Category Archives: collaborations

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.

Tuesday…with The Welsh House and Ty Unnos

April 11, 2017

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

When I booked to stay at Ty Unnos whilst working on The History of Medical Science project ,(Part 2 from Wales is coming up this week ) I had no idea how amzing it was going to be. Yes, the pictures on The Welsh House website were beautiful, as is The Welsh House Instagram feed, and yes, I was really excited, but there was something exceptional and magical about this cottage which I can’t quite define…

Artist Sophie Abbott was my travelling companion for the 2 day Welsh trip and we arrived at Ty Unnos in the dark ( with a bag of crisps, some soup and a couple of beers, completely forgetting that we should have got stuff in for breakfast too! ). We’d barely got out of the car when loud purring and shiny eyes led us to the front door…Mrs Jones was welcoming us to her castle… Having spent the day in awe at St Fagan’s ( you can see photos from my visit there here ) our jaws dropped as we realised we had basically walked into one of the historical buildings we had seen there…but Ty Unnos had warm floors and was so cosy and just perfect. We woke up early, as we wanted to soak in as much of the countryside and interior aesthetics as we could in one day, and thankfully it was one of those mornings with sun, dew, and a sharp cold which isn’t unpleasant; it just makes you wear a cardigan and walk around with a steaming cup of tea…very happy. I have to say at this point that Sophie and I had been hugely admiring the thatched roof which it turned out that Dorian the owner had not only constructed himself but had also foraged for the hazel and gorse!!

The cottage is a work of art, not just a simple self catering holiday let…it is a piece of lovingly and artistically created art which is also a wonderful dwelling. I didn’t want to leave Ty Unnos, in fact I actually wanted to live there…and I am in utter and almost incomprehensible admiration and awe for Dorian who has created this cottage…this little piece of Welsh magic. If you’re thinking about getting away, go here…it’s wonderful!

You can read the Steller Story version of this post here

Friday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 1 )

April 7, 2017

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

At the beginning of this year I had a meeting with Professor Tilli Tansey to talk about working on a creative digital project connecting to The History of Modern Biomedicine…I was really excited as I’m fascinated about the connections to be found within science and art and also it’s not your usual Instagram project, so I jumped at the chance.

Tilli Tansey OBE is a Professor of the History of Modern Medical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, and for the last 5 years has been working on a research project funded by The Wellcome Trust, “The Makers of Modern Biomedicine: Testimonies and Legacy”, recording oral testimonies from people who have contributed significantly to modern medical science.

My job was to find a way to illustrate some of these testimonies visually; creating photographic compositions to share on Instagram, here and Steller Stories and create opportunity for more people to access and read about this research particularly at The History of Modern Biomedicine website. Over the next 3 weeks I will be sharing my photographic illustrations as well as a bit of background around them and what stories interested me.

To be honest medical and science-ey things often make me feel a bit uncomfortable as I don’t feel the aesthetics oozing out of them like I do with plants and colour, so I knew the project was going to be a challenge…I fundamentally wanted to create images which draw you into a wider context and which also pull out details which not just science based people could connect to.

I read Volume 50 of ‘ Witnesses to Modern Biomedicine”, An A-Z’, to work out which stories sparked up images, or an interest which may provoke an image.

( You can read it by clicking on this link here and as it’s an A-Z you’ll be able to find the corresponding stories to the images I’ve created really easily ).I can honestly say that the project made my brain work overtime on a creative level, as some of the witness statements cover subject matter that most people don’t encounter, and probably don’t want to encounter, on a daily basis…but it has led me to actively think about science, and particularly the researchers and what they have achieved for the greater good over the last century and specifically over the last 50 years. I have discovered connections with my own artistic processes, Roman history, the benefit of passions, and a dedication to vocational work; all of which have made me a lot more able to engage with health issues which can be difficult sometimes, and at times frightening.

Some of my mother’s best advice to me, and she still says it, is that if you’re scared of something you have to make yourself become fascinated by it; look at it in detail, find the colours in it, understand exactly what it is, and even make a project out of it.

I remember desperately trying to heed that advice during my emergency c-section in Lewisham Hospital; trying to be really interested in what was going on rather than being scared by it…I have to say it wasn’t a massively successful task that night, but it did give me a focus!

So, knowing I have a tendency to be slightly squeamish ( which I wanted to overcome through gaining a more defined interest ) I started with some witness statements which, although quirky, did not freak me out completely and were actually incredibly interesting…

As some of the research has been put into an  A-Z of witness statements, one of the first stories I discovered was…

Alcohol ( the witness statement below is by Dr Ivan Brown, psychologist )

In the 1970s we were looking at the effects of small amounts of alcohol on driving performance – this was before the breathalyser came in – and I set up an experiment around the streets of Cambridge. I was using the dual-task method for measuring peoples’ performance, giving them a subsidiary task to do as they drove around, and I set this up with a local car club. All car clubs met at a pub somewhere in Cambridge and we would go along and the people who volunteered would be there and I would say, ‘While I am telling you what I would like you to do, because we are developing this method of measuring drivers’ performance, would you like a glass of sherry?’ One of my colleagues, by the way, paid for the sherry, not the Medical Research Council, and I was able to do a proper experiment by treating the subjects, some of them to one glass of sherry, and some to two glasses of sherry. Naturally I had to join them, so it didn’t look phoney, and then we went out and ran the experiment. They would show that even after one glass of sherry there are ways of measuring small changes in drivers’ ‘reserve capacity’, as we called it at the time, but it was a bit naughty.

I found it fascinating to learn that research data had been obtained in such an informal way, and it seems that a lot of research over the years was obtained like that, and sometimes these methods got very useful results easily, whilst some of the basic research experiments have definitely been helped by progress…

Handkerchiefs and the Common Cold ( witness statements below from Sir Christopher Booth, gastroenterologist and Dr James Porterfield, Common Cold Unit )

Booth: The method you used in the early 1950s for measuring the severity of a cold was simply measuring the weight of a number of tissues was it?

Porterfield: Not so much weight as quantities. There were several different markers. How many handkerchiefs they used, whether they were sneezing and coughing; these would be recorded for each volunteer and then at the end of the trial these would be totted up.

Cervical Screening

Another piece of wise advice my mother always advocated from my late teens was to make sure I always booked that appointment for the thing which makes every woman I know shudder…the cervical smear!

How incredible then that this way of testing has proved so invaluable to women over the years and has become such an important part of identifying early cancerous cells. So it was incredible to learn that when these tests were first offered to women in 1964 there were actually no formal plans of how it should be done and basically every pathologist became responsible.  However as the job was so time consuming the pathologists were willing to take on people with basic training, on a trial basis, during which time they were given no office and no desk. Professor Dulcie Coleman ( consultant cytopathologist ) remembers having to set up her microscope on the mantlepiece of the fireplace where she was left to get on with it.

Mrs Marilyn Symonds ( cytologist )  describes below how important the early cytoscreeners were:

To start with, we had people who were formally training to be laboratory technicians and then I think it was probably in the 1970s that we took on a group of women, mainly part-time, who became cytoscreeners. They were different to the people who were qualified with the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS); they didn’t have any formal qualifications, and they were often derided and called shopping-bag screeners, but they were absolutely fantastic at what they did. They were able to sit down quietly and concentrate and look at every cell that was being passed under the microscope, and I can say that that group of women now are nearly all retired, and it’s extremely difficult to replace them. The IBMS now think that we should have biomedical scientists with degrees and formal qualifications in cytology, but I can honestly say that on the whole they are not nearly as good at screening as those women from the 1960s and 1970s.

And so, on to the last witness statement for this week which is one which I found kind of jaw dropping, so much so that I had to Google it ( you can see an interesting wikipedia page about it here )…although by the time I had reached the  ‘P’ section I was more interested in the stories than horrified..Placentas ( witness statement below by Professor Alan Emond ALSPAC )

It was common practice, but not widely known, that maternity hospitals used to sell placentas for cosmetics. It was traditionally viewed by the midwives as a bit of a perk, and the money that was gained, I think in most hospitals, went into what was effectively a slush fund for midwives to use. It was only a small amount of money per placenta and I suspect the cosmetic companies made huge profits out of it. The important thing was that most women who delivered didn’t know that that was going to happen, and the hospitals were, in my view, unethical in not telling them. So when ALSPAC came along and wanted to take the placentas away, this was a potential barrier to the midwives’ participation. I’m not sure how we managed it, but we managed to pay 50p per placenta.

Next week I’ll share  more images from the field trip I took to Wales, which was inspired by a lot of the Fieldwork and research which took place there.

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post with extra images from ’the cutting room floor’ 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.

Sunday…Weekly Snaps

December 4, 2016

Filed Under : Brighton - collaborations - colour - cycling - London - My Home - My St James - Open House - texture - Weekly Snaps - Winter

photo-04-12-2016-09-15-57-1 photo-28-11-2016-11-23-03 photo-25-11-2016-15-18-11 Paper Mistletoe by A Petal Unfoldsphoto-25-11-2016-15-29-12 Hand Cast resin Bangles by Tiki Brightonphoto-29-11-2016-14-33-12 photo-29-11-2016-17-34-46-1Veneta…a wonderful Restaurant in St James Market, London
photo-29-11-2016-17-43-50 photo-29-11-2016-18-18-15 photo-29-11-2016-18-48-10 photo-29-11-2016-18-55-28 photo-29-11-2016-20-42-05-1 Christmas Lights in Jermyn St, London by Florisphoto-29-11-2016-20-58-39 photo-29-11-2016-20-57-50 photo-29-11-2016-21-53-53 photo-29-11-2016-21-54-11 photo-29-11-2016-21-57-53 photo-29-11-2016-21-58-47 Christmas windows at  Fortnum and Mason, Londonphoto-29-11-2016-21-59-17 photo-29-11-2016-21-59-36 photo-30-11-2016-09-47-49-1 photo-28-11-2016-11-15-32 photo-30-11-2016-10-18-17 photo-29-11-2016-10-02-21 Wrist Worms by Sandra Jutophoto-30-11-2016-10-11-00 photo-30-11-2016-10-10-10 photo-01-12-2016-15-40-07 photo-28-11-2016-10-34-25 photo-03-12-2016-16-14-45 photo-03-12-2016-11-27-15 photo-28-11-2016-11-07-02 photo-03-12-2016-11-27-36 photo-03-12-2016-17-11-13 photo-03-12-2016-15-41-15 photo-03-12-2016-15-45-41 photo-03-12-2016-15-50-53 photo-03-12-2016-16-08-57 photo-28-11-2016-11-11-05 photo-04-12-2016-15-53-10 photo-03-12-2016-19-19-52 photo-01-12-2016-20-25-13 photo-03-12-2016-11-29-06

You can see the Steller Story version of this post here and you can also listen to a Podcast where I’m talking to Kat from Blogtacular here

Thursday…with a Scented Shed

November 17, 2016

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - Brighton - collaborations - exhibitions - My Home - Open House - synaesthesia - The Shed - Winter

photo-17-11-2016-08-42-16Each year at my Artist’s Open House in Brighton I create an installation in my shed/studio…themes over the years have included Shipwrecks, Pioneer’s Cabin, Nesting, Frozen in Time and the White Shed.

Earlier this year when I was working on the #myStJames project I visited Floris in Jermyn St, London; the oldest perfumers in the country, and I was absolutely fascinated with how a perfumer almost seems to paint with scent. ( you can read an earlier post about it here )

It made me become incredibly preoccupied with scents and memories which is why I decided I wanted to crete a space where people could almost smell their past and  to ‘dress’ the shed with a feeling of nostalgia and personal history; something smell and scent gives immediate access to.
photo-17-11-2016-08-26-12When I told Floris what I was going to do they kindly provided me with lots of scent samples which I was then able to subtly place within drawers, boxes, tins, jars and even a couple of handbags and a book; sometimes on their own and sometimes combined with other elements…I was also so chuffed when Susan Beech from A Petal Unfolds agreed to let me include some of her incredible paper flowers and Cable and Cotton gave me extra lights for the ceiling.

Also as a synaesthetic artist I often paint smell ( and taste ) and so also included within the installation some paintings which depict scent. photo-17-11-2016-08-32-17 When I was little my mum put a scented sheet of purple paper into a drawer in the spare room…I used to go in on a rainy day just to open it and take in that smell.
I can still recall it; not in a very tangible way, but more like recalling a dream; one of those you never forget…

As an abstract painter I enjoy emotional responses rather than representative, and was completely taken by surprise when I found myself weeping at the scent of ‘Iris’ having emotionally revisited one of the happiest times and places of my life 30 years ago, for a matter of seconds.photo-17-11-2016-08-28-24( the handbag above contains ‘ Madonna of the Almonds’ by Floris as well as a dusting of talc, the small top box contains ‘ 1962’ scent by Floris and the glass jar contains ‘Lily of the Valley’ by Floris )

( the binoculars case below contains Scent ‘No. 127’ by Floris, blended in the 1800’s. It’s one of my favourites because it is like directly smelling history )photo-17-11-2016-08-42-32photo-17-11-2016-08-36-10 ( drawer above contains ‘Palm Springs’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-36-59 ( drawer above contains ‘Cerifo’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-37-36 photo-17-11-2016-08-43-46 ( drawer above contains ‘Edwardian Bouquet’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-45-08 photo-17-11-2016-08-39-30 ( drawer above contains ‘Honey Oud’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-35-40 photo-17-11-2016-08-33-58 ( bag above contains ‘Mahon Leather’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-40-02 ( above is some of my mother’s old cream from the 1970’s and a box with pencil shavings inside )photo-17-11-2016-08-40-21 photo-17-11-2016-08-41-10 photo-17-11-2016-08-43-17 ( drawer above contains ‘1988’ scent by Floris )photo-17-11-2016-08-32-59 photo-17-11-2016-08-31-05 ( lilies and a painting of their scent behind )photo-17-11-2016-08-29-29There are 75 smells in the shed which you can experience in boxes, jars and drawers ( anything containing a smell has a little round sticker on unless it’s a plant ).

You can pick and choose and let the smells take you back to places you’d forgotten or never even thought about.
The identity of the smell itself shouldn’t be important; it’s where it takes you in your memory which should be savoured.

So far people have had some incredible responses and everyone has come out telling me stories of smells from their childhood or past…some of my favorites so far have been:

‘I’ve just smelt a ghost’

‘That smells like an old lady’s chair’

‘Oh my God, that’s the school soap!’

‘I’ve just visited my Grandpa’s front room’
photo-13-11-2016-11-33-21( tin above contains ‘White Rose’ scent by Floris )photo-08-11-2016-16-20-34( incredible hand made paper flowers inside a drawer with the scent of Floris’s ‘Edwardian Bouquet’ from A Petal Unfolds )

I’ve also included some smells which are not so nice…not many, but I wanted people to experience a range, so if you visit, beware of this tin…it contains asafoetida!!photo-17-11-2016-08-46-25There’s nothing quite like opening a drawer or a box which not only has some interesting bits and pieces inside but which also has a specific scent…I have absolutely loved putting this installation together and I think it is only the start of a new phase for me of working artistically with smell!photo-12-11-2016-17-24-58You can visit the Open House and experience The Scented Shed, in Brighton during the last 3 weekends of November 11am – 5pm, and you can follow the accounts @64sandgate on Instagram and Facebook for more details

Friday…with Monteverdi Italy

August 26, 2016

Filed Under : collaborations - colour - Summer - trips

Photo 29-07-2016, 16 29 53

Deciding where to go on holiday has never been my forté…I research things a bit, usually heavily relying on images, but then I always get a bit overwhelmed, suddenly convinced I don’t have a clue and just want a magic wand to be waved; all decisions made, rooms booked, flights sorted, and then when the time comes to basically be transported in a Star Trek like way to where it is I have to be in order to relax…( and it’s the pressure to relax that usually cripples me after about 3 days into a holiday! )

So this year, I was definitely enticed by some beautiful images that kept popping up of Hotel Monteverdi in Tuscany…I wanted that nature, the hills, the calm interiors…and of course a swimming pool and fantastic food!

We wanted to split the holiday between a short hotel break in the hills and renting the amazing Casa Guidi in Florence ( which you can see here ) and so we decided on Hotel Monteverdi in Castiglioncello del Trinoro and after a straightforward car journey from Florence airport we arrived at the beautiful village. The hotel is basically the entire village with a collection of stunning gardens and rooms, housed in original rustic buildings, overlooking the Val D’Orcia region of Tuscany towards Montepulciano and Siena.

There are loads of wine tasting and foodie type trips which you can go on, with amazing locations, but to be honest all I wanted to do was quietly read a book in a gorgeous garden, and really I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing hotel garden than this…it was personal, not too large, scented, shaded and very quiet…Photo 30-07-2016, 08 09 00 Photo 30-07-2016, 09 09 11 Photo 30-07-2016, 08 09 45 Photo 30-07-2016, 08 11 36 Photo 05-08-2016, 08 37 26Photo 30-07-2016, 08 15 18 (1) Photo 01-08-2016, 09 49 27 Photo 30-07-2016, 08 20 59 Photo 25-08-2016, 17 39 26 Photo 05-08-2016, 08 13 23I’ve always been an early morning person; and the breakfasts at Monteverdi really were the best! Before the sun gets too hot, sitting on the terrace with coffee, orange juice, croissants, pecorino cheese, local salamis and perfectly boiled eggs was my idea of breakfast heaven!
Photo 05-08-2016, 08 11 50Photo 05-08-2016, 08 13 08Photo 05-08-2016, 07 11 31Photo 30-07-2016, 08 22 47Photo 30-07-2016, 07 05 18I found the best bit of being in the hotel village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro was quietly mooching around and ‘investigating’, ( as my brother and I used to call it ); punctuating reading and dipping into the pool with short walks, listening to cicadas, watching little green lizards disappearing into walls, smelling the lavender, and just looking at everything…at the views, the textures, the colours, the plants. I find it really difficult to actually ‘stop’ and the practice of really seeing and sensing where I am always calms me down…
Photo 30-07-2016, 07 04 33 Photo 05-08-2016, 10 06 56 Photo 05-08-2016, 10 09 23 Photo 30-07-2016, 07 01 23 Photo 05-08-2016, 09 15 07 Photo 01-08-2016, 14 01 48Photo 05-08-2016, 09 09 58 Photo 31-07-2016, 17 16 29Photo 31-07-2016, 16 18 45Photo 31-07-2016, 15 51 53Photo 01-08-2016, 06 40 58Photo 31-07-2016, 17 24 05Photo 31-07-2016, 16 34 17Photo 31-07-2016, 17 36 31Photo 31-07-2016, 17 27 34Although doing nothing was our priority, we did also drive out to Montepulciano, ( and  Chiarentana en route where we tasted absolutely amazing olive oils ), as well as Sarteano, the traditional, local town only 10 minutes from the hotel where we also ate some evenings…
Photo 02-08-2016, 15 22 52 Photo 02-08-2016, 15 20 04 Photo 02-08-2016, 13 54 40 (1) Photo 02-08-2016, 14 25 34 (1)Photo 01-08-2016, 13 29 42 Photo 01-08-2016, 14 08 50 Photo 01-08-2016, 14 34 54 Photo 01-08-2016, 14 40 38 Photo 01-08-2016, 14 37 47Photo 02-08-2016, 14 37 19 Photo 02-08-2016, 14 39 37 Photo 30-07-2016, 17 08 46 Photo 30-07-2016, 17 10 55 Photo 30-07-2016, 17 13 07 Photo 30-07-2016, 18 47 15But one of the other wonderful things about this hotel is the space…it’s a village after all, and during peak season in Tuscany everywhere was crazy with people, but Casteglioncello del Trinoro isn’t at all…the village is a complete sanctuary from the bustle of Summer tourism…Photo 31-07-2016, 17 37 12 Photo 31-07-2016, 17 36 47 Photo 31-07-2016, 16 45 26Apart from their fine dining restaurant there is also the lovely Enotica where you can have a quiet bite to eat, a glass of wine, wonderful cakes and ice creams,  ( as well as daily wine tastings! )
Photo 31-07-2016, 16 42 28 Photo 05-08-2016, 10 08 01And… they also have a Spa!

A spa session in the hot, late afternoon was such a treat, and the only time I have ever laid outside in a carved marble bath, water sprinkled with lavender from the gardens, listening to the cicadas…I think that this was probably the peak of my doing nothing and stopping…Photo 03-08-2016, 18 04 28 Photo 03-08-2016, 17 58 51 Photo 03-08-2016, 17 55 13 Photo 03-08-2016, 17 57 12 Photo 03-08-2016, 17 58 08 Photo 04-08-2016, 11 03 05But it was the Tuscan sunsets which completely blew me away…I have never seen such wonderful purples and pinks descending over hills, every evening…it was absolutely incredible and like some sort of natural magic trick…
Photo 30-07-2016, 19 31 00 Photo 30-07-2016, 19 31 56 Photo 30-07-2016, 19 25 21 Photo 01-08-2016, 19 32 02Photo 03-08-2016, 19 29 10And then to be able to sit in the Oreade Resteraunt in the evening watching these sunsets was amazing.

I absolutely loved the restaurant, and the Maître D, Fabio, was brilliant, as was Simone…they were so helpful and always made our meals feel very personal. On our last night, after the amuse bouche, which were like delicate pieces of taste art, we shared such an incredible local steak, carved for us at the table, with locally sourced vegetables. In fact so much of the food is locally sourced including, obviously, wines and even their beers.

I’m usually predominantly a savoury person, but I have to say that the deserts here were some of the best I have ever tasted…it wasn’t just what they were, it was how they were put together; the combinations of tastes and textures, and their chocolate orange desert is something I would  now demand as a last rite!
Photo 04-08-2016, 19 57 19 Photo 05-08-2016, 08 12 25But, as I’ve said before, it was the pottering at Monteverdi which I really loved…the doing of nothing!
Photo 30-07-2016, 08 28 48 Photo 30-07-2016, 09 12 45 Photo 30-07-2016, 07 05 18 Photo 30-07-2016, 07 58 36 ( I found an old Siamese cat there too! )Photo 30-07-2016, 08 06 26 Photo 25-08-2016, 17 40 55 Photo 01-08-2016, 07 39 27Photo 01-08-2016, 07 38 43 Photo 01-08-2016, 07 39 47 Photo 01-08-2016, 07 54 30But one of the biggest treats of all was when Costanza, ( who puts together all the beautiful and very natural flower arrangements at the hotel ), brought me a box of hand picked fruit and flowers for me to ‘play’ with…this was the absolute highlight of my stay!
Photo 03-08-2016, 13 26 55Photo 03-08-2016, 11 28 15Photo 03-08-2016, 11 36 29…and you can see what I created with this box on this post here

So at the end of the week, although we were excited about going on to stay in Florence for the last part of our holiday, it was also a bit of a wrench having to leave our Monteverdi sanctuary…
Photo 29-07-2016, 19 59 08 Photo 02-08-2016, 11 31 32 Photo 04-08-2016, 08 46 58You can have a look at the Steller Story here and more about Hotel Monteverdi here

Weekly Snaps…

July 24, 2016

Filed Under : Arrangements - Art - Brighton - collaborations - colour - exhibitions - London - Summer - trips - Weekly Snaps

Photo 19-07-2016, 10 07 14 Photo 17-07-2016, 17 59 07 Photo 18-07-2016, 10 20 25 Photo 18-07-2016, 10 27 57 Photo 18-07-2016, 10 29 18 Photo 18-07-2016, 11 11 15 (1) Photo 18-07-2016, 11 12 25 Photo 04-07-2016, 15 30 01Photo 18-07-2016, 11 11 30Photo 18-07-2016, 11 28 31 Photo 18-07-2016, 11 35 43 Photo 18-07-2016, 12 00 50 (1) Photo 18-07-2016, 14 25 25 Photo 18-07-2016, 14 26 50 (1) Photo 18-07-2016, 14 30 56 Photo 19-07-2016, 10 08 32 Photo 19-07-2016, 10 13 41 Photo 19-07-2016, 12 08 26 Photo 19-07-2016, 14 17 35 Photo 19-07-2016, 21 26 35 Photo 19-07-2016, 21 27 30 Photo 19-07-2016, 21 10 52 Photo 19-07-2016, 21 22 44 Photo 20-07-2016, 11 35 32 Photo 20-07-2016, 11 42 29 Photo 20-07-2016, 12 02 51 Photo 20-07-2016, 12 03 41 Photo 20-07-2016, 12 04 04 Photo 21-07-2016, 12 00 13 Photo 07-07-2016, 11 15 58Photo 20-07-2016, 13 12 25 Photo 20-07-2016, 13 13 36 Photo 20-07-2016, 15 13 41 Photo 21-07-2016, 11 19 23 Photo 20-07-2016, 19 14 45Photo 21-07-2016, 11 33 21 Photo 21-07-2016, 20 20 50 Photo 22-07-2016, 08 23 06 Photo 22-07-2016, 11 23 57this is one of my Shelter paintings inspired by my visit to the Calais Jungle…if you feel you can donate something to The Worldwide Tribe, you can via their donating page here, or if you wanted to buy one of these paintings 50% of the proceeds go to The Worldwide Tribe and you can see/buy them here  Photo 22-07-2016, 20 14 17 Photo 24-07-2016, 19 04 58 Photo 23-07-2016, 19 40 15

You can see the Steller Stories app version here