9 September 2019

Tony with installed sculptureWHY A SYCAMORE SEED SCULPTURE?

Thanks goes to Helen Rose, Specialist Nurse Organ Donation who commissioned us, and who immediately informed us about Yeovil’s long association with the helicopter industry. She was aware of how we utilise poignant and appropriate metaphors linked to nature to describe organ donation. Sycamore seeds are often known as helicopters because of the way they spiral down to earth, their movement similar to helicopter blades. We visited the hospital to view potential sites for an artwork and decided an indoor sculpture was the most appropriate. We came up with two concepts for an indoor sculpture in various finishes. When we presented our proposals to the organ donation steering group a verdigris version of a single sycamore seed was chosen.

02-Sculpture-with-Joe-Helen-Karen-TonyDESIGN AND ARTWORK

Having collected and ‘squirreled’ away many inspirational items from nature over the years, I was able to search out a few sycamore seeds and with a magnifying glass analyse the structure. I sketched out my first designs, then redrew a number of times, simplifying and stylising the structure before computer rendering the finished art. I chose a decorative Art Nouveau style to depict the patterning in the ‘blade’ of the seed, thickening out veins to include relevant wording.

03-My-collection-of-items-from-natureORGAN DONATION WORDING

The whole purpose of creating this sculpture was to provide an eye-catching and dramatic reminder of the importance of organ donation, and also to act as an uplifting memorial to organ donors. The wall artwork behind the sculpture features the thoughts of donor families and recipients. We also included a few words about the relevance of the sycamore seed to Yeovil and the project title, ‘the Gift of Life’. The seed sculpture itself contains uplifting words of encouragement for donors and recipients.


The metal chosen to construct the seed was copper as this is known to naturally turn verdigris over many years. It took time to research ways to complete the sculpture and more importantly who was going to construct it! We commissioned and worked closely with a specialist waterjet cutters and metal fabricators to cut, weld and finish the 5mm thick copper seed, and the stainless steel plinth structure to our design.

Our computer rendered artwork for the ‘blade’ of the sycamore seed was loaded directly into their CAD software to be cut out precisely with their waterjet cutter. This process was amazing to see but as it took some hours to complete we only travelled over to witness the final stage!

05-Waterjet-cutting-the-'blade'SPINNING THE SEEDS

In order to create the 400mm diameter sphere at the base of the seed sculpture, two sheets of 5mm copper were first cut into circular shapes and then formed around a solid steel hemisphere in a highly skilled traditional process called spinning. We commissioned a specialist metal spinner and were there to record the process as part of documenting on how the sculpture was made. The process entailed heavy machinery, using a blow torch to heat the metal then plunging into water; very similar processes to a blacksmith’s foundry – and very exciting to watch!


07-Spinning-the-seed-stage2FIXING THE BLADE TO THE SEED

This stage was completed in the metal fabricators workshop and what a talented team they are! They welded the components together and then finished the sycamore seed so that all seams were invisible.

08-Fixing-the-'blade'-to-the-seedAPPLYING THE VERDIGRIS

Verdigris is the natural patina formed when copper is weathered and exposed to air over time. But, this very beautiful finish can be attained sooner by the expert usage of particular chemicals.

In the weeks leading up to the construction of the sculpture, Tony spent time experimenting on small sections of copper with a variety of chemicals and techniques to attain just the right finish. This meant that when the structure of the copper sycamore seed was complete he was confident that he could create the verdigris patination with precision. The sculpture was then finished with a clear satin acrylic sealer before being fitted (temporarily) to its stainless steel circular base.

09-Patination-of-the-sculptureINSTALLATION OF THE SCULPTURE

Installing artwork in a busy working hospital always has its problems. We resolve these problems by working at a time of day when there are less comings and goings, and this usually is in the evening and throughout the night. Unfortunately we needed to do some noisy drilling and knew this was essential to be completed before 8pm! All went very smoothly, the whole process planned expertly alongside our very knowledgeable and highly skilled installer, who we have worked with for years.

10-Installation-wrapped-in-cling-filmUNVELING THE SYCAMORE SEED SCULPTURE

The first week of September is Organ Donation Week, where there are many events held in hospitals around the UK that primarily brings to attention the importance of organ donation. A number of families were invited to an unveiling event held in the Yeovil District Hospital at 3pm on Tuesday 3 September. These families had all lost a loved family member and chose to selflessly donate their organs in order to bring a new life for others. The Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, Jo Tyrrell, gave an emotive speech at the official unveiling of the sculpture, followed by a further informative speech by Chief Executive, Jonathan Higman.




12 June 2017

FESPA Gold Award for MedwayWe are immensely proud to have won for the third time at the FESPA International Print Awards. This time we won – drum roll – GOLD! Digital Plus entered the project into the awards – a fantastic collaboration – they brought our creative ideas to life with extensive professionalism! The artwork features over 120 birds, each one cutout out of a special lightweight aluminium composite and printed with aged metal textures allowing the shiny metal finish to show through as detailed feathers. Each bird was fixed to the wall with varying length fixings.

Close-up of the 'heart of birds'


26 September 2016

Unveiling of the Medway Organ Donor ArtThe Medway Hospital Organ Donation Commemorative Artwork was officially unveiled on 8 September by Brigadier Peter Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

Dr Paul Hayden, Clinical Lead for Organ Donation at the hospital said, “… the fact are that one person can help up to nine persons by becoming an organ donor. So it’s an immense act of generosity.”

Karen and Tony pictured with Dr Paul Hayden on far rightPresenters on BBC South East spoke about how last year almost half of families who were asked for permission to donate refused. However, almost 90% of relatives gave consent if they know it’s what the person who died has wanted.

Have a look at our Medway Hospital Organ Donation Art page by clicking where the video of the BBC South East news report has now been added.


15 June 2016

Karen in Medway Hospital atrium with Brent Goose The question is how to recreate our concept ideas and designs into an impressive three-dimensional artwork that fits onto a wall 15m high x 18.5m wide? Obviously impossible to achieve without plenty of pre-planning and co-ordination on the parts of ourselves, our production and installation team and of course everyone involved at the hospital!

Part of the hospitals’ main atrium was already cordoned off, as the main wall was re-painted in white to cover the previous red. The largest size scissor lift available for the space was pre-ordered to be in place ready and waiting for the start of installation. Our team had arrived the day before to be briefed on health and safety within the hospital. Inside their large van over 120 carefully wrapped birds lay waiting, ready to be set free!

Positioning birds on the heart templateFirst stage was to lay out the pre-printed template for the central heart of birds. All birds were specifically numbered – they just needed to be found and systematically positioned on their allocated outline on this template. When all were in place we marked the position of the drill holes for the stand off barrel mount fixings before the template was taken up in the scissor lift, and taped in place on the wall.

John and Phil begin installationIt’s quite amazing to see how a scissor lift works but I don’t think I would like to go up in one, especially not as high as our installers needed to go with this particular project! Fortunately John and Phil have loads of training and experience and were totally undaunted!

Heart shape begins to appear as birds are fixed in placeParts of the template were gradually cut away as the installation progressed. It was a long and painstaking process and the scissor lift needed to descend to pick up other batches of birds many times. It’s during these times, when the lift has descended, that we can view the gradual creation of our design – a very humbling yet exciting process, like watching a stop-frame animation film!

Close-up of the 'heart of birds'Of course we also analyse the gradual development by ascending to a higher floor in the hospital and viewing from above. I met many people while overseeing our developing project who made enquiries about the meaning of the artwork and in return give wonderful and appreciative feedback. Though, as soon as the wording ‘the Gift of Life’ was fitted most people understand the nature of the piece without need for enquiry!

Register to become an organ donor plaqueNext stage was to fit the undulating supplementary text and mount the plaque that succinctly explains the artwork and has specific details on how to register to become an organ donor.

Tony creating templates for a group of Brent GeeseAfter this all the other birds were installed, those that gather together in groups to fly towards the already complete birds forming the heart shape. We decided to create templates for these groups of birds rather than trying to visually piece together the installation from afar. This entailed a lot of kneeing down on a hard floor, taping together pieces of paper, drawing a grid on these pieces of paper, finding the relevant birds, placing in the right places by utilising the grid, then drawing around each one. (Wished I’d taken my kneepads!) Hard work, but once we got stuck in very enjoyable. Turns out that it saved a lot of time, and our original design and detailed plan was closely adhered to.

Scissor lift at its highest point!This image shows the scissor lift at its most extended whilst fitting Dunlin and Turnstone birds that soar towards the highest part of the wall, representing freedom and new life.

Dunlin, Turnstone and Avocet birds in flightA close-up showing various birds flocking together; flying towards those already congregating to form the heart shape.

Panorama of the completed artworkThis photo clearly depicts the sheer scale of the completed installation.


3 June 2016

Birds-galore!Here are a few more birds ready for installation.

Dunlin-in-Aged-BrassThis bird is a Dunlin produced in an Aged Brass finish.

Little-Tern-in-Aged-SteelAnd this delicate little bird is a Little Tern created in Aged Steel


9 December 2015

Gift of Life Dandelion Seedheads close-upThis past weekend, whilst other parts of the country were suffering floods, we spent a very enjoyable time in and around Plymouth. This was not simply a weekend break though, as part of the time was spent in the main entrance to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. The reason we were in Plymouth was to oversee the installation of our latest organ donation art that began on Friday morning – with much excited eagerness on our part!

Installation of Plymouth Organ Donation ArtHuge thanks go to the installation team, whose composed attention to detail and expertise takes the pressure out of what could be a very stressful situation. Even when everything has been planned meticulously, spares have to be in supply just in case slight, at the last minute, amendments need to be made!

Plymouth Hospital Seedheads close-upEven though we have viewed the artwork on computer many times, Photoshopping the design onto images of the hospital wall, the final scale just takes our breath away! And indeed the comments we received from many people passing along the corridor showed they felt the same way! It is at times like these that we both feel extremely elated that as artists we are doing all we can to bring the message of organ donation to life, whilst at the same time creating a stunning piece of art for all to appreciate.

Plymouth Organ Donation Art Unveiling EventMonday morning was the inauguration ceremony led by Martin Walker, Chair of the PHNT Organ Donation Committee, who said: “The Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust Organ Donation Committee wished to formally and publicly acknowledge the profound generosity of organ donors, and their families who so kindly supported their decision, by commissioning a suitable piece of art.”

Sean Carey, Principal Clinical Scientist in the Combined Labs at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, donated a kidney to his older brother Julian in June 2013. He said: “From the donor’s point of view it is such a safe thing to do and there is no change in lifestyle. From the recipient’s point of view my brother has just come back from a two week holiday which he would not have been able to have before the transplant and he is in full time work which was severely curtailed previously by dialysis three times a week and periods of illness.”

Showing the scale of the new Plymouth Organ Donation ArtAnd Tony, while being interviewed for ITV West Country News, said: “The design provides a strong metaphor for survival – the dandelion seed heads being nature’s timepiece and the seeds themselves leading to regeneration, restoration and the continuation of life. It will provide a focus of attention in the main concourse and be a fitting tribute and recognition of the generosity contained within the act of organ donation.”


30 July 2015

new-business-cardsIn case you haven’t noticed, we have updated our logo and stationery and will be updating our website in the coming months. We have just had delivery of our new business cards – the reverse features a cross section of different projects from our portfolio. There’s a small detail that we rather like – the front of our cards just feature half of the logo, but on opposite sides so that they fit together making the identity complete.


15 June 2015

VoiceIn-JournalThis all came as a bit of a surprise to me – that is, being asked to appear in a new online arts magazine. What an opportunity, so I of course said “Yes!”

Unfortunately as this was a personal interview it comes across a bit one sided! But, of course without Tony all work would never have been completed. He pushes all initial ideas with his ideals, guidance and research of materials, etc., to make sure that all projects are completed to the highest professional conclusion. In fact we work together as a tightly knit team, in which neither could have achieved so much without the other!

To read the interview go to –


9 June 2015

Royal Blackburn Hospital - The Original Prayer 'Pin' BoardWe have both really enjoyed solving this particular project for the Royal Blackburn Hospitals’ Spiritual Care Centre – using just a bit of lateral thinking! How to turn something that is easy to use and much appreciated into a thing of beauty – but still easy to use. Anything too complicated might put people off in an instant!

New Prayer MeadowAfter seeing some of our other artwork, Andrew liked the concept of an artwork that incorporates seed-heads – a metaphor for the fragility of continuing life. We wanted to create a delicate piece of art to enhance the calming environment of the Spiritual Care Centre, and also establish a special area for people who are visiting and want to leave a prayer for their loved ones.

Prayer Cards in the Prayer MeadowThe Prayer Cards are designed to complement the overall design. Provided as a pdf document any member of staff in the Spiritual Care Centre can reproduce the cards when needed. The Prayer Cards actually add to the overall design when placed into the curving cardholder, as this is fitted with regular ‘spacers’ that encourage the cards to be displayed at jaunty angles.


4 June 2015

FESPA-award-2015-1Fantastic news – we have again won an award at the International FESPA Awards – this time Silver! Which is a massive achievement considering there were altogether 44 worldwide applications endeavouring to win in this category!

We have won for overall innovation and creativity of the organ donor artworks that we completed for Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Bangor Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital.

With our print and installation company, Digital Plus, we entered both hospital artworks jointly into the FESPA Annual Awards. They attended and collected the award in Cologne on 19th May.