Category Archives: Museums

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at The Design Museum…

May 15, 2019

Filed Under : Art - exhibitions - London - Museums

‘The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle.’ – Stanley Kubrick

I grew up loving black and white films: dramas, romances, musicals and mysteries. I loved films from the 30’s and 40’s and also the MGM Technicolor films. They were so bright and bold, and transported me to what felt like another dimension. Long before I knew anything about design or film, musicals like Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s  ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ from 1952 completely filled me up aesthetically, and the section in Charles Walters’ 1948 ‘Easter Parade’ featuring the incredible costumes by Irene forThe Girl I Love is on the Cover of a Magazine’ is one of my all time favourites. In my late teens I discovered Spaghetti Westerns, again shot in Technicolor, but this time they filled me with a passion for themes more representative of reality. The aesthetics were still there, but this time what stood out was the composition of shots and bold close-ups; it absolutely thrilled me. The opening sequence from ‘Once Upon A time in The West directed by Sergio Leone in 1969 is an absolute masterpiece. Even if you don’t enjoy Westerns, it is an brilliant piece of filmmaking where images, music and sounds are woven perfectly together.

But it was the simple  ‘Let’s do the show right here’ storylines in the MGM musicals which probably influenced the direction of my career. I wanted to perform on stage and I wanted to be in those films. The notion of a director, DOP, designer or composer being behind the camera didn’t even register in my early teens.  Fast forward to my 3 year acting course at RADA in the early 1990’s. I had now very much embraced a love of theatre design and costume and had developed a much greater understanding of all that went on behind the scenes as well as wanting to be on stage. Theatre was my thing, not film, and unfortunately my appreciation of film began to subside.

Growing up near Stratford-Upon-Avon I had been able to see masses of theatre plays; Shakespeare, Restoration, Jacobean, comedy, tragedy, contemporary: I could talk about stage actors, designers, directors even composers for hours, but film…that was something I had not immersed myself in. I had put in the hours standing at the back of the stalls in theatres on Saturday matinees, but I had definitely not put in the hours watching films every weekend. Back at RADA I would hear passionate conversations in the common room about ‘The Shining’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘2001:A Space Odyssey’ but I decided that rather than investigating these films myself, these were ‘boy’ films; films which were obviously meant to worry and intimidate women. And boys talking films just got on my nerves; it all seemed so exclusive and they never even mentioned ‘Easter Parade’! One of them did concur that I knew ‘Singin in the Rain’ inside out and we both used to exchange quotes and a few of them seemed vaguely impressed, yet slightly bemused at my ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ insights. But I had no knowledge of this Stanley Kubrick man they all held up as some sort of god. That quiet humiliation of my cinematic ignorance, and, if I’m honest, my own fears, compounded my resistance in engaging with anything ‘Kubrick’ until 2014. By 2014 my son had already been a film nerd for the large part of his 14 year old life. With the abundance of DVD’s, films on iTunes and films on Youtube he has done what I was never able to do…he has gorged himself on films of every kind, and is now about to study Filmmaking at uni. I’ve taken him to lots of theatre too, which he loves, but film is his thing and I feel rather proud that he would definitely be able to hold his own in a 1990’s RADA common room. 

In the Summer of 2014 my son and I had a short holiday in Cornwall and he suggested that we pick two science fiction films, one each, and watch them as a holiday treat. I wanted to show him an old film I’d remembered called ‘The Fantastic Voyage’ from 1966 about people shrinking then floating around inside someone’s body. He chose ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ from 1968. I wasn’t keen; I thought it was going to be a bit un-original and along the lines of the 60’s Star Trek series. We watched my film first, which went down quite well, even though it was very dated, and then we settled down to watch the film which was to become one of the most inspiring pieces of work I’ve ever seen. This was my first Stanley Kubrick experience, and any resistance I had previously experienced towards watching his films immediately dissolved. ‘2001; A Space Odyssey’ changed everything. This was a film which was nearly 50 years old yet felt utterly modern. My son had led me into the incredible world of film maker and artist Stanley Kubrick and I will always be indebted to him for that. Watching Kubrick films are such a pure cinematic experience. They are cinema as an art form. They are films made because Stanley Kubrick was compelled to make them, they are not films to please a studio. They are concepts and complete works of art whether you enjoy them or not. ‘Barry Lyndon’, a film I had never heard of until a few years ago, is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I have ever watched. Scene after scene is like a painting complete with Hogarth ‘Marriage a la Mode’ set-ups. It runs at 3hrs 23mins but I could have watched it for so much longer. There’s a great little 3 min film showing the art Kubrick used as inspiration for ‘Barry Lyndon’ here 

And then there’s ‘The Shining’… When my son was evidently desperate to watch it I was still against it. I said he had to read the book first, and then he could only watch the film on a Saturday morning, when it was light…if he still wanted to. He diligently read the book to earn the film viewing and so I watched it with him. And again I was completely blown away; I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, how perfect the shots were and how original the design. The film isn’t the macho horror I thought it was going to be, it is something far deeper. Yes, it’s frightening, freaky and upsetting, but to just dwell on those elements only serves to undermine the film as a whole.

By 2016 we were both ardent fans and went twice to visit the ‘Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick’ exhibition at Somerset House. Artists had created work in direct response to Kubrick films and to see how one man’s body of cinematic work was responsible for inspiring new ideas and art was not only fascinating but very motivating. We’ve also been to the BFI in London a couple of times to see screenings of ‘The Shining’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ which were absolutely fantastic. ( I got a bit over excited at the ‘2001’ screening as Björk was sitting a couple of rows behind us! )

So when I was asked by The Design Museum last month if I would like to come to the Press morning for their ‘Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition’  can you imagine a) How excited I was,  and b) How excited my son was when I told him that he could come too?!

We visited the exhibition about 3 weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it so much ever since.  Different areas focus on each film and each area lets you feel like you can really enter the world and working processes, with relevant sections of the films shown on screens in darkened spaces.  It allows you to follow the development of the man as artist, from ‘Killers Kiss’ in 1955 ( if you want to see the extraordinary fight sequence which clearly metaphors the two men’s relationships to women, watch this clip ) to ‘Paths of Glory’ in 1957, which is one of the most moving and upsetting representations of World War I I’ve ever seen ( It’s not an easy watch but this is an incredible clip led by Kirk Douglas ) and stretching all the way to the 1999 with ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. There are so many details to look at and read about, so many drawings, notes, costumes and cameras. To see the level of detail and perfection Kubrick demanded not only in filming but in researching all his projects is extraordinary considering it was at a time before Google. You can see Kubrick’s personal filing cabinet full of cards on which he detailed each day of Napoleon’s life, for a film which didn’t even get made due to his financial backers pulling out. There’s the haunting  Don McCullin portrait which inspired the design aesthetic for ‘Full Metal Jacket’, a model of the ‘Dr Strangelove’ War Room, costumes from many of the films including ‘Barry Lyndon’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Shining’. And a couple of my personal highlights, clichéd as they may be,  was seeing HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and walking on the carpet from ‘The Shining’. We were there for about 3 hours; my son took his time, watched all the clips, read all the facts and completely immersed himself in his hero’s life.

It’s a really great exhibition whether you’re a die hard Kubrick fan, curious about discovering his work, or just have an interest in filmic design and how a director works. However, If you want to buy merchandise in the shop afterwards, be prepared to go loaded with a bulging wallet because ‘Full Metal Jacket’ enamel mugs are £15 and the army style wash bag will set you back £60!  I succumbed to buying a T-shirt for £20 along with a pen and pencil and the DVD of ‘Film Worker’ ( about Kubrick’s right hand man, Leon Vitali ) which was only £5 and we were also given a ‘Discover Kubrick’ tote bag each.

I now have a massive appreciation of all sorts of films thanks to my son and I can’t believe I spent so many years dismissing Stanley Kubrick films as being a ‘boy’ thing. I don’t think I ever even said that to anyone, but they were just always films I silently avoided. Thankfully now that there is much greater access to film of all kinds, there’s perhaps not quite the same gender divide in cinematic appreciation as there was when I was in my teens. However if you are still someone put off by talk of ‘The Shining’ or ‘A Clockwork Orange’ don’t be. There are some scenes in Kubrick’s films which are definitely very difficult viewing, but these films are meant to affect you, they are meant to make you feel something deep inside you which is not always a nice something; that is their whole purpose and like all brilliant art they resonate beyond their time. Kubrick’s films manage to show us who we are as human beings and what monsters we are capable of becoming; rarely a comfortable reminder, but in my opinion, an integral one.

‘Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition’ is on at The Design Museum until September 15th. Tickets are £16 ( concessions and family tickets are also available ) and selling fast so you should book ahead online here

All the photos below were taken when I visited ‘Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition’ at The Design Museum in London

You can see more of my films and photos from the exhibition in my Instagram Stories Highlights if you go to my account here

Weekly Snaps…with David Adjaye’s Making Memory Exhibition

February 5, 2019

Filed Under : 5ftinf Tables - Arrangements - Art - Brighton - colour - Conscious Creativity - cycling - exhibitions - London - Museums - synaesthesia - texture - Weekly Snaps - Winter

As I haven’t created any ‘Weekly Snaps’ posts for ages, I should just say that they are almost entirely written in images; I always find wandering about, looking at things and finding stuff that matches up far more satisfying and expressive than words…  The next few photos are from the brilliant new David Adjaye exhibition: Making Memory which opened at The Design Museum last weekend….you can find all the details HERE

The Design Museum…with Azzadine Alaïa

May 17, 2018

Filed Under : Art - exhibitions - Fashion - London - Museums - Spring

Last week I got a sneak preview of the new Azzadine Alaïa exhibition at The Design Museum in London. It’s a fantastic tribute to an incredible couturier who trained in sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts  in Tunis and who regarded his dresses as works of art. He was independent from the fashion world, crafting very specific pieces for specific women. He created his dresses on the body itself, draping and wrapping the fabric to enhance form and beauty, and making each garment personally.

Monsieur Alaïa had been a huge part of the conception of this exhibition at the Design Museum and had started to work on ideas last April. Sadly he very suddenly died last November but his long term partner Christoph Van Weyhe, with his close friend and curator Mark Wilson felt the exhibition should go ahead. But this is no retrospective; this is an exhibition of hand picked garments Alaïa chose for the exhibition himself and which interlace with stories of his life. This feels much more than a straight forward fashion exhibition and illustrates beautifully how Monsieur Alaïa worked with ideas rather than any fashion trends.There is also a beautiful display of some Richard Wentworth photographs of a few of Alaïa’s dresses which are on the second floor gallery, and each screen behind the garments in the exhibition have been especially created by artists including Cristoph Van Weyhe.

I love being able to see the passion involved in the way an artist creates and it is completely evident throughout this exhibition.

Being able to get so close up to Alaïa’s designs is incredible; his stitches are virtually invisible… I even saw a couple taking close up pictures just so they could zoom in and find them!

There’s something about fashion as art, as sculpture which I find irresistible. The theatricality of being able to wear something extraordinary, something so exquisite which has literally been made for and partly inspired by your body, is more than fashion; it’s the point where art, texture, shape and form all share a moment of magic.

If you enjoy the escape of fashion,or just love delving into another area of art, this exhibition is not to be missed and transports you to another dimension of design.

Azzadine Alaïa: The Couturier is open daily and runs until October 7th, and you can find more details and prices here

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A Stay in Yorkshire…with David Hockney, Peeling Paint and Sunset on the Moors

February 25, 2018

Filed Under : Art - colour - exhibitions - Museums - texture - trips - Winter

Last February I went to stay with Rachel @welliesandlove at her home in Yorkshire where her famed round window lives… She’s virtually my cousin as my grandfather and her grandmother were each other’s constant companions when we were younger.

I’d wanted to get back for another visit during last year but the weeks just rolled into each other and it has taken me a whole year to get back…but I was aso glad I went as, apart from going to Betty’s in Ilkley which is always a must, Rachel also took me to Salt’s Mill for the first time and I was blown away by the extensive collection of David Hockney‘s work there, (due to it being so near Bradford where he grew up). It was also a great excuse to meet up with Jules @thisisjules and Oscar as I hadn’t seen her since my workshop in Sheffield a couple of years ago.

Rachel also took me to Haworth, indulged my texture collecting, my telephone box spotting and my general pleas to pull over onto verges where good photo opportunities were calling .

I was only there a couple of days but it felt like a whole week and fuelled by an incredible sunrise on the train journey back home I am already desperate to get back up there…

A Betty’s treat in Ilkely… Saltaire… Salts Mill… Me and @thisisjules looking through tiny textured holes… Oscar wanted to look through a hole in the wall too… They had displays of modern pottery which was great to see as I have lots of these Portmeirion designs…And Rachel has lots of these Hornsea designs… ( I was born in Coventry… ) And so to the Hockney’s…

I made two Salts Mill inspired homages to Hockney…( above and below )

On to an out of season Haworth…home of the Bronte sisters

An alarm and early rise to catch the train home…

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

August 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Hella Jongerius says of the Colour Catchers which she creates;

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

She also says:

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

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

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

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

More information about the Design Museum here

Sunday Night & Monday…in Amsterdam

July 10, 2017

Filed Under : cycling - exhibitions - Museums - Summer - trips

I’m staying in Amsterdam for a couple of day with my son as he’s just finished his GCSE’s and I thought he could do with a post exam treat…I’m on a kind of digital diet because part of the holiday deal was that I wasn’t always on my phone! But with a bit of spare time before we head out for supper tonight, I thought I’d share my pics…lots of which I took before he was even awake this morning as I got into trouble last night for taking too many…

He’s mad on film so we visited the EYE Film Museum with their Scorsese exhibition today as well as the Art Deco Tuschinski Cinema…

I haven’t got enough time to write about each pic so it’s just a glut of images and will hope to have another batch tomorrow!

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.

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.

Monday…with Windows and Walls of St Fagan’s

April 10, 2017

Filed Under : colour - Museums - Spring - texture - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

St Fagan’s was one of those accidental finds…my friend told me about it the day before I left for Wales and it was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited, and to be honest it is full to the brim of ‘Instagram Gold’!

I was exploring some creative opportunities for The History of Medical Science project ( Part 1 is here and Part 2 comes out later this week ) and I took so many photos it was ridiculous; I couldn’t stop…but here I’ve sort of honed it down to lots of the windows of St Fagan’s which I got a bit obsessed with…

Visuals below; words will just clutter things…

If you want a day out at a fantastic and inspiring museum in Wales, this is your place…St Fagan’s website here for all the details!

You can see my Steller Story version of this post here