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Sue King is a glass designer based at Cockpit Arts in Deptford, her background is in commercial interior design but now concentrates much of her time creating vibrant fused glass works of art. Sue uses her own photography as reference and the natural world around her to generate intriguing colour combinations and shapes within her work.

We’ve managed to grab time out of her busy schedule getting ready for Cockpit Arts Deptford Opens Studios on the 2-4th December and her numerous glass commissions to talk to us about the fantastic work she did on the Dimbleby Cancer Care Centre.

A fellow studio holder at Cockpit Arts, Sue brings life and joy into our building and I’m not surprised she’s managed to create the same feeling for so many people using the new Dimbleby Cancer care Centre at Guys Hospital.

I was flattered that Sue considered using my work in such a special project and I really wanted to share how Sue’s care, consideration and hard work is helping transform many lives.

Can you tell us about Dimbleby cancer trust and the story about how and why you got involved?

I heard about Dimbleby Cancer Care through a friend and fellow maker at Cockpit Arts, whose Mum was going along to their centre at St Thomas’ Hospital. She gave me a newsletter to look at, where the fundraiser was asking for ideas to raise money. I wrote telling them about my handmade pink glass stars I was making for a breast cancer campaign at Salisbury hospital (for my best friend who was being treated there) I explained to Dimbleby Cancer Care, that I could make them some blue stars, to match their corporate colour. When I met them, I heard about a new cancer centre that was being built at Guys Hospital and they needed an interior designer. As this is what I was previously trained in, I offered to help them. Little did I know what it would lead to! Definitely a serendipitous moment when I first met them!

Dimbleby Cancer Care was started 50 years ago this year, by brothers David and Jonathon in memory of their father, the distinguished broadcaster, Richard who died of cancer at the young age of 52. They provide much needed care, support and complimentary therapies to patients undergoing treatment for cancer.

What did you want to create through your interior design?

Having spent a lot of time with my friend going through her cancer treatments, I knew the importance of the interior and the impact it has on patients. Going through cancer, is extremely scary, and painful, and so I wanted to create a comforting interior, which was also uplifting with colour and imagery. The rest of the Cancer Centre Welcome Village where patients enter and go through is quite industrial in feel with just a few accents of colour, and lacks softness, so this was important to integrate within the Dimbleby Cancer Care centre. The spaces needed to work for the staff too, to give them somewhere lovely and serene to work in, that they felt comfortable in, as well as being practical.

How did you decide on a theme or feeling for the space? What was the aim?

My first thoughts, were to bring in colour, imagery of nature and botanical images. I always wanted to introduce some of the talented makers at Cockpit in, and immediately thought of Lorna Syson, Amanda Ross and Jen Rowland. I decided on basic colour palettes, using warm and cheerful colour tones, but also was led by the lovely designs of the makers, which actually set the direction of the design!

You’ve worked with lots of independents based in Cockpit Arts, how did you find working with smaller companies for such a large project?

It was quite straightforward actually, and it was important to bring in some elements of  ‘handmade and designed’ rather than a mass produced artwork or accessories. It also creates a nice talking point, for both staff and patients. It was lovely to work with all the makers, as they were very engaged and understood what I was trying to create in the project. Collaborative work is always important to me, it brings out the best in all of our work if we share our creativity and ideas!

Which Designers did you use?

I used Amanda Ross for her beautiful botanical artwork, in the main Welcome ‘Drop In Information’ area and also some of the rooms. I always knew from the first concept I sketched out,  that I had to have some of her stunning botanical prints in the Drop In information area to act as a lovely focal point and be very different from the rest of the main Cancer Centre. I knew Lorna Syson’s designs well and was  keen to use her designs of the countryside,  they bring in a lovely touch and connection with nature, and familiar imagery of flowers and birds. Jen Rowland also has themes of nature and birds, and actually complemented Lorna’s designs really beautifully! Finally I used a couple of Fanny Shorter’s lovely bright cushions just to add a different tone in a couple of the rooms.

As a cockpit arts maker how did it feel using your peers and colleagues work in such a unique project?

It was very important to me, and so very worthwhile. Often people don’t see the potential of such talent, it was important to me to create a canvas where their work could be promoted. A real sense of what fabulous talent we have at Cockpit and how it can reach so many different audiences and also deserves to be seen in different environments. I feel proud to be part of such an organisation and happy to promote upcoming designer makers.

You did the photography for the artwork, where did you get your inspiration for the photos?

I love taking photos of botanical, floral and nature anyway so had lots of my own photos. We also used some of the staff’s photos contributed by staff which was lovely. The photos really uplift the space and inject colour, and also to create a feeling as if looking through windows to see views of nature outside.

How you do hope the space will be used?

To create a calm, and comforting space for the patients who come for counselling, or therapies. Somewhere quiet and secure away from the hustle and stressful atmosphere from the rest of the cancer centre. My aim was always to create a metaphorical ‘hug’ for the patients using the space.

What have the staff and the patients said about the space?

The feedback I’ve heard has been very positive, both from staff, patients and Jonathon Dimbleby. I’ve heard that lots of patients want to come and sit in the Dimbleby area, as it’s so different from the rest of the Cancer Centre Welcome Village!

 Do you have a favourite space and why?

I think it would be the Welcome ‘Drop In Information’ area; the rest of the main Cancer centre (designed by architects) is quite bland, unwelcoming and not particularly comfortable for the patients. I really wanted to create an instant impression as the patients walked into Dimbleby, that they felt cared for and that Dimbleby were providing a supportive service. Somewhere where they could escape for a while from the treatments they’ve had in the centre. I love Amanda Ross’ beautiful triptych , the window treatments and the overall colours theme in there, which also echoes the blue colour of Dimbleby Cancer Care. First impressions always count, so I hope this space creates the right one!

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