Gallery Visit: Surgeons Hall Museum – Edinburgh

When planning my 2 day visit to Edinburgh I discovered Surgeons Hall Museum and was so excited. It is one of the most comprehensive collections of medical specimen’s in the UK.
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Exercise: Making Connections

Initially interested in both the textural amulet from the Pitt Rivers archive as well as the cotton textile from The British Museum. I was intrigued by the similarity between carrying an amulet everywhere for good luck with the sense of carrying sadness from memories, within us. But that sadness can become a burden.

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Sue Lawty / Louise Bourgeois

These two artists do use found materials in very different ways, not just in the choice of materials but in the emotion of the finished piece. Sue Lawty’s work is contemplative almost meditative, she produces a sense of calm whilst viewing her work. I think that this is because of the gentle and subtle repetition she often uses and the fine delicate patterns she produces even when useing materials that are often associates with delicacy, for example stones.


Louise Bourgeois however created work that is full of anger and emotion. Her work is very autobiographical and she often used clothing that she had once worn as a personal way of depicting anguish and pain. Very early on she bagan to carve wooden totems from pieces of found wood to explore her experiences of emigrating from france to america, her loneliness and her homesickness, she eventually took this further to explore human group behaviour our differences as well as our similarities. A lot of her work explores relationships and the dynamic between people and not always the good or fulfulling relationships.


Research Point: Conceptual approaches by textile practitioners.

I personally feel art has no rules, only societal rules. If art is created as a personal exercise then no rules need to be adhered to anything goes and anything is possible. The greatest artists have always pushed the rules of what art is and challenged their time. If it explains and satisfies the original need to create then that is all, if it then becomes accepted as art then that is an addition.

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Research Point: Freddie Robbins

I have loved Freddie Robin’s work for some time. She cleverly challenges our preconceived idea of craft particularly knitting by confronting us with challenging and dramatic themes juxtaposed with the soft, usually comforting nature of wool and knitting. Her themes often explore contemporary notions of domesticity and gender and more recently violence, fear and pain.
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Exercise – Telling a story

I had started to develop the ideas from the Norwich Shroud, and felt that the hieroglyphics I had researched for that sample would be perfect for this section.

The Norwich Shroud contained text from the book of the dead. I explored and researched the Book of the Dead as well as downloading a couple of sample chapters of a dictionary of the terms used, to look at.
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Research point – Feminist Artists?

I have long admired and found fascinating the work of ‘feminist artists’ such as Shelley Goldsmith who have exploited textiles as their medium of choice to communicate their ideology. Though I don’t feel comfortable describing them as feminist. Shelley Goldsmiths work is about how emotional states and memories can remain within a garment and her work explores ways of making these visible again. I don’t feel she is exploring particularly feminist issues she happens to be female and use a medium particularly associated with women.

Susie Freeman is another artist I find really interesting, she used textiles as a way of exploring ideas of health and medication. She worked with a family doctor to produce a body of work entitled ‘Pharmacopia’ that explored our ever growing dependence on medication and our acceptance of it.

Within my own work I have found It important to explore ideas and messages that are particularly poignant to me. It is a kind of catharsis as I believe most artist working in this way feel. It doesn’t feel like something I just want to do but more a case of ‘need to do’. Working through ideas in this way helps to make sense of them.