MS back in the day…

Well, what can I say?!

Thank you so much for the great response to my first blog post, I was not expecting that at all! I am still overwhelmed, but it has spurred me on to make my work even bigger and better, so thank you!

This week I thought I should go back to my Degree Show work and tell you a little bit about that.

After having to take a year out of Uni, thanks to MS, I was struggling to get back into the creative side of things. So much had changed in that year, I actually remember I had started to doubt myself and my creative abilities. Plus as it was my final year, I  had free reign to design and make what ever I wanted, which sounded great but was actually quite daunting. I knew I wanted to do something that had meaning or meant something to me, but was also fashion based, a couple of ideas were tried out but were not quite working.

While looking up future fashion trends for 2011, one trend really stood out to me, which was based on Science and Technology, it was the neutral colours that really appealed to me, greys, dark blues and black. This got me thinking about using a medical theme. At that time there was a lot of press about stem cell research, which interested me greatly but I also found the images  of them extremely inspiring, I loved the linear qualities they had and also the muted colours that were produced.

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Stem Cells

It was then I realised I had my very own medical images to work from, my MRI scans!

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MRI May070030

My first idea was to simply draw from them, to create intricate pieces of jewellery. That was fun, but I felt there wasn’t enough meaning or thought behind it. So, I carried on playing with ideas to see what I could come up with. I thought back to when I was first diagnosed, I did’t really have a clue what MS was or what it was all about, which made me realise I wanted to make pieces based on my experiences with MS to hopefully help people understand it a little bit more.

As my work was fashion led and needed to be noticed, I decided to make a collection of oversized, ostentatious pieces for the catwalk. This excited me so much, as it opened up what materials I could use, it didn’t just have to be the usual precious metals found in jewellery. I wanted to try and find something that represented an aspect of MS. After thinking about MS and the relationship I have with it, I decided to have a Natural VS Toxic theme shown by the materials chosen. As MS is a natural condition I chose to use Corrugated Cardboard and because the medication I use to reduce the effects of MS is so toxic, I used Acrylic sheet. These materials both worked well together and great effects were produced through laser cutting and etching.

Optic Neuritis

Optic Neuritis

This laser cut, acrylic piece represents my first relapse I ever had, which was Optic Neuritis. It was quite a scary experience as my eyesight went from great, to slightly painful to look around and fuzzy, to pretty much complete darkness in that one eye. I remember being so upset and thinking that my life as a jeweller was already over. I may have overreacted a little bit, but I  didn’t have a clue what was going on!

Kirsty Stevens DegreeShow-Gait

Gait

As if being pretty much blind in one eye wasn’t enough, my balance was completely off as-well. I thought I was covering it up so well, trying to walk straight was so hard but I thought I had nailed it, until my GP asked me to walk in a straight line….I failed miserably! But thankfully this is what brought it to everyones attention that there was more to it than just optic neuritis. I created a large shoulder piece to show how MS was pulling and pushing me down.

Brain Inflamation

Brain Inflamation

After that visit to the GP and many more visits to the optometrist and other doctors, I was admitted to hospital, not that I can really remember as I was away with it, couldn’t even recognise my best friends (sorry guys!!). It turns out it was all down to the lining of my brain being inflamed that made me extremely disorientated, which I am actually thankful for as apparently I had a Lumbar Puncture, which I hear are pretty painful…PHEW! Anyway to represent this i made a delicate head piece using the outline of enlarged MRI scans.

Here are some other pieces from the collection….

C.N.S

C.N.S

Abdo Injection Site

Abdo Injection Site

Thigh Injection Site

Thigh Injection Site

These brilliant photos where taken at Ninewells Hospital by the great Photographer Ross Fraser Mclean (@RoFraserMcLean) and stared the beautiful Holly Scanlan. It still amazes me how much depth they have even though they were shot in this bright artificially lit box!

While writing this I was asked by a friend if it was hard to look back over what had happened, my response, no. It reminds me how bad things had been at first, but that I got through it and that if I can do that, other people that are going through similar definitely can do the same. Plus if it wasn’t for MS, god knows what I would be designing!

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Me, myself and MS

This is my first post in my Blog that is going to be all about me, my MS, what I am doing with it to empower myself by being creative and hopefully change the way people see the degenerative disease!

So, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 6 to 7 years ago and when that news came, I was devastated.

I wasn’t quite sure, exactly what it was apart from that it was a chronic, degenerative, life long, incurable condition which obviously made me fear the worst!

Look it up if you don’t know what MS is all about! The MS Society and ShiftMS are both great resources, check them out!

Once I had got my head straight, and realised that fearing the worst wasn’t making anything easier or that it would not stop anything bad that might or might not happen to me, I decided to use my diagnosis in a positive way.

I first used MS in this way when I was in my final year of University at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, while studying  Jewellery and Metal Design. Each piece was inspired by what I had experienced since diagnosis and even what I had to deal with day to day.

Kirsty Stevens Degree Show-Haunch injection site Brooch

‘Haunch Injection Site’ Brooch

Kirsty Stevens DegreeShow-Gait

‘Gait’ Shoulder Piece

This work got a great response, not only from fellow MSers and MS charities but also from the general public as it brought MS to peoples attention. This also made it easy to talk about and people could ask questions without feeling awkward, which at times it can be.

Since this work, I knew I had to continue using MS as my inspiration as I felt there was too much to gain from it, for MS awareness, for fellow MSers, to hopefully inspire them and for me, to help me take control of my MS for a change!

This summer I applied to Vanilla Ink, to be an Inker in 2014. Vanilla Ink is an amazing incubator for jewellery designers to hone their craft and set up their own business, with great one on one mentorship and business advice in a warm collaborative environment.

To hopefully make it as an Inker’14, I played with ideas on how to move my work forward and I decided to take an in-depth look at the outcomes of MS. This led me to looking closely at the visible lesions on my MRI scans, the scaring left on the brain and central nervous system as a result of MS. I decided I wanted to make these ugly scars into something beautiful and unrecognisable.

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While playing with these interesting shapes, I noticed an occurring theme that reminded me of victorian decor, which I love. So with this in mind I began to have a play designing my own prints using the damaging lesion as the main focus.

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1st attempt at a print (work in progress)

I was getting quite excited at where I could take my work, using my new approach, I was seeing sofas, cushions, walls, just covered in my brain!! I was also thinking I could use sections of the designs to develop quite theatrical pieces of jewellery, which did excite me, but something was missing.

Anyway, I finally heard back from Vanilla Ink and if you don’t already know…I got in in! I was so excited to be part of this amazing creative bunch, with a great collaborative space and awesome business mentorship to boot! It is definitely going to be an exciting and testing year, but I am sure it will all be worth it.

Inkers'14, that's me on the end -->

Inkers’14, that’s me on the end –>

So far Vanilla Ink has been a great experience, it feels so good to be back in an inspirational environment with fellow creatives.

I have learned so much already, from our professional development days about the business side of things but what I have valued most about being part of Vanilla Ink is being encouraged to take my work even further than just making jewellery! As my work has such an intense story behind it, it needs to have impact and make a bold statement. That is what was missing, I knew I needed to take my work bigger and bolder, but just wasn’t sure if it would work, but now I know I just need to go for it!

I am currently in the process of thinking BIG, thinking about crazy ways of how to best show my work that will get MS out there for everyone to see and I couldn’t be more excited, so stay tuned to see what I come up with!