Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Student Creative - Fiona McTaggart

The last couple of months have taken me on a journey of discovery, in pursuit of making my heroic doll for paediatric cardiac patients. Recently this has seemed even more pertinent as February has been ‘heart month’ with social media flooded with stories from those waiting on the transplant list or having come through it, all emphasising the importance of organ donation. Moreover, ‘Max & Keira’s Law’ has been granted and will come into effect in England next year. An ‘opt-out’ policy for donor donation will replace the current ‘opt-in’, with the hope that there will be an increase in organ donation, as has already been seen in Wales (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47359682). For those unfamiliar with the background of this law, Max received his life-saving heart transplant from a young girl, Keira, who died tragically in a car crash. The brave and selfless act of her parents at such a difficult time meant that Keira was able to save four lives through organ donation, including that of Max. 

Heart Awareness Month, Max & Keira's Law

Although my overall intention is to provide an educational and positive doll for children suffering with heart conditions, time constraints have meant that I have focused specifically on creating a doll that will have an interchangeable heart that illustrates heart transplantation or heart improvement through medical management. Practically, I have been very fortunate to have had the help of Ben Diamond, AUB Technician Demonstrator. Without him, I think I would have struggled to get to the place that I am currently. So, what have I achieved so far? I designed my first doll, based on some heroic poses of my son. 

Doll designs. Image credit: Fiona McTaggart

I then modelled him from polymer clay. This medium is very appropriate for this project as it is made from a plastic PVC base and perfectly suits my intentions for casting in resin. This was the first time I had used this product and initially I found it easy to model, however it soon became too soft and difficult to keep its form, especially when I attached the torso to the legs. A few YouTube videos later and I learnt that you can harden it in the freezer for a short while, to prevent it becoming too soft to work with. I completed my figure and made a small anatomical heart to insert into the heart-shaped space I had created in the torso. Unfortunately, I did this a bit too big so will have to consider this in my next, and final design.

Polymer clay figure.  Image credit: Fiona McTaggart

Once baked and hardened in the oven, I made my silicone mould (another rubberlike plastic medium) and utilised the expertise and resources of the model-making workshop to cast my model in resin. This is quite technical, and I hadn’t anticipated this being the most difficult aspect of the project.

Silicone mould.  Image credit: Fiona McTaggart

My first attempt resulted in a resin figure filled with bubbles and unevenly dispersed colour resin powder. The heart was ok but still contained some bubbles. On Ben’s advice, I decided to use a slower setting resin that would allow time for the bubbles to rise and disappear. This did work much better although, with the bubbles disappearing, the resin sunk, and the feet of the figure were not filled fully. Despite this, the quality of the resin was much better, and I now feel confident to create a new design and figure. I might simplify the design and also refrain from using an iridescent resin powder, preferring the clarity of a colour tint instead. I also intend to simplify the facial features as the detail was not so effective in resin. I hope that the translucent figure will complement the more opaque heart/s and intend to use magnets to make these interchangeable. My intention would be for this doll to be placed by a child’s bedside, perhaps with a table lamp lighting up the figure and projecting a sense of hope at a time of uncertainty. 

Resin figures. Image credit: Fiona McTaggart
Hearts. Image credit: Fiona McTaggart

Fiona McTaggart, Student Creative

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