Helen Storey Comments

‘Research in action’ is at the heart of my work, by that I mean, all projects are in the first instance both experimental and collaborative, but have to involve the outside world and current life in some tangible way.

Back in 1996 I approached Roy Peach at the London College of Fashion with Primitive Streak, which had just won a Sci/Art award from The Wellcome Trust. He seemed fascinated and so began a mutual exploration of the potential for this type of  cross-disciplinary work. It was my first science and art  project which, together with students, tutors and technicians we created over the summer of 96, first exhibiting at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London that October.

It was this project, and all the opportunities it brought, in terms of collaboration, research, finding new audiences and the world wide touring that followed, that demanded that I create a bigger entity that could attract funding and large scale partnership, beyond what might be achieved as an individual artist, in order to keep all future projects as ambitious and ground breaking as possible.

So The Helen Storey Foundation was formed to do just this.

Primitive Streak
Closing neural tube dress

I was made a Senior Research Fellow at The London College of Fashion in 1999, and it has been my research home ever since. In recent years, it has been the work of Sandy Black and her ‘Interrogating Fashion Series’ and the ‘Better Lives’ initiative, instigated by Dr Frances Corner, Head of College, that has allowed my continued obsession – exploring the space between the arts and sciences – to flourish there.

It is an extremely exciting period to be a researcher within the walls of LCF, as it bravely takes on all that the fashion industry finds so hard to reconcile; issues surrounding sustainability, consumerism and ‘considerate design’ – in a world in which there is already too much ‘stuff’ for some, and not enough for others.

I see my personal contribution to the research community at LCF to be about continuing to bring in experts, researchers and partners from the outside world through projects I instigate, and more recently, to use artistic thinking, in its broadest sense, to make sure that research penetrates into the college through the curriculum and beyond academia, and instead results in actions, initiatives and positive change to the world around us.

Helen Storey
August 2007

New LCF initiatives - Better Lives

The thinking behind fashion as a discipline needs to extend and expand its influence, to counter the traditional stereotype of fashion as a light weight subject, not quite worthy of research and instead to clearly make the case and set the pace for developing areas of research that extend fashion’s influence – issues that will come to play a key role in the future of the College and the wider fashion industries over the next generations.

Areas such as health, textiles, sustainability, ethical design and science, (including nanotechnology, medicine, engineering and cosmetic science) and well-being are presenting fashion with a paradox. How do we bring these issues into the mainstream whilst also meeting the fashion industries’ need to be ever changing and consuming. Establishing a Research Centre, in the near future, which is concerned with these issues is therefore a key priority for the College.

Dr Frances Corner
Head of London College of Fashion
October 2006

A selection of research projects undertaken over the last ten years

Mental 2001-04
Exploring the creative processes of the mind with Professor John McLachlan (biologist) – University of Durham.

Science papers:
As part of the creative process and outcomes of working in collaboration with Professor John McLachlan on Mental, the first science paper co-authored by an artist and scientist was written and published, entitled ‘Hot Male’ (Journal of Theoretical Biology, 2002); and two further papers “Using models to enhance the intellectual content of learning developmental biology” (International Journal of Developmental Biology, Vol. 47, 2003) and “The use of models and metaphors in developmental biology” (Endeavour Vol. 23 (2), 1999), both used aspects of my work to illustrate his theories.

Professor John Mclachlan and Helen working on Mental The Mental team setting up the exhibition in Copenhagen, 2001
<td >Dyeing at Herriot Watt University for the Death Coat
Weaving the Death Coat at
Herriot Watt University
  Death Coat
<td >
Installation of fibreoptics and
touch sensors at the University
of York
    Rachel Hazel working on Amygdala, the giant book of human emotion
Oksnehallen Gallery, Copenhagen. Mental landscape designed by Cliff Nichols, Dean of Chelsea School of Art, 2001

Make Me Wash Up 2003

A second Unilever commission to provide stimulus to the Persil washing up team. These jellies were made in themes; disco jellies to encourage children to wash up and ‘the naturals’ which had floating within them flowers, shells and blossom. Created to make the product distinct from the competition.

Washing up jellies – ‘disco’ Washing up jellies – ‘the naturals’

Forensic Dress 2003
Unilever commission for Persil – A dress collaboration with Gary Page.

The dress/coat is printed with everything that stains – blood, Ribena, rust and red wine. It is made with domestic textiles, Victorian tea towels, net curtains, mattress ticking, dishcloths and blankets.The coat has hidden within it’s detail and petticoats the tale of two lovers told through the need to explore the piece forensically in order to find out which one killed the other and why. Displayed at Unilever headquarters for a year.

Forensic Dress – details of petticoat and domestic textiles with forensic clues hidden among them
Forensic Dress       Energy Project

The Energy Project 2003-07

A physical exploration of female energy in 3 London schools, results of which determined a new trial timetable for each school, for the best use of energy on any given day and its impact on enjoyment and learning in 2006/7 with the Women’s Sports Foundation, Creative Partnerships and the University of Sheffield Hallam (Dept of Health and Wellbeing). This collaboration was funded by WSF and DFES.

Four Women 2004

Commissioned by the Dove brand (Unilever), this was an open brief to provide creative stimulus to the team. I chose to make a film about women who lived through their hands, and to try and portray the beauty in their lives through the way in which they had created and mastered them. The four very different women were Shanee, the women's featherweight world boxing champion; Anna, a healer; Sharlot, a couturier from Iraq; and Tracy, a mother and writer.

The boxer The healer The couturier Mother and writer

Thought Island 2004
A collaborative project with Francesco Draisci (architect).

Commissioned by Unilever for its Crawley Foods Division site. The space was designed as a place for contemplation, peace and day dreaming, away from the office atmosphere but built to float as a translucent structure in the light well of the complex. All the materials were choosen for their tactile and sensory qualities.

Positioning plan for Thought Island
within light well
Skeleton structure for Thought Island
Gentle procession corridor Arrival space

Me Kits 2004-05
An experimental transference tool between Primary and Secondary education.

Thirty Year 6 children, in their last term at Moorland’s Primary School, in Sale (Manchester), worked on creating handmade personal autobiographical books. Written contributions were made by syblings, parents, grandparents, friends and mentors, giving a holistic view of a young person’s gifts, life challenges and experience, and crucially, their natures. Taking these with them on their first induction day at Secondary school, these books provided unique and vital information, unobtainable through SATS results or school reporting, allowing their new tutors to identify, early, learning styles, social behaviors, and a precious opportunity to find a bond of trust with that child at this crucial stage of transference. (This project was trialed again with St Andrews School in South London in 2005).

“We have uncovered ‘treasure’ in the form of a flood of information from parents. We had no idea how much more there was to know about our kids, and how much parents welcomed an invitation to tell us. I had no idea one kid in my class had a kidney out at age 18 months, it makes so much sense now. We TELL parents about their children endlessly, why did we never offer them the opportunity for them to tell us what they know about them? It seems nuts now. We are now looking for several ways to let the parents voice and knowledge of their children be heard right the way through their school life – we shall be doing this for years to come” – Daniel Gauld, Deputy Head, Moorlands Primary School.

<span >Creative Labs London Sept 2004 – April 2005 and Derby Sept 2005 – June 2006

Working in collaboration with Creative Partnerships, two labs were set up for schools across South London in 2004 and across the East Midlands (Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Bradford) in 2005/2006. Using the Primitive Streak collection and the Amygdala installation (London only) schools, teachers and other creative practitioners ran over 30 other projects using these works as the inspiration for exploring cross curricular teaching and learning projects for themselves. A film of the outputs which emanated from the lab in Derby is available on request.

“Pushing the boundaries and inventing the future needs the skills of all disciplines. Thank goodness its beginning to happen” – Estelle Morris, Minister for Education on visiting the lab in London.

Estelle Morris MP talking to teachers from
Thomas Tallis School about the lab’s work
Estelle Morris MP with young people and Helen
& Kate (Storey) working in the lab

Teacher Exchange 2004-06

As a direct response to three teachers visiting the London CPLAB, an experiment in new teaching took place at Thomas Tallis School, South London. Science teachers, Alex Gibbons and Laura Harris, and art teacher, Kate Callighan, worked over several months to swap roles and deliver three new lessons, away from their own core subject, by combining the teaching of science through art, and vice versa. Kate delivered a lesson on the nature of light and the Alex and Laura had students making 3D pollens for flight. The results were remarkable, positively effecting, attention, learning ability and enjoyment and retention of new knowledge. The project has led to “whole school change”, with other exchange teaching programs taking place across core curriculum subjects. The teachers have since become national ambassadors for this way of teaching, and have traveled the country lecturing on the impact of working in this way.

<span >Eye & I 2004-06

The Science of feeling, with Professor Jim Coan (neuroscientist) of University of Virginia.

Young child from Triangle Nursery School (south London) does ‘anger’ Professor Jim Coan training the actors in Eye & I to trigger emotion through facial musculature, not memory
Pupils from Triangle Nursery School perceive and
mimic the emotions the actors eyes
are emoting
Sebastian emotes ‘fear’ with eyes only for
five minutes

Wonderland 2006-08

Where art meets science, with Professor Tony Ryan OBE (chemist) of University of Sheffield.

A two part installation including the Disappearing Dresses which will be created ‘live’ at The London College of Fashion Gallery space and dissolve in an Oxford Street shop window between January and February 2008, and new inventions created out of dialogue between a designer and chemist – human powered water purification and the disappearing bottle. The water purification product has a patent pending and the Pentagon and a leading third world charity have expressed interest in the delivery of this invention. The disappearing bottle is in early negotiations with a leading supermarket. The research for this project has been funded by the EPSRC, and a grant from the Arts Council Northern Ireland is funding the tour to Belfast in 2008.

Professor Tony Ryan and Helen with the first
Disappearing Dress
New water purification device
From washing up liquid bottle to flowers
The Wonderland team testing out dissolve rates and water effects
Polymer becomes
chiffon-like in water
Dissolving Dress
Coloured Bleed Column
The Bleeding Suit

Ideas Can That Change The World 2005-08
A collaboration between Creative Partnerships, The Dialogue Project and Deepa Patel.

This project uniquely brings together experts and young people in true and equal dialogue, to co-create and eventually deliver ‘Ideas that can change the world’. Through a network of schools nationwide and via Facebook. The research challenge is constant, working our way through issues such as, how to make intimate and powerful conversations global; how to handle IP issues and open source opportunities between experts and young people’s co-created ideas; how to broker the best ideas into the wider world and with which partnerships? And finally, how to plan ahead for some ideas that aren’t product based, but philosophical in nature, and that may take years to detect an impact from, in a culture that wants the evidence NOW.

To date we have six global ideas we are pursuing to full delivery – the first, a system that takes advantage of all the wasted standby energy in all electrical appliances – co-created by Kunle Afolabi, aged 16 and Joel. M. Sciamma (inventor) this product has just gone forward for patent – and a second idea “A GVNQ in compassion” has identified its development partners.

Young people fathoming
(image courtesy of Creative Partnerships)
Planet earth drawing by Makaela and Stephanie, Room 13

Links to other sites

London College of Fashion:
Research at LCF
Fashion at LCF
Lucy Orta
Sandy Black
Profiles of researchers at LCF

Creative Partnerships
University of Ulster
University of Virginia
Polymer Centre Sheffield

Women’s Sports Foundation
Rachel Hazell
Terra Plana
Francesco Draisci
AIG (Malcolm Garrett)
Future of Sound (Martyn Ware)
SHOWstudio (Ross Phillips)