Inspired by nature – new Dorothy House property bags

  • 17 January, 2023
  • News

At Dorothy House we pride ourselves on providing outstanding compassionate care.

Our compassion extends at every step to those who are left behind: those facing the devastating loss of their husband, wife, son, daughter, mum, dad, or friend. We make sure they are prepared for the end, hold their hands, and guide them through their tragedy. It is our heartfelt responsibility to ease families’ pain however we can, and we take great care to give families time, kindness, and understanding.

But, there was one aspect of our compassionate care which was lacking, and that was the moment at which we returned to families the precious belongings of their loved ones. The last clothes they wore, the warm blanket they lay on their feet, the perfume they insisted on wearing until the very end. These items hold the deepest value to families, and yet, our existing resources meant these belongings were returned in a basic, inelegant plastic bag.

This felt totally at odds with the deeply respectful nature of our care and we were concerned that it may contribute negatively to a family’s experience of bereavement and grief, failing to meet the high standards of compassionate care we always aim to achieve.

Therefore, part funded by the Norie Charitable Trust, we are delighted to reveal the results of a new design project led by local, award winning artist Kate Bond.

Here we hand over to Kate to carry on the story:

Kate Bond Dorothy HouseHow it all began
In many hospitals and hospices the possessions of those who have died are often returned to their families in plastic bags. At a time when families are grieving it seems a sad and insensitive way to return their loved one’s belongings. I was so pleased when, in June this year, Dorothy House asked me to help design a new bag for their Inpatient Unit patients’ property.

It was the second time I had created designs for similar property bags. Previously I had helped Macmillan Cancer Care in partnership with the Cwm Taf University Health Board, and I was very happy to be able to do so again for Dorothy House.

The first workshop
Before beginning the design, I felt it was important to gather thoughts from a wide range of people with a connection to Dorothy House about the concept of the bag. To do so, I ran two creative client/staff engagement workshops, providing opportunities to chat and gather feedback about the intended use. I find that difficult conversations are often easier whilst engaged in a creative task.

During the first workshop, we focused on using plants from the Dorothy House garden to create a sublimation printed place mat and a ceramic drinks coaster. Often this type of printing can be very vibrant, but with careful preparation of the resources, gentle colours can be achieved. The outcomes demonstrate subtle transparency and layering of colour. You can create such beautiful delicacy when printing with real leaves.

With a range of people connected to Dorothy House attending the workshop – nursing staff, domestic staff, bereaved family members, together with admin staff – I was able to gather useful feedback about the proposed bag, with thoughts on size, materials, and any ethical issues.

Design featuring leaves and a dragonfly for new Dorothy House bags to provide compassionate care.

The second workshop
The aim of the second session was more specific – to identify a theme for the design of the bag. If you have ever visited Dorothy House you won’t be surprised that we were inspired by the beautiful setting of Winsley. The view across Wiltshire is spectacular and the woodland, planted about 25 years ago, is quite magical, especially in Spring. The ‘Fireflies’ light installation, by Bruce Monroe, only enhances how special it is at dusk.

We discussed the wildlife that is often spotted in the grounds – deer, birds, foxes – the sculptures and the plants. With this inspiration in mind, I laser cut some deer and insects to add to the artwork. It was amazing that everyone was given the same resources, yet achieved such different results!

Design featuring deer, leaves and trees for new Dorothy House bags to provide compassionate care.

Final design steps
With all the feedback and information I’ve been able to gather through the workshops, the final design has come together beautifully. It was very important to me that we all had ownership of the design. You can see how real cow parsley has been used as a resist, the foreground has been layered and shows the transparency of the coloured layers, and the tree shapes and bark imagery have been taken from the actual Dorothy House woodland. The bags will be made of 100% recyclable woven polyester, sit comfortably on the shoulder, and are washable.

Design board for new Dorothy House bags inspired by nature to provide compassionate care

The final design now decided upon, soon we will be ready to start offering these beautiful and sustainable bags to families of Dorothy House’s Winsley Inpatients, hopefully offering some comfort with a sensitive solution at what can be such a difficult time, providing a holistic experience of compassionate care.

Property Bags Dorothy House Kate Bond

To see more of Kate’s work click here.