples, ferment their cider and also distribute it themselves. The whole process involves such history, passion and integrity… and even the cider vats have names.

So, below is my photo story of the day, which started with an enlightening talk from the Soil Association just before a wonderful organic lunch which fuelled us for the tour… You can see a video I made from the trip here as well as a Steller story with extra videos here

This post is kindly sponsored by Wyld Wood Organic Cider

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Sunday…with Henley Royal Regatta and Bremont Watches

July 2, 2017

Filed Under : collaborations - Summer - trips

Yesterday I was invited to Henley Royal Regatta to be a guest of Bremont Watches.

I’d never been to the Regatta before so I was a combination of really excited and actually a bit nervous…wearing a fancy hat and high heels at 08:30 in the morning is a far cry from the paint spattered top and old trainers which I’ve been wearing all week in the studio!

Meeting up with a small group of well dressed influencers at Paddington station made me feel I was in good company though, and there were a lot of fancy hats, flannel trousers and striped blazers bobbing about.

This is the first year that Henley Royal Regatta has had official partners and Bremont Watches are not only the official time keepers of the boat races but they are also based in Henley on Thames where all their chronometers and time pieces are made.Bremont have handcrafted an incredibly beautiful mechanical stopwatch especially for the 2017 Regatta which you can see below and read more about here
Before we had lunch and a look at the races, Nick English, co -founder of Bremont ( the other founder is his brother Giles ) gave us a brief history of the company. His passion and enthusiasm for the precision and mastery involved in putting together a mechanical wrist watch of exceptional quality was more than evident and I was absolutely fascinated by the tiny details involved in putting a chronometer together… the metal coil is basically the life in the watch…it’s the bit you wind upSo many screwdrivers, eye magnifiers and little pots of grease for all different for all the different watch components…

I really loved their new ladies collection as I have small hands and I’ve always loved a watch that’s not too feminine…( over the years I’ve worn each of my grandfather’s watches as well as my fathers! ) After admiring the Bremont collections we wandered down to the river for lunch and the Regatta itself…the weather was daring itself to rain but then later in the afternoon the sun made a wonderful appearance… After lunch we were lucky enough to be taken on the most amazing amphibious boat by Iguana Yachts so we could watch from the water…

 

It was also great to be in the company of some fashion bloggers, particularly Emily from Fashion Foie Gras who is brilliant and who I’ve been following for a while as she has such a genuine, down to earth and witty quality…as well as being completely stunning!
It was also great to meet Craig from That Dapper Chap ( pictured below in the aqua green Hacket jacket ) and David from Grey Fox Blog who I somehow managed to miss with my camera! And also Toni Tran ( below ) from Fashitects ( his images are absolutely incredible!! )This is the fancy hat which I had bought especially for the occasion…and we were able to try some of the Bremont watches too…Although I was a bit exhausted when I got to the station, ( holding my high heels in my hands and walking along the platform in my stocking feet ), I felt like I’d had a wonderful, unique and very British experience.

You can see a few more images on my Steller Story HERE

 

Thursday…with The London Library

June 1, 2017

Filed Under : collaborations - London - My St James - trips

Last month I was given a tour of one of the most incredible unsung heroes of London; The London Library.

It’s situated in St James’ Square and I signed up to become a member immediately.

Apart from anything else this is a library which looks exactly like how you would want a library to be…it’s so full of atmosphere and history that I know it’s going to take me a little time to calm down about how amazing the place is and actually start working there!

Philosopher, writer and historian Thomas Carlyle, effectively launched The London Library in 1841 after becoming frustrated with The British Museum Library. With this new subscription method, library members were actually allowed to borrow books and take them home which is still the case…I was amazed, and really excited to learn, that they basically lend any books printed after 1700. You can even borrow an original copy of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ which was directly inspired by Carlyle’s ‘The French Revolution: A History’

The library was first situated in Pall Mall and then moved in 1845 to the longest standing building in St James and has gone through many alterations and reshaping over the years.

I love the sort of eclectic feel it has; there are different sections which have been added over time and which all have a unique yet unifying character to them…

The first 7 floors of cast iron bookstacks were built between 1896 – 98 when the premises were being rebuilt and then a second 4 floors of bookstacks were built between 1920 – 22, this time with opaque glass floors, hoping to reduce the number of static electric shocks members would occasionally receive…( it didn’t work, so be careful! )
The bookstacks are the part of the library which I particulary love but there are 5 allocated reading rooms, including The Reading Room itself which is the only one entirely wifi and mobile free, complete with armchairs and silence!There are 134 desks to work at throughout the building; you can’t book a desk, so you have to be a bit flexible…it would seen that the London Library were operating a hot desk system way before anyone else!!

…and there are great views from wherever you decide to work
The beautiful St James’ Square is right outside the library and is one of my favourite quiet places in London…to be honest the whole area of St James is my absolute go to place in London ( you can read more about My St James by clicking here on Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3  )
The library also has a search engine called Catalyst which you can access from home and where you can reserve and renew books. If you live in the London area you can take up to 10 volumes at a time and if you live more than 20 miles away your initial allowance is 15 volumes with a one month borrowing time ( there are no fines by the way, just a secure trust that the books will be returned ). Books can also be posted to you throughout the UK and Europe if you can’t get up to London but need to research something specific.

I was really excited to borrow my first books and actually bring them home…and the first four books I now have here are SO beautiful that they completely justify any membership fee!

This Mrs Beeton book is from 1890…

This practical gardening book has really interesting tips as well as beautiful illustrations… this little French book of roses hasn’t been borrowed since 1976!!And this is my favourite book which I’ve been wanting to pour over since I discovered it last year…Florence du Cane’s painted illustrations are absolutely stunning… I urge anyone with a love of old books, libraries , history, research, an inquisitive mind and also the need of a quiet place to work in central London  to join The London Library…it is a great joy, literally on many levels.

You can view the Steller Story version of this post with some extra images 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.