Sunday, 16 May 2010

Night at the museum

Last Thursday morning, my friend Emily sent me a link to an article in the Guardian about a craft event she thought I *might* be interested in. Ten minutes later, I had booked a flight the next day to London, with the sole intention of spending the evening at the Royal College of Surgeons. I emailed Perri Lewis, the article's author, to ask if she would meet me. I danced around the room in my dressing gown when she replied to say yes.
Perri described "All Stitched Up" as "an event at the Hunterian museum in London where medical professionals and knitters are being brought together to swap their stitching skills." In essence, it was a workshop in craftsmanship of all kinds, including knitting, weaving, spinning and, the reason I was there, surgical suturing. The Hunterian was utterly absorbing: row upon row of skulls of various types, graphic videos of surgeons at work, cabinets of curiosities winking at me from their formaldehyde.
My night at the museum couldn't have been more timely: up until then, I had been writing about mastectomy and reconstruction using oranges as an educational tool. Along came an event which filled my mind with a wealth of analogous possibilities. I was particularly struck by this: "surgery, derived from the Greek words for 'hand-work', originally described the manual care of injury and disease." Perri introduced me to Akan Emin, the surgeon and research fellow she interviewed in her article, and he made me realise my oncoplastic surgeon is not only a doctor. He is a sculptor with an incredible eye for shape and proportion.
The combination of traditional handicrafts and science that All Stitched Up provided made total sense. I am passionate about translating the medical experience - and mine in particular, of course - into one that is more friendly, accessible and informative for women. I want to explore the ways I could help other women come to terms with what happens to their bodies during and after breast cancer surgery. All Stitched Up confirmed to me that it is doable in creative, surprising and inspiring ways. I can't wait to get started.
Thank you to the Hunterian for giving me permission to take these photographs.


  1. What a fabulous event, Kelly. Absolutely fascinating! xx

  2. It was very cool - I'm so glad you agree!! x

  3. I really can't wait to see how all this develops. I think that the perspective you've pursued on this is just so awesome--it seems like masectomies are really quite sudden and shocking, and this project seems like such a good way to get people feeling a bit empowered about their bodies again. Way to go!