Wonderland by H.Storey and T.Ryan; with Interface (University of Ulster).
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The partnership between Ryan and Storey was formed after Storey heard the scientist talking on Radio 4’s Material World programme.  It has organically grown into a dynamic working relationship and the pair have now been given funding by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) to provide a blueprint for collaboration for universities around the globe. Here's how it all began:

Day 1 Tony is loud and likes Rugby. Helen is quiet and likes Bikram yoga. Day 2 Tony was a teenage communist who wrote poetry and painted. Helen did ballet but hung about with skinheads who cut off her bun. Day 3 Tony is a scientist here at the University of Sheffield. Helen is an artist, designer and Research Fellow at London College of Fashion. Day 4 Tony used synchrotron radiation to look inside molecules - like you do. Helen designed unusual dresses by looking inside the minds of women. Day 5 Tony worked very hard and was made a Professor at the age of 35. Helen worked very hard for Valentino and then began her own award-winning fashion business. Day 6 In 2002 Tony gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on the science behind the stuff we take for granted. In 2004 he was made an OBE for "services to science". Day 7 In 1996 Helen was awarded a prize to design a 27-piece collection that was inspired by biology, (the first 1000 hours of human life) called Primitive Streak. This changed her life. Three more science/art projects later she got stuck... Day 8 Tony dragged science students into art galleries to see how the materials used influenced the work. A lifelong fan of The Clash he knew not to confuse Art and Style. Day 9 In 2005 Helen heard Tony on the radio talking about materials chemistry. She rang him and provocatively asked, "Can a bottle have consciousness? Can it know that it is empty and change its physical behaviour to get rid of itself?" Tony did not laugh. Until he put the phone down. Day 10 Helen visited Tony and his colleagues here in Sheffield. They all began to talk. Helen was questioning everything they knew and how they applied it. Day 11 Tony told Helen that in a lifetime a European throws away 20 tons of plastic. It's made from oil and is buried sunshine, and in three generations it will all be gone. Day 12 Helen found that Tony was completely open to playing creatively, and although each was fairly ignorant of the other's world, they began to fathom together, and discovered a mutual purpose for their new thinking. Day 13 Tony found that Helen's difficult questions challenged his assumptions, and they realised that the power of their shared ideas could help others to understand difficult science. Day 14 They needed to create something that would be provocative, daring and bold. Day 15 At first the science world wasn't interested in disappearing bottles, so a Trojan horse was needed, Tony said "what about if you design some dresses that disappear?" Day16 "I don't design frocks anymore!" said Helen "but if that's what's needed I'll do it". Later they were awarded a grant to start experimenting with dissolvable fabrics. Day 17 But they could not do it alone. Textile designer Trish Belford (Interface at University of Ulster) started producing fabrics from polymers like the ones used in dissolvable washing detergents and then dropped them into big bowls of water... Day 18 Once in water the fabrics behaved as sea creatures: the dissolve was beautiful, the dance upsetting. Some chased each other around the bowl before disappearing altogether, a perfect metaphor for a disappearing world?. Day 19 Helen, Tony and others have come up with more ideas: a water purification pillow inspired by the crystals in nappies, an upper-less shoe influenced by a barefoot summer and a bottle that mostly vanishes under the tap, only to become flowers. Day 20 In January 2007 they showed the first dresses and shared their ideas with school children, students and ordinary people in Sheffield. People were impressed. Day 21 The team have decided to carry on with the journey. Day 22 In Sheffield between June 18th and July 13th for the first time you can see, the Bottles to Flowers idea (as a work in progress) at the Botanical Garden, Five Dresses will Disappear at Meadowhall, and stunning floor graphics by Sheffield designers, DED Associates, at the Millennium Gallery. Day 23 Tony and Helen have taken a big bold risk in trying to do something different. Day 24 Wonderland (which will also be shown in Belfast later this year) could be seen as risky, but the team is trying to suggest that we all need to share responsibility, use our creativity for a bigger purpose, and open up a debate that can include everyone. Day 25 They do not have all the answers. But this is not boring labs and test tubes. This is about turning ideas into reality. Day 26 Start here. In Sheffield. (Begin)

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Copyright ©2005 The Helen Storey Foundation, the University of Sheffield, The University of Ulster/Interface


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