19 September 2014

Bangor Glass Fish close-upIn September 2013 members of an Organ Donor Committee in North Wales contacted us after viewing our Organ Donor Memorial Artwork for the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Their brief was for us to design something comparable for two of their hospitals in North Wales: Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Bangor Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital.

This was the start of two extensive projects that evolved and developed culminating with impressive, unique artworks that have received a great deal of complimentary feedback, and taken Tony and myself through many demanding, yet very enjoyable processes, and a steep learning curve! After viewing the chosen sites in both hospitals we realised that two different routes had to be taken to create artworks that will be both beautiful and an inspiration to potential organ donors.


The site chosen for this artwork is the atrium of the main entrance to the hospital, but above normal sightlines, as people pass through to reach their destinations within the hospital. So therefore we needed to entice the viewer to look upwards as they enter this area.

Wrexham Maelor Artwork SiteAn important feature of the entrance corridor is the pitched glass atrium that floods the area with natural light. This immediately generated creative thoughts – why not utilise a medium that would make full use of this available light to create shimmering shapes and colourful shadows.

We have long wished to work with glass, used selectively to create impact, and we excitedly considered how this medium would be perfect to give personality to this brightly lit environment.

Wrexham Hospital – First PresentationWe designed a concept that would fill both side walls using key messages about organ donation in waves interspersed with flowing lines of fluttering butterflies, leading the eye to the end wall where the key message would be situated. A sculpture, using the same elements featured on the walls, was designed to hang from the apex of the corridor, its primary objective being to encourage the viewer to look upwards and discover!


Not having worked with glass before this turned out to be a more complicated process than we first appreciated. We had designed a simple, but attractively shaped butterfly that we thought would be easily achievable in the medium of glass. It turned out that – yes this could easily be made in glass – but only to the size of a piece of jewellery – we needed butterflies up to a wingspan of 35cms!

Our thoughts were that we wanted each butterfly to have strong, intense colours to draw the eye from on high, yet of a brightness that the natural light could shine through creating its own beautiful effect. After many stages working in collaboration with the glass artist we accomplished our objectives and created four different coloured and styled glass butterflies that we could also enhance and reproduce for all parts of the artwork.

Butterflies – 1st designs & glass counterpartOriginal butterfly design above left, final butterflies above right.


This was our first exploration into producing sculpture, and of a scale that justified our detailed specification of the glass butterflies to match our initial concept. The sculpture was so important to the whole artwork, needing to look simply stunning. It had to work as part of the whole design but also as a standalone piece of art, with a beautiful, coloured transparency that would shimmer and send reflections from on above – replicating the form of real fluttering butterflies.

Wrexham Sculpture - lettering mock-up Other considerations were essential with this sculpture – will it be rigid enough to resist any draft from the entrance doors, and also will the supporting steel be thin enough to accurately laser cut the lettering, yet bear the weight of many large scale glass butterflies? First designs had been lightweight and adaptations were made so that the rods that fixed the angled butterflies were attached to a thicker, stronger brushed steel ring while the cutout lettering was on a separate thinner polished steel inner ring.

Wrexham – Glass & Steel Sculpture At last we had butterfly forms we were delighted with, and we replicated them onto the printed wall artworks replacing the earlier versions, to create a cohesive artwork. Spaces were left along the flowing lines for the larger hand crafted glass butterflies – to be fitted with spacers and give the impression that they are fluttering towards the viewer. The end wall, facing visitors as they enter the hospital, carries the message – Rhodd o Fywydd – Gift of Life – in bright colourful trailing letters that lead the eye to the artwork on the adjoining walls, with weaving trails of fluttering butterflies.


The site chosen for this artwork is in a large stairwell to the side of the revolving doorway of the main entrance to the hospital. This is a large, self-contained area and we immediately visualised utilising all 4 walls to create an artwork that will be viewed through 360 degrees and from all levels.

Bangor Hospital Artwork Site There were two dilemmas that we needed to overcome. The first – that the space is moodily lit with low-level wall lights. Our inspiration was to create a sculptural artwork with integral lighting, using the sparsely lit walls to create atmosphere. The second – this is a space that the general public do not normally enter, this area only being in general line of sight as you leave the hospital. We therefore had to create a something to draw people in.

Sculpture for Bangor – 2 optionsThe theme we chose reflects Bangor’s coastal location and also infers the beginnings of life. Our first concepts proposed to use the medium of glass to represent the transparency of the sea and the use of slate, as the area is well known for high quality slate mining.

A wave of emotive messages linked to organ donation would echo the waves of the sea and shoaling fish, which then leap out of the sea and morph into a heart shape.

We also wanted to include a design influenced by the Celtic knot, as a copper inlay that would be contained within each fish. Part of this shape would be formed into a heart to further enhance the message of the Gift of Life. As visitors enter the hospital we proposed to use semi- transparent fish on the glass wall on the left to draw the eye and entice people to view the complete artwork.

We also designed a steel and glass sculpture – an upward spiralling vortex of shoaling fish! At this stage there were 2 options on how this might be completed as shown above. Beautiful transluscent glass fish would be suspended on fine wires from a stainless steel spiral, which would give dynamic structure to the piece. The use of glass for the fish, complete with integral lighting for both options, would provide extra light and animate this relatively dark space with reflected, iridescent light.

Development of glass fish

We researched glass artists right across the UK to find someone who could make such a large structure! Eventually we chose a glass artist with a commercial production capacity because her shapes were most similar to our original designs and we knew that the scale of the project would not phase her! But we also loved the colour and texture created with air bubbles through her fused glass fish. From initial samples we asked if it would be possible to make the bubbles even more of a feature and could the blue/green colours be intensified. Before this project the glass fish had generally been produced for wall mounting where the use of a background would naturally enrich the colours, but we realised that the colours would be too translucent for our freestanding purpose.

For the sculpture, our clients had chosen the ceiling suspended option. After consulting with steel specialists, our initial design was adapted and modified taking into consideration, strength, rigidity and weight issues.


Scaffolding at Wrexham HospitalAs working hospitals operate for 24 hours, 7 days a week, installation had been planned meticulously to take place at their quietest times. At Wrexham this scenario was not necessary as the whole area was scaffolded and visitors used an adjacent entrance. Both hospitals needed to remove some signage, lighting and repaint walls, and this was completed the weekend before the main installation date. We had the feeling that most people were totally unaware that something more dynamic than just a lick of paint was occurring in their hospital.

Fitting the Steel Calligraphy (& Supporting) Rings We are always involved in the installation of all our projects. Sometimes this may only be directing, checking everything is fitted in the right places, other times it is more involved; this was the case with both these hospitals. It’s always a time of great anticipation and excitement, but can also be very tiring and a little bit stressful.

We started on a Friday morning at Wrexham, meeting with glass artist Jo and her assistant Adrian, to help and co-ordinate the installation of the glass and steel butterfly sculpture. Visitors to the hospital watched with puzzlement as we climbed the ladder and disappeared through a space in the planking above their view carrying shiny steel shapes and large glass butterflies! The atmosphere was very humid as sunlight streamed through the glass roof and we were constantly aware of working safely! The installation all went to plan, and we all helped position and clean the steel and glass. The individual pieces had turned into a beautiful swirling mass of fluttering butterflies, lit brilliantly from the bright natural light casting wonderful tones around the space.

Beautiful Butterfly Sculpture & its fitters We then drove straight to Bangor, but following some problems with the installation of the electric winch, it was not until after 7pm that we could actually get started with the installation. During the development of the glasswork we travelled to Corwall for a 4 day workshop trip to develop the detailing with Jo and her team. After this we had only seen the final fish in photos – over 100 had been hand-produced and it was wonderful to handle these spectacular pieces with their beauty of form and translucent yet rich colours. Every one slightly different.

Bangor - First Stage of Sculpture Installation The sculpture was installed in stages starting with the hanging of the main structure of stainless steel rings and connecting wiring for the integral led spotlights to the electric winch. Next came the inner spiral of fish. Every fish had been prepared with holes drilled for fixings and then curved to match the spiral. Jo and Adrian attached the fish with fine steel cables, using a 10m boom lift and low level stepladders to reach the awkward areas. Tony became main photographer and I was the fittings assistant, making sure that both fitters were handed their next fish in turn. After all had been fitted and everything cleaned the winch was electrically lifted into place into the ceiling.

WOW momment! This became a bit of a ‘wow’ moment for us all because as soon as the sculpture engaged with the electrics in the ceiling the lights came on! Before this our personal energy levels were beginning to droop, it had been a long day and was now way past midnight, but suddenly we were all totally energised with the astounding view. I can only explain the feeling as akin to your first breathless view of an outstanding landmark. We had achieved what we had hoped for, a swirling vortex of atmospherically lit fish, something that an undersea nature programme might feature and only scuba divers might encounter personally.

Bangor - vinyl elements applied to walls & windowsand Saturday morning we met up with John and Chris, the installation team that we had already worked with on the Royal Berkshire Gift of Life.

Bangor – Complete Installation + Tony The artwork for the walls was printed in sections, which had to be taped into position first of all before the backing could be peeled off and the art rubbed into place. It was all a similar process for the vinyl fish on the windows – 8 separate panes in all. Shoals of fish echoing the vortex of glass fish!

Wrexham vinyl artwork – fitting processThat night was our second night in Bangor, then we rose early to travel back to Wrexham to complete the installation of the wall artworks with our excellent installers there too – finally finished at 5pm on Sunday!

Wrexham – a glass butterfly is added Here are some images of the installation process – which explains far more clearly than words can do!

Karen oversees installation at Wrexham


7 November 2012

Early this Saturday we travelled 200+ miles to oversee the installation of our latest project. It’s been a long time waiting for the final go-ahead, but as you can see from the photos, all totally worth it!

We visited our specialist printers earlier in the week; to double-check all was proceeding to plan. At first the cut-out butterflies were to be printed onto 3mm rigid PVC, but due to strict fire regulations at the hospital a new material had to be researched. In fact, we prefer the black edge on the aluminium Dibond that was finally used. Thanks to all at Digital Plus in Leeds for completing their labour intensive and exceptional commission.

When we arrived at the Royal Berkshire Hospital the installation team had already wheeled the scissor lift into place. They worked calmly and professionally throughout the day, starting with applying the flat butterflies directly to the freshly repainted wall, then drilling and fixing the three-dimensional butterflies. All under our guidance and perfectly in place! I always feel very nervous while watching our latest piece of art being applied to the wall, but I had no need to worry. So a big thank you also goes to Chris and John who were extremely proficient and did an excellent job.

Though the installation was completed on a Saturday, when the hospital is less busy, there were still plenty of people passing through. Gauging their reactions was a feast for my senses; all were amazed and delighted with their hospital’s new piece of art. Being near a couple that stood for a moment reading the message; I overheard their conversation. The husband asked, “Do we have Organ Donor Cards?” To which his wife replied, “I think so, but I’ll check when we get home!” So not only is the beauty of the artwork appreciated, but it is also succeeding in its goal – encouraging people to register as organ donors!

After viewing the project on my computer for some months it is always reassuring that when installed it appears just how I had envisaged. The three dimensional butterflies, fixed with spacers 25mm off the wall, are larger at the edges of the artwork reinforcing the feel that they are flying in towards the heart shape, gathering together to form and aid in the ‘gift of life’!

We always pay a great deal of attention to detail and butterflies indigenous to the locality of the hospital were chosen, especially specific butterflies whose colours would work harmoniously in their surroundings.


31 May 2011

After working on the heritage display for the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford on and off for the last three years; it’s now at its final stage.

I am extremely pleased with how the design has worked out. I’ve used a strict grid of colour coded ‘bars’ to literally suggest the building blocks of life, in other words, the important stem cell research that is carried out at the hospital. These ‘blocks’ also reflect the windowpanes on the dramatic glass fronted atrium of the main reception area, where the mural will be situated.

Six feature panels focus on different subject categories highlighting the differences between past and present care. These are separated by brushed aluminium columns that feature anatomical dot-screen printed images. Installation is now complete but covered up ready for the unveiling event on 7 June. As usual I can’t wait to see the mural all complete, and the first reactions of everyone at the hospital.


26 January 2011

We’ve recently been working on a very enjoyable project since before Christmas, and it’s just about ready to go to print. I’ve particularly really enjoyed researching and illustrating the special border.

Iron and steel has always been an important industry in the area. Driving to Redcar for the first time took us next to the very heartland of the steelworks, and we saw some pretty amazing views, as this next image shows perfectly.

We were so inspired – this fantastic industrial landscape just had to be incorporated in the mural! After sketching out a number of ideas we came up with the concept of illustrating – the skyline of the industrial landscape.  This meant drawing out the dramatic silhouette of the horizon – but in negative form, to be then cut out of a stainless steel frame.  This means that the steel frame represents the sky above Redcar!

After our first meeting at the new hospital in Redcar we decided to have a look around the region – as we always do with new projects. It’s an invaluable aid to inspiration. First we visited the old, now boarded up, Stead Hospital, and the cemetery nearby to search out gravestones of the original Stead family. I’m not a big one for cemeteries normally, but….  Then on to the seaside! It was here we discovered the stunning coastline backed with dunes – and Coatham Marsh, a 134 acre wetland nature reserve.

Thanks to the web we were able to make contact with Steve Ashton, People and Wildlife Manager for the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust. Working in collaboration with him we were able to discover much more about the plants, animals and birdlife that inhabit the marsh. I have always been besotted with wildlife in general, and illustrating the border for the bottom of the mural in a way that will engage with children, has been a total joy to work on. I chose to illustrate it in a layered silhouette style; to amalgamate with, but also stand out from, the history information on the mural.

We have also created a ‘Colour Me In’ nature spotting leaflet that works in conjunction with the marsh illustration on the mural. This can be given out by hospital reception staff to keep children amused while visiting the hospital.

Can’t wait to see the finished mural all in place at the hospital with its specially cut out steel frame. We have already had some very good feedback from everyone we have worked with: from Malcolm Brydon, co-ordinator for the project, The League of Friends who have part funded the work, and Steve Ashton from the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust who emailed specially to tell us – ‘Very impressed with what you have done so far.’


9 November 2009

Took a trip over to Huddersfield the other day to give the mural and donor board a final check. The atmosphere at Leach Colour is wonderful; the noise of enormous printing machines at work and potent smells of printing inks. We were led through all this environment to where our mural was going through its final stage – the framing. It totally filled the room – very impressive. It’s wonderful to see it full size and the colours are just as vibrant as on our computers.

The mural was then transported to Kent by Leach Colour who installed it at the Orpington Hospital ready for the grand unveiling.


5 November 2009

Before any mural goes to print everyone has a chance for that final once-over. We met up with Josie Aston (arts coordinator) on a beautiful autumn day in October at Bromley Musuem in Kent. While we were setting up the computer to display large images on a viewing screen a large amount of tea was set to brew. We’d printed out scale versions of the mural and the donor board. We always want to make sure that everyone is happy – it’s their history after all. Everyone sat down with their cups of tea to view the slideshow and hear our talk about why the mural was first commissioned, the ideas behind the design and all information that is included. The captive audience were given the chance to air their views and also make any final amendments. Everything went very well – we took note of the few slight amendments to complete when back at work.

After the meeting we headed across to the Orpington Hospital to take another look at where the mural is to be situated, check the wall has been repainted the correct colour and double check measurements – we never take anything for granted. We have since been in constant contact with the printers, Leach Colour of Huddersfield to make sure they keep up to their usual high standards. We are all such perfectionists – Leach Colour searched out the correct varnish to make the frame just the right colour!

The Canadian Hospital Mural is due to be unveiled at a grand get together at Orpington Hospital in time for Poppy Day. We’ll let you know how it all goes.