Category Archives: Stage 1 Research source material

Screen printing, Stage 1 sketchbook 08.04.2015

A nasty dose of noro virus left me unable to do much for the past few days except researching and working through my thought about my works and what steps I need to take next. I have looked at my first steps to finding a away of representing FGM as a man made landscape and found that where I had inserted text to offer an explanation of why I had produced an image really detracted from what I was doing. I have reprinted two of the images without text an I am now looking to use the insight that, I have used text as I feel my image doesn’t stand up on its  own. I need to look objectively at my work and assess if the work is of the quality I want and does it say what I want it too without resorting to text. I think two problems I have is confidence in my work and the need to be the best I can.

Initial images with text.



The same images with the text removed.


I feel the images have more gravity with the text removed.

I thought shhh! appropriate as it is a statement that F.G.M is something little talked about, only recently has this practice been challenged and campaigns to stop it have been started.

I don’t want the images to be salacious or offer titillation, but I do want the image to  pose a question to the viewer of what is F.G.M, and its implications on those who suffer it? I wonder if in thinking about this I subliminally decided a poster like approach was needed?

I decided to look at how the vagina/vulva had been portrayed in art in the past. I came across a number of articles on line some informative but a few were reported tongue in cheek as though the vision of a womans sex was a subject of humour or pornography. I have yet to find art depicting F.G.M in the portfolio of a renowned artist, so am I looking in the wrong places or has anyone yet to feel the need to use this as subject matter? I do not want to be obviously graphic or sensationalise the subject.

I was also looking at the work of Cornelia Parker and found her works entitled  Pornographic Drawings, fascinating and also inspiring. With these works Parker Uses ferric oxide on paper to produce images in the voice of the Rorschach tests (Ink blot tests) used  to assess any underlying psychological issues. Ferric oxide is used in pigments and metal polishes and on magnetic tapes, and for these works Parker dissolved pornographic videos in solvent and used the resulting material to produce the blots. In another series of work Parker uses Rattlesnake venom and black ink, Anti-venom and white ink to produce  similar prints called Poison and antidote drawings. I now wonder how I can use  these processes to inform my work on F.G.M?





Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds. 02.02.15

Today I visited the Thackray Museum in Leeds. I was welcomed by Alan who is the archivist there. Alan has worked there since before it was a museum, cataloging all the artifacts. The Museum has it’s home in part of the old Workhouse, which also has a resonance with my research.

Alan was prepared for my visit as we had a brief telephone conversation last week to arrange my seeing him. Alan’s knowledge of historical medical artifacts is encyclopedic, and for an hour and a half he talked to me about the history of prosthetics and amputation surgery. He helped me piece together some of the information I had about James Kinnear and his work. Alan found My Great-grandfather in his records of artificial limb makers and was interested in my stories of James. I was shown some of the catalogues he had in his possession which had illustrations and explanations of the various appliances from the period my Great- grand Father was working in that field. I was also shown the various crafts that went into producing a limb. Alan had photographs of people working in their workshops who included, metal workers, wood workers, leather workers, engineers and more depending on the prosthetic and its needed components. Most of the design was unchanged from the 1700’s to the early 20th Century. Only as materials became available and processes developed do you see the many changes over the past 50 years in production and functions of the limbs. Hooks replacing digits for hands were used until the 1970’s and robotics began to increase the functions and abilities of a five digit usable appliance which worked on reactions from the nerves in the remaining arm or leg. I was also shown small cases that held a variety of tools that could be interchanged within the wrist mechanism in the 20th century prosthetic arms. Anything from brushes to hammers, pliers and gripping aids were available.

There was also an exhibition in the main galleries relating to the first world war and how casualties would be rehabilitated and in comparison the casualties of recent conflicts. There were 2 videos on a loop showing film taken at Roehampton where the main rehabilitation services were for soldiers who were war casualties in and after WWI, and also 2 young soldiers who had been injured in Afghanistan,  losing limbs and how prosthetics had been fitted and worked for them.  The display cabinets also showed examples from the early 1900’s and present day prosthetics with life-like hands along side the more futuristic looking prosthetic blades which are available. I was allowed to take lots of photographs from the exhibition and use them on my blog with Alan’s permission on behalf of the museum. The virtual tour with the images I took is below. Some of the camera angles are not ideal as I had to work with the lighting in the museum reflecting on the display cases.




roehampton film

roehampton film












aluminium arm

aluminium arm WWI

latex cover that fits over a prosthetic which looks incredibly life like

latex cover that fits over a prosthetic which looks incredibly life like


individual digits

individual digits


the metal forks of a modern day prostheric to which realistic silicone feet can be fitted

the metal forks of a modern day prosthetic to which realistic silicone feet can be fitted

modern prosthetic leg beside a victorian 'peg leg'

modern prosthetic leg beside a victorian ‘peg leg’



Whilst the visit was incredibly interesting and informative I am not sure how this will inform the next stage of my work which will see me developing my initial research?

Gathering histories 31.01.15

I have become lost. Lost in the research into my family’s history. I have become so entrenched in paperwork I have lost my confidence in producing designs. In bed last night I started to think about where I was going with the project, what outcomes I may begin to look for. I was blank. I could produce a design on an artificial limb, embroider a life jacket or cradle wrappings but none stimulate me or feel that I would be telling a story. I also began to realise that I had been so taken with JamesKinnears inventions that I had completely disregarded his wife Helena. What was there to tell her story? Nothing but references on census forms and a newspaper advertisement stating a female attendant was available. This led me to imagine what input she had in their journey from Aberdeen to Sheffield. I knew James was born in Aberdeen and Helena was born in Edinburgh, though I know not why she moved to Aberdeen. Maybe she was instrumental in deciding the move to Sheffield or maybe she followed where James took her. I have no idea of how I would find the answers to these questions so all I can do is imagine what the move would entail for her. She had children and also worked in the shop selling and fitting limbs. I have found no evidence that she already had family in Sheffield so it would have been a move, lock, stock and barrel for them all. The one thing that does sit in my mind is the photograph I have of her shows her to be quite refined in her clothes and her hair is elaborately dressed. Her fate of  being admitted to the work house with her daughter and then the role of servant to others would I feel be a great leap form where she had come from. I am reminded of a quote in an email I received from Lyn Howsam who has written a book about the Firvale workhouse and is th ecurator of the small exhibition still held at the now named Northern General Hospital (formally the Firvale Workhouse) it says;

‘I got a shock when I saw mum; they cut her hair short and she was dressed the same as the other women. A big dark skirt, a large blue and white checked apron and a greyish sort of a blouse.’ My heart broke to think Helena would have suffered such an indignity. By the time I was tired and ready to sleep I wondered if I could tell Helena’s story probably better than James’s, as a woman surely I could empathise with her plight?

When I awoke I still had no idea what direction I could take. I decided after being prompted by a friend to look at old copies of embroidery magazine to see if I could find some stimulus. I came across one article In Embroidery magazine, July/August 2004 called Gathering Histories An insight into the work of american textile artist, Beth Barron by Jessica Hemmings. The first paragraph got me; ‘Gathering histories and memories of the past has long been the work of textile art. In fact textiles have long expressed words that tongues have failed to speak or forgotten to record.’ It brought together my scattered thoughts on what I was hoping to do. I not only wanted to find aspects of my identity from my ancestors but more than that I wanted to tell their story. I became even more interested in telling Helena’s story. But how? I only had her image and written evidence in the form of census forms. I had the addresses she lived at which were no longer standing, I had no oral history of her as my Mother did not have a good relationship with Elizabeth my paternal Grand-Mother so has no stories to tell. I was truly ‘ expressing words that tongues had failed to speak, and had been forgotten to record’.

Listing what I have

  • Photograph of Helena,
  • Census forms from 1881 to 1911

Scant evidence on their own yet I feel more from her. I have no sketches or first hand evidence as yet and have an appointment at Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds on Monday to see their archived examples of artificial limbs from the mid to late 1800’s. I now wonder what use they will be, do I wish to record them? My first thoughts are that I feel I should, they may not be something I use or they may be. At this stage it’s too early to tell.

I decided to look at what Helena would wear as I could see some of her dress on the photograph. I googled fashion in the 1800’s and came across this site one of the illustrations had a square collar like Helena’s. Looking at fashions a little later from 1880 – 1910 the necklines are rounder and leg o mutton sleeves are en vogue. Helena also looks quite young in the photograph so I do think we have the right era for her. I need to know more about her clothes. Here goes the next aspect of the research.

Helena Kinnear

Helena Kinnear


Part 1 Reference list


Reference list

Collating and researching ancestry


Ancestry research


Sheffield pictures archive;EQUALS;s09160&pos=1&action=zoom&id=12281


Pottery information

The Holmes Pottery by Rex Berry ISBN 978-1-905112-15-9


Rotherham history of the steelworks


Romany sites


Books on the Romany community

Dwson, Robert. Gypsy names for genealogists Volume 1 surnames ISBN 1-903418-06-2

Dawson, Robert. Gypsy names for genealogists Volume 2 Forenames ISBN 1-903418-05-4



Sheffield workhouse – Kinnear


Howsom, Lyn. Life in the workhouse & Old hospital at Fir Vale ISBN 190158760-6

Aberdeen workhouse Thomson




Interview with a prosthetic designer

interview with sports engineer at Hallam University


Inspired visions of superhumans


Inspiring designs


A.B.S plastic


Thackray Medical museum, Leeds





Fashion through history


Mourning clothes

Lovers eye



Historical sewing patterns





Steele, Valerie. The corset a cultural history, ISBN 0-300-09953-3


Interpreting Cultural Sources Stage 1 Research – KINNEAR -10.01.15

After weeks of trying to find artifacts from the Firvale workhouse in which James’s wife Helena and daughter Elizabeth found themselves in after his death, I have explored every avenue in order to find artifacts from Firvale. There are few records due them being destroyed in the WWII bombings of Sheffield and, also due to the nature of the workhouse being one which holds bad memories and stigma only a lone pair of inmates boots remain. I have been corresponding via email with Lyn Howsam who has written a book about the Firvale workhouse and who works as a volunteer in the the hospital Firvale workhouse became. I have arranged a meeting with her on the 20th January and she is allowing me to see the boots first hand. I am not sure how I shall feel when I’m faced to face with them as the discovery of my relatives lives so far has been filled with emotion. I am looking forward to speaking with Lyn as she is extremely knowledgeable about the workhouse. She sent me two pictures to use as part of my studies which are below. The first image shows a collection of inmates around 1910, which is around the time my relatives were inmates. The other image is of staff who worked at Firvale, no date supplied.

inmates of firvale workhouse around 1910 image supplied by lyn Howsam and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

inmates of firvale workhouse around 1910
image supplied by Lyn Howsam at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


inmates image supplied by Lyn Howsam at heffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

master & matron + porters. cook and nursesat firvale workhouseimage supplied by lyn Howsam and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

master & matron + porters. cook and nurses at firvale workhouseimage supplied by lyn Howsam atSheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Interpreting Cultural Sources Stage 1 Research – KINNEAR -08.01.15

Given that my research into the Kitson part of my family is halted somewhat since I can’t locate a Gypsy Varda I have taken my research to the Kinnears and looking at what life my great Grand-father James was involved in. I know he was a man who invented artificial limbs, had many patents to his name and had a premises in Sheffield selling them. My Grand Mother – his daughter Eliza- had stories of when she worked in the shop for him. Often the talks where full of humour at helping her clients choose which item to return if they couldn’t afford the rental on multiple items. She said eyes were the first to be returned as “folk could manage with one eye it’s the legs and arms and crutches they missed.” I thank my Grand Mother for my sense of humour. I started an online search to find any documentation of James’s inventions and found a wealth of information in the records for newspapers. I found that not only did he invent new technology for prosthetics he also turned his creative mind to other items, namely a cradle rocker and a life saving jacket. The newspapers furnished me with a glimpse into his world.

life jacket  aberdeen journal 28/04/1875

life jacket
aberdeen journal 28/04/1875

automated rocking cradle the aberdeen journal 222/11/1884

automated rocking cradle the ‘hydromotorruk’
the aberdeen journal 222/11/1884

There are hundreds of advertisements on line that he placed in newspapers to promote his wares and a huge selling point was the availability of an experienced female attendant, My great Grand Mother I assume.

From one article I found that James himself had lost a leg in an accident and I assume his work as a prosthesis supplier came from this intimate knowledge. I also found two articles which gave court proceedings for James pursuing payment for limbs supplied and one where he gives witness to a wife beating her husband in a divorce case. The search has been fascinating and addictive.

advertisement aberdeen weekly jourtnal  october 1885

advertisement aberdeen weekly journal october 1885

Interpreting Cultural Sources Stage 1 Research – KITSON – 05.01.15

Further in my quest in finding my identity through my ancestors, I visited the grave of my Great Grand-parents William and Mary Kitson. it took extensive research to find which cemetery they may have been buried in as Mum had no idea if they were buried or cremated. On line records enabled me after a few hours to locate them both in the same grave about 6 miles from where I now live. I had managed to get the plot number and area of the cemetery on line plus a map of the various gardens within the cemetery. I was lucky that after only 5 minutes one of the cemetery workers came and asked if he could help, and I was stood literally in front of the plot at that time. There was no grave stone and only faintest impression of a grave being there in the soft grass that covered most of the cemetery.

red star marks the grave plot

red star marks the grave plot

This voyage of discovery I have been taking has been at times quite emotional and I have mentioned this in an earlier post. I was still surprised that in finding their grave I cried. I would have liked to sit a while and ponder but the area where they are is long forgotten by the families descendants and the only traffic going by are those looking for ancestry information or dog walkers I was told, so there was no bench to spend time in contemplation. I did manage to spend time with them and wondered what stone would have been put on their grave originally, if in fact there had been one. I then began to imagine what marker I could leave for them and in fact any interested family of my own? I dismembered about the ‘totems’ left by various tribes across the world to inform those who travel after them and I do know that Romany gypsies used a similar marking system. I need to find out more about this area. I feel it would be quite fitting to think of something new yet tied to their history and life.

no headstone but a wonderful view

no headstone but a wonderful view

The plot has a wonderful view out onto Sheffield, just missing the industry and focusing on fields and trees.

Once home and warmed I began to look at what it was that the Romanies would use as part of their messaging system and I came across this site;    which was exactly what I needed. Simply put by them on their home page ‘Patrin is the old word for the signposts travelling Romany Gypsies left for their travelling fellows – a bunch of twigs tied to a tree etc. These signposts were the language of travelers, maps and stories shared by a European ethnic community.’

The site above gives the definition of patrin as;

pat·rin noun \ˈpatrə̇n\

Full Definition of PATRIN

:  a handful of leaves or grass thrown down at intervals by gypsies to indicate their course

Variants of PATRIN  pat·rin or pat·terThis site Gives the definition of Patrin as;·an

Origin of PATRIN

Romany patrin, literally, leaf, from Sanskrit patra wing, feather, leaf; akin to Sanskrit patati he flies — more atfeather

In order to begin to know what I shouold include I need to put down what i know of them at this time. I decided to include as a list such information and flesh out areas as I feel the need. So, William Kitson;

Born 1855 in Castleford, Yorkshire, England

Lived in Knottingley at around 6 years old, Williams father George listed in census as a slip maker in the pottery

Lived in Leeds aged 16 as a boarder whilst working as a potter

Lived in Whitwood, Leeds 1881 with wife Mary. Both listed on census as working the pottery given job title as being potter

1901 census gives work as a general labourer in the wheelworks. Living in Masborough, Rotherham, Yorkshire

1911 census sees Williiam working as a bricklayers labourer  with 6 children and Mary his wife.

June 1935 William dies aged 80

Mum doesn’t know the circumstances of Williams death so I am awaiting a copy of his Death Certificate for those details.  Mum does know that after he died her Grand-Mother Mary moved around the family living in turn with each of her children. Mum says Mary didn’t seem like she could settle without William. They lived in their carved caravan until Williams death. Mary dies in 1949. One thing i have found is their moving around always tied to changes in potteries around where they camped. This would be the obvious need for many to move in search of work.

Both William and Mary were spiritualists and did readings for people. My Grand-Mother would also do readings for people using tea leaves and the flames in the fireplace. When Gran moved into her maisonette she read the gas fire for people. This always amuses me as it is definitely old skills being used in a contemporary setting so to speak. I also in the past have worked as a ‘reader’ though not professionally for a few years now. We ( the cousins) were often given games to play where we would I now know be practicing such skills. My Mum taught me how to make paper flowers using crepe paper, how to tie them to branches and sell them. Something William taught her. Whilst I have never traveled or lived in a caravan, in fact I hated holidays in caravans as a child, if I am not feeling well I do find I need to be out in nature especially among trees. Maybe this need for nature came from the travelling members of the family?