Thursday, 16 February 2017


Two articles have been published this year already about this project.
 The first is in The Lancet and focuses entirely on this project.
The second is in Nature and looks at the wider project base of Roger Kneebone's work with Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music, both articles are written by him.

Monday, 30 January 2017


  Imagine that you have a beautifully embroidered dress with beading amongst the embroidery.The fabric is fine and the dress is lined (the lining always being a little shorter). Then you rip the hem and the fabric is too damaged to repair.For the most part the dress is still sound so you can just shorten it.There is, of course, no 'just' about it.
    Here is a checklist of things to remember:
1. What length do you want the hem to finally be?
2.How much hem allowance do you need?
3.Where are you going to cut the embroidery to minimise damage to the design?
4.Where will you cut the embroidery to minimise damage to the stitches?
5.How will you manage the beading when you cut through the continuous thread?
6.Remember the lining must be shortened.
7.You must allow for the hem allowance before you cut.
and will there be a sense of loss at the change? will it be the same dress?
   I watched a lower leg being removed and the list of concerns when shortening a person are also complex.The initial cut has to be carefully considered and then made with precision.After this there are parts to be secured, saved and fastened.The damage and excess are removed and the hem turned up.Some gentle manipulation to make sure that the delicate material hangs correctly and the work is done.

Monday, 14 November 2016

In a jar, part two

    After my visit to the Gordon Museum I went to the Hunterian museum on Lincolns Inn Fields. This is a public museum but still not to be taken lightly. As I mentioned in the previous post I knew that I would find this difficult .
    I had come to see the Evelyn anatomical tables.These are seventeenth century wooden boards with the veins,nerves and arteries of a body laid out on each like a strange piece of lace.So delicate and so unnerving, you are looking at the wiring of a human who walked and talked set against a dark wooden board with knot holes looking out at you from between the vessels.The rest of the body had been dissected away from them rather like cutting away the fabric from the seams of clothes instead of unpicking them.
   Much of the museum consists of displays of wax topped glass specimen jars with beautiful hand written labels and it was these that moved me most. I found that I was mourning the puss moth in a jar and thinking of the hyacinth flower that never was, floating like a strange jelly fish with its' long white roots.I kept asking myself if it was necessary to truncate so much life in order to study it but answered straight away that it must have been.
    Knowledge is made up of tiny stitches, like Charlotte Waite's cross-stitch celebrating her survival of chloroform. And like the film I watched three times upstairs of  a coronary bypass. And the latex skin pads for students to practise suturing which resemble trapunto quilting. Fragments of knowledge made from lives and sewn together.
 The next day I sat in my studio and sobbed.

Monday, 7 November 2016

In a jar, part one.

    I was given the opportunity the other day to visit the Gordon Museum in London. This is a large pathology museum not open to the public but as artist in residence at Imperial college I was allowed. 
    For a sensitive soul whose emotional field often extends over to others this was not something I undertook lightly. In fact I was on emotional lock down so that I could process what I was to see. A pathology museum is no freak show, all is regulated and specimens are all displayed anonymously in glass vitrines.It is however a museum of pain where everything you see is an example of disease in every organ of the body. 
   I had come to look at the vascular corrosive casts. This technique is similar to the lost wax process in silversmithing whereby something very delicate can be cast without damage, in this case blood vessels.On their own arteries and veins resemble ferny seaweed floating in a jar of water.
  It was difficult however to walk past faces and hands in jars and not think of the lives attached.So many people have given their bodies to science and it was very moving. At times I had to dive into the nextdoor Life Sciences museum for a break!
   Here was a beautiful little natural history museum with wooden cabinets and birds nests and bones. You can look at a row of skulls showing the evolution of man and blithely consider millions of years of time sitting on a shelf in front of you.
  What lies between the two museums is a corridor where a piece of medical 'folk art' lives. Wood carvings done by bored medical students as they waited on call in a maternity unit, some of them explicit, all celebrating new life. It was a between world.
  There was so much to consider it was dizzying and also an emotional slalom. There was a strange removal of emotion about it all and yet I kept wondering who here was unloved and who beloved.

Monday, 24 October 2016


aortic stent graft
  One of the most beautiful things I have found whilst in theatre are the live angiograms that the surgeons use to insert stents.These are live x-rays of the procedure which involves inserting a very expensive expanding tube into a main blood vessel to prevent it becoming blocked.
  Rather like a Christmas decoration that once unfolded you can never get back in the box, this type of stent is a hand stitched metal mesh onto gortex which is expanded once inside the body.The procedure is done by watching the x-ray on screen .Not only can you see it expand but you see the shifting shadows of the bones and tissue around and behind it which is what I found beautiful.
  The sharpness of the metal and its gold marker points against the stormcloud softness started me thinking about how to do a lace version.I would have to bend some techniques to do this but it would be just like when I teach drawing.There would be no difference between learning how to use the flat of the pencil to shade and then the sharp point to pull out details. Lots of 6B and 2B I reckon, just in thread!

image found here

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


 One thing that does not happen in my studio is death. I may contemplate the immensities and I may suffer anxiety over showing my work but there is usually an atmosphere of things coming into being not the opposite.
   So, I watch a fascinating bit of surgery with a hybrid stent, some lovely angiogram images and some beautiful stitching.All is going well and then it's not. Despite all the good things, the miraculous things that were done it seemed  that this person would not wake up. I went home with a heavy heart and thought about the person on the table and their expectations of the day. Before you  consent to surgery do you consider all outcomes or do you put it out of your mind? Before you operate do you consider that possibility?How do you detach from death ?
  Much of my work in recent years has been about the moment of death and about returning to the earth.I have tried to express this transience through the meaning of the Japanese phrase 'mono no aware'. in a series of  pieces the most recent being 'Lachrimae Rerum'.
 but then another miracle, they woke up and I can stop fretting.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Into the blue

  At my second session of observing surgery I found myself thinking about two things. First was how colourful the body is inside and secondly how like textiles it is.
  The layers of colour as the surgeons went in were a bit like this...
yellow, white, golden yellow like oil, white , dark glaucous red, white, PINK, raspberry pinks, sausage pinks, peach, cut strawberry pink,blue stitches.
 As I focused out onto my surroundings it went...
strawberry pinks,(sausage and peach now hidden under swabs), raspberry, glaucous red, sunflower oil yellow, spring green, turquoise blue, sky blue.
 Then the textiles. I found that I could not see the inside workings of this live body as mechanical but as material. I saw a hand stitched quilt with cotton wadding. Inside the wadding was knitting to cut through and then macrame to avoid cutting. Layers of thick felt cut cleanly and then trapunto to be handled with great delicacy. Finally we get down to mending some stumpwork with needlelace.
A tiny rouleaux loop is fixed in place between two other larger rouleaux and we listen. The sound it makes must be right. Tiny, tiny stitches.
  On the way out layers of holding stitches through the knitting ,big thread and big needles. Skillful flicks of the thread to mend the felt and the wadding. Then finer stitches to seal up the quilt.
  The life support machines make a continuous noise like a distressed blackbird and I can smell roses. .

image taken from this work