A magical woodland

In June 2022 I was asked by Dorothy House, to help design a new property bag. I was thrilled to be asked!  It was the second time that I had created a design for property bags; the time before was for Macmillan Cancer Care, in partnership with the Cwm Taf University Health Board. It seems so sad and slightly insensitive that in most hospitals and hospices, possessions are returned to the families of recently deceased loved ones in a plastic carrier bag. Everyone that I have talked to about the property bag for Dorothy House thinks it is such a worthwhile project, offering a more sensitive solution to what already exists. 

The design process started back in June last year, when I delivered the first of the client/staff engagement workshops. Workshops provide great opportunities to discuss the concept and gather feedback about the intended use. I find that difficult conversations are far easier whilst engaged in a creative task. Conversations flow and lots of really interesting and important information can be discussed more easily. 

Client outcome from the first workshop. Additional hand embroidery added.

During the first workshop we focused on using plants from the garden to create a sublimation printed place mat and a ceramic drinks coaster. The process is so magical and fast. With careful preparation of the resources, gentle colours can be achieved. Often this type of printing can be so vibrant, which wasn’t the plan in this workshop. As you can see, the outcomes demonstrate subtle transparency and layering of colour. You can get such beautiful delicacy when printing with real leaves. Some attendees even started to embellish their outcomes with embroidery, then took their work home to complete. Given the fact that we had a range of connections to Dorothy House in the workshop, nursing staff, domestic staff, bereaved family together with admin staff, I was able to gather a broad spectrum of feedback about the proposed bag; size, materials, ethical issues, etc.

The second workshop was more specific; to identify a theme for the design of the bag. If you have ever visited Dorothy House you will know how beautifully it is situated. The view across Wiltshire is spectacular and the woodland, planted about 25 years ago, is quite magical, especially in Spring. The lighting ‘Fireflies’ installation, by Bruce Monroe, only augments how special it is at dusk. We discussed the wildlife that is often seen in the garden; birds, foxes and deer as well as the dragonfly and swallow sculptures. 

For the workshops I laser cut some deer and insects to add to the artwork. It was amazing that everyone was given the same resources, but such different outcomes were achieved! You can see how real cow parsley has been used as a resist, the foreground shows the transparency of the coloured layers, and the tree shapes and bark imagery have been taken from the actual woodland.

The proposed bags themselves are made out of 100% recyclable woven polyester, sit comfortably on the shoulder, and can be washed if necessary. There will be a Dorothy House logo on the inside seam. The design is really coming together and I’m really pleased with how, with refinement, it is beginning to look. It was really important to me that we all have ownership of the final design, so I have used references from the outcomes created in the second workshop. For example, I want people to see how real cow parsley has been used as a resist, the foreground shows the transparency of the coloured layers, and the tree shapes and bark imagery have been taken from the actual woodland.

There are a few more decisions to be made before the final design goes into production; such as the handle colour, then a sample will be created to approved by the working group. Once my design is approved 500 will be ordered in the first instance. Hopefully the bags will be in use by early summer this year. Check out my Instagram @katebondsurfacedesign to see the final bags once they are printed!

Kate Bond