Helen Schell proudly proclaims that “where scientists can’t go…I can, as an artist!”
Now she is about to prove the truth of her comments after being appointed the Centre for Life’s first ‘maker in residence.’
The role at the Newcastle visitor attraction will see the artist using her undoubted skills to help bring science alive as well as running a new ‘make it’ area where young and old alike will be encouraged to bring their innovative creativity to the fore.
Helen – a visual artist and educator based within the NewBridge project in Newcastle – is well known for using scientific materials and techniques within her work and prior to appointment as maker in residence was busy putting the finishing touches to three Smart Material outfits, two of which are made entirely from water soluble/dissolvable dishwasher tablet coatings.
The outfits will go on display at Life during the 2012 ScienceFest between March 8-15 as part of the Undress-Redress Smart Materials project which opens in February.
The maker residency is described by Ian Simmons, science communications director at the Centre for Life as “an unusual posting” that “attracted a number of intriguing individuals who could see outside, above and beyond the box.”
The maker moniker comes from the successful Maker Faire element of previous year’s Newcastle ScienceFest activities and is a recognised international collective term for ‘geeky’ related science techno-craft creators.
Previous makers seen at Life have included Arc Attack’s Tesla Coils, Paka’s Dragon and Horse automatons, Robo Challenge’s power tool races and Popular Mechanic’s Rubik Cube solving robot.
The Science Communications department appealed for highly motivated, imaginative individuals able to interact and inspire the centre’s daily visitors and run the ‘make it’ area with stations dedicated to construction, modelling, printing and design experiments as well as leading outreach activity events.
With her arts and crafts skills and experience of working with community groups, as well as her genuine interest and use of scientific materials and techniques within her work, Helen was the perfect choice.
The Life Science Centre offers a family friendly mix of permanent and temporary exhibits with a rolling programme of presentations within The Planetarium and Science Theatre, a motion ride and under sevens play area.
With the ‘Wallace & Gromit Present…A World of Cracking Ideas’ exhibition on its way to pastures new, the ‘make it’ interactive zone, along with temporary exhibitions Ancient Wisdom and Classics, takes up the space and will be unveiled in time for half-term between February 11-19 and an expected 10,000 visitors.
Helen will also be presenting a special make it programme of activities featuring guest makers at the 2012 ScienceFest to complement the festival programme and act as a central core attraction within the centre.
The ‘make it’ zone is likely to have some ‘space-age’ themes initially to instigate activity and imagination.
Two 10 metre high rocket artworks made by Helen have been exhibited previously at Life and she has participated in the last two Newcastle ScienceFest events. Last year’s display of her Space-Time lab coats were made from strips of high visibility reflective coated plastic.
Helen began to exhibit space and time travel works in 2008 and has since had two recent space themed residences: Space Agency at the Ogden Centre for Physics at Durham University, and Lunar Laboratory at Meltdowns Studios, Ramsgate.
She regularly creates rocket drawings and glass observatories and treasures an autographed photograph of the NASA astronauts.
“I think space travel would be an incredibly creative period of time, say on a six month journey to Mars? Astronauts would spend time inventing and creating surely?” Helen says and asks, with a twinkle in her eye, “Could I be the first artist (and first woman) on the moon?!”