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.




15 July 2019

A BAFTA award winning film maker at Culture Street Films was commissioned by Art UK, a national online archive documenting art and sculpture in the UK, to make a series of new short films. This one depicts the Organ Donation Memorial Artwork we created at Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital at Bangor. The film features interesting insights from local children, a specialist nurse and feedback from us. The film shows why Organ Donation Memorial Artworks are needed and why they are very much appreciated.


10 September 2018

Basingstoke-unveiling-with-KarenLOCATION – DECISIONS DECISIONS

Before our first meeting with the organ donor committee, photographs were emailed of a range of potential locations, some internal and some external. We were also informed that there were two hospitals in Hampshire: Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester and North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke, and both wanted a version of the same artwork.

After visiting both hospitals, camera at the ready, we recommended outdoor locations, where artworks could be permanently displayed in tranquil areas and where relatives of organ donors could spend time in remembrance of their loved ones.

Winchester location on a grassy slope Basingstoke in a courtyard within the hospitalWHY AN HOURGLASS OF BUTTERFLIES?

Our creative process determined that an external sculpture was the only answer and we initially came up with two concepts.

Our clients were instantly drawn to the idea of an hourglass to imply the passing of time. Patients waiting to receive the ‘gift of life’ from an organ donor often fear that time is running out. For this sculpture we have replaced the grains of sand with a positive image of butterflies flying free from the top of an hourglass, a message of freedom and a celebration of life. Butterflies are a powerful symbol of metamorphosis and evoke a positive metaphor for the transformation donor recipient’s experience.

We chose four butterflies to represent the many species found in the regions’ national parks and nature reserves – Marbled White, Brown Argus, Painted Lady and Chalkhill Blue.

02-Butterflies-original&drawnJANE AUSTEN

Jane Austen, one of England’s greatest novelists, lived in Hampshire, the locality being an inspiration to many of her novels. We have taken a quote from her novel ‘Sense and Sensibility’ that stirs the heart to encourage more people to join the organ donor register. This features on all plaques.


Designing the hourglass and butterflies was a complicated process, as we wanted the butterflies to have a look of fragility whilst being totally robust. A see-through quality was achieved by having the sculpture laser cut from brushed stainless steel, polished to shimmer in sunlight much as butterflies do as they flutter about.

This proved to be a technical challenge! Finally after a great deal of research, followed by countless meetings with steel specialists, metal fabricators, stove enamel and zinc cladding experts, we managed to find the right combination to work with us to create the whole sculptures, plinths, plaques – and carry out the specialist installation under our guidance. We would very much like to thank Watsons in Barnsley, working in close partnership with Elecfab in Rotherham, for their painstaking attention to detail and specialist expertise – when others were telling us the project was impossible to achieve!

The intricate patterns of each butterfly were copper stove enamelled on both sides of the sculpture and all was finished with a gloss stoved protective coating.


A great deal of thought was given to the construction of the plinth, both from a strength and durability standpoint, and also stylistically. The internal structure is constructed from strengthened stainless steel that was fixed to the deep concrete base. The outer sleeve is of zinc, with a weathered finish giving a matt patina that contrasts beautifully with the sheen of the sculpture above.


The information plaques were completed from brushed stainless steel to match the butterflies. These were fitted to the front and back of both sculptures. Another to a separate post.


A team of five travelled down to the two sites the week before the unveiling ceremonies. Here are two photos that give a glimpse of the heavy work that entailed. Glad I was the one taking the photos!!

We are so grateful for all the hard work by the estates departments at both hospitals in preparing the sites ready for installation. This entailed preparation of concrete bases and re-landscaping after installation, also at Basingstoke painting of all walls and woodwork in the courtyard and planting with new flowering plants in borders, hanging baskets and planters.

07-Installation-at-WinchesterPLAQUE FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS

Due to the siting of the sculpture at Winchester Hospital, a sloping lawned area, we felt this may have been too problematic for wheelchair users to get close enough to read the plaque, so a post was constructed and fitted next to the path.


The special event to unveil the artwork in Basingstoke was attended by family members whose loved ones gave an incredible gift by becoming organ donors, as well as members of staff from the hospitals who have supported families through organ donation, and staff from the NHS Blood and Transplant team including Jeremy Brown, team manager for south central organ donation and transplant and Susan Richards, regional manager for organ donation and transplant.

Susan Parker was there to remember her daughter Hannah who sadly passed away aged just 17 in 2005 after contracting meningitis.

Sue said: “It was never a question about whether or not we would support organ donation, I knew it was something we had to do. At such a difficult and traumatic time, it was an easy decision to make and all of the staff were absolutely fantastic throughout our entire journey.”

The day had even more significance for Sue, as it was her birthday on the day of the unveiling. She added: “It’s of course really emotional being here today, but the sculpture is beautiful and being able to remember Hannah in this way on my birthday has made it even more special. I come to the hospital quite often, so will be making regular visits to remember my amazing daughter and others like her who have changed the lives of so many others.”

Colin Jeffery understands of the impact of organ donation more than most, having first-hand experience of both making that important decision on behalf of a loved one, and also as an organ recipient some years later. Colin lost his son, Ian, 11 years ago and made the courageous decision at the time to donate his organs. Over the years the family have received letters from some of the recipients, describing how thanks to the incredible gift they have led entirely different lives to the ones they were leading before this life-changing act. Years later, Colin was the recipient of a kidney transplant and has seen how life-changing organ and tissue donation can be first hand.

He said: “I probably would’ve died without it, and there are so many things about life I can enjoy now that just wasn’t possible before. I think this sculpture is amazing, I have collected butterflies for years, so this is a very personal and fitting tribute for me. I hope this encourages other people to support organ donation when they see the sculpture and think about the people it represents.”

09-Unveiling-at-Basingstoke-with-Alex-Donna-LauraJohn Emery saw the unveiling of the sculpture at the hospital in Winchester with his daughter Alison to remember his wife Molly, who sadly passed away at the age of 68 in November 2011. Molly had always been a vocal supporter of organ donation and had carried an organ donation card.

John said: “Even though it was a really difficult time for us all, making the decision was really easy because we knew it was what she wanted. It makes me really proud of her to know that she has helped other people.”

Alison now carries an organ donor card herself and encourages other people to support organ donation and have the all-important conversation with their families.

10-Unveiling-at-Winchester-with-Rachel-LauraIn the last four years, 428 people across Hampshire have received a life-saving organ donation from deceased organ donors.

Last year over 400 patients died in the UK awaiting a transplant but through these sculptures, the Trust hopes to empower more families to have a conversation about organ and tissue donation, and ultimately save more lives.

To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit and tell your family that you want them to support your decision.

Above text extracts courtesy of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust



15 September 2017

unveiling-a-kaleidoscope-of-butterflies-1‘A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies’, The Royal Bournemouth Hospital Organ Donation Commemorative artwork was officially unveiled on Friday 8 September, a date specially chosen during Organ Donation Week.

unveiling-the-plaque-with-Lottie-&-MichelleMany organ donor families were invited, a very moving experience for all. Michelle (CLOD, Clinical Lead Organ Donation) gave a short speech to thank everyone, especially the organ donor families, while Lottie unveiled the plaque. Tony took photos of the event (apart from the one above). My only job was to turn the lights of the sculpture on so that the full beauty of the suspended butterflies could be appreciated.


13 September 2017

indiviually coloured butterfliesJOURNEY TO THE SOUTH COAST

So … the butterflies are complete, each one individually coloured and lacquered then connected to a thin metal wire before being sealed safely inside their own envelope. The top hanging plate is fitted with electrics ready to be connected to the hoist already installed in the main atrium at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital by the estates department. Everything, including the information plaque, is wrapped in multiple layers of bubble wrap to keep safe during the journey down to the south coast.

hanging-the-top-plate-from-belowA BIT OF HEAVY WORK!

Installation starts after evening visiting hours. We wait for the last individuals to leave via the staircase before we can tape off the area and begin to lower the hoist in readiness to attach the top hanging plate and then fix the eight eyeball spotlights into their allocated apertures. Big thanks to Lottie (SNOD, Senior Nurse Organ Donation, at Royal Bournemouth) who turned up with three large bags of chocolates to give us plenty of energy during our night stint!

hanging-the-top-plate-from-aboveThis photo demonstrates how the vertical ‘lip’ on the top plate hides all the necessary electrics. It also shows the numbering so we knew exactly which butterfly to fit to which pinprick!

threading-butterflies-one-by-oneONE HUNDRED BUTTERFLIES

It isn’t until after midnight that we can begin to attach the butterflies. Every numbered envelope contains a single butterfly fitted with a different length of wire. Each number corresponds to a numbered hole the size of a pinprick on the top hanging plate. Really the only way to see each particular hole is by shining a torchlight through from above. It is that exact! So … it’s spectacles at the ready, utilise my previous curtain making skills, and begin this precise threading the needle type of activity!

crimping-butterflies-from-aboveEach wire thread is crimped and held into place from above before the next butterfly is selected.

hoist-going-upWhen all one hundred butterflies are in place it’s time to work the wonders of the hoist. It’s not until the completed sculpture clicks into the mechanics already assembled in the roof space that the lights come on – to accompanying “wows and ahhs” from all four of us doing the night shift!


12 September 2017

first-designsModern digital communication is a wonderful thing! Before our first face-to-face meeting with the organ donation committee at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, we had already received photos of a potential location for the artwork and designed concepts that were revised a number of times. One concept, as Bournemouth is a seaside town, was to utilise seashells in a ‘Fibonacci’ inspired spiral.

four-butterfly-photosWHY BUTTERFLIES?

Initial feedback was, the committee loved the suspended spiral sculpture but preferred the use of butterflies instead of seashells. Reason being; when a patient is going through end of life care at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital images of blue butterflies are attached to drawn curtains to ensure the patient and visitors are left in peace.

Also, butterflies, through their ongoing life cycles, capture the idea of metamorphosis or rebirth. Therefore, butterflies link perfectly as a thought provoking visual metaphor with the theme of organ donation when associated with ‘the Gift of Life’ wording. And of course, as perfectionists, to reflect the region where the hospital is situated we chose to represent species of butterflies found at Dorset Nature Reserves as a creative starting point.


We designed four large-scale butterflies to be created from lightweight anodised aluminium, detailed patterns cut out of the metal to resemble the wing shapes and patterns of original butterfly species. The material and technique chosen ensures each butterfly will have strength for longevity and safety in a hospital environment whilst conveying a fragile, lacy and also a seemingly transparent beauty. To design each one took time; sketching out many shapes, then hand cutting the forms from thin card to ensure that each butterfly featured beautiful silhouettes that wouldn’t collapse when held up to the light.


Each butterfly was never meant to be an exact depiction, but rather a creative representation. We chose four colourways, purple to blue to turquoise to green, to harmonise collectively and complement colours already in use at the hospital. So the next undertaking was to create four coloured patterns of shimmering iridescent colours that resemble the flash of a butterflies’ wing in its fluttering flight. Working alongside the specialists, Digital Plus, a complex technique was devised to individually print and lacquer these patterns onto the aluminium butterfly shapes so that they glimmer and shine in the barest of lights.

half-scale-mockupHALF SCALE MOCK-UP

We created a half-scale model to determine positioning and quantity of butterflies and cable lengths. This stage is essential before creating all components of the final sculpture!


So many technicalities: choosing lights that will show up every section of the sculpture magnificently, choice of hoist so that the completed sculpture can be kept spotless, what type of scissor lift to use for installing as safely as possible, etc, etc. And of course, everything discussed many times with the hospital estates department and health and safety carefully considered.


To ensure all medical staff, patients and visitors to the hospital can fully understand the importance of the suspended sculpture now residing in the main atrium of their hospital we always design an additional wall plaque that succinctly explains it all!


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