Windows, COVID-19, immunity and jewellery

If you wander down Roncevalles past the Big Blue House (also known as Jewel Envy!), you’ll see a new window display by……me (House of Cassady)!  Little did I know when I agreed to do the display that it would be relevant to our current situation, so I thought I’d talk today a bit about the genesis of my collection, and a bit about where you can find some information that might better help you understand how your body fights infections, like COVID-19.

As you may know (or not), I have a PhD in immunology, the very important part of physiology that protects the body (or “host”) against infection, and some diseases.  As I’m sure you’ll agree, in our current crisis, it’s particularly relevant to the concerns on everyone’s mind about COVID-19.  I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail about information about the immune system here, there are a lot of good pages like this webpage that will give you give information. Or the British Society for Immunology has this great series of pages called “Bite sized Immunology” which breaks a lot of different concepts into understandable sections with some colourful graphics to help make things more comprehensible.

Basically, the immune system is your own personal army that protects the body (to the best of its ability!) against infection (among other things).  At its most basic, you can think of it being composed of two parts, the initial, less specific response that is immediate and a delayed response that is much more specific for an individual infectious agent, but it takes a while to kick in.

One of the interesting things about cells in general, and immune cells in particular, is that you can stain them with coloured dyes that make the smaller structures in the cell more visible.  This allows visibility, and identification:

A blood smear stained with two dyes, the light red cells are, not surprisingly, red blood cells. The violet and purple cells are cells of the immune system.

Your blood contains alot of different kinds of blood cells that are involved in immunity.

Different kinds of immune cells

I’ve always been fascinated by the shapes of stained blood cells, I find them visually interesting, as well as artistically inspiring. About 10 years ago, I first had my inspiration for the current collection of different jewellery pieces. I was at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, working as a Research Fellow, and the Veterinary School wanted to put on an art show. I wanted to participate, since it combined my two passions (art and science!), and after alot of sketching, I had a whole host of ideas. Ultimately, the exhibition didn’t happen, but the ideas never went away!

View of miniquilts on display, made to complement the jewellery collection.

Fast forward to last year, and I started seriously working on new pieces combining my love of immune cells and my love of textiles! During March adn April, you can wander by the windows at the Big Blue House, and see a selection of pieces on display (and practice your social distancing while getting some fresh air, and enjoying some art!). Here’s a preview, but I promise that they should be seen in person to fully appreciate them!

Window with “M” series jewellery

Window with “L” series jewellery

Centre piece: “Defense of Life” combines both “M” and “L” units. Made out of sterling silver with a central 10kt yellow gold ring with rubies and an orange sapphire, and orange and red needle felt, this piece was originally designed to be an exhibition piece. Many of my other pieces are composed of elements that make up this special showpiece.

Although the studio is formally closed, we’re still around, you can contact us by email, and arrange consultations, etc. either by appointment, or by skype/video conferencing. In this difficult time, we really appreciate your support, and here are a few things that you can do to support us:

a) we have work available for purchase through the website

b)  You can leave us reviews so that when regular life continues people will return to the store and discover the magic of Jewel Envy!

c) If you were thinking about having a custom piece made call us and let’s see if we can start the consultation process over the phone and through email.

We’re all trying to do our part and support our community, too. For example, you can visit the little library outside the Big Blue House!

Of course, I’m not a Public Health person, but I can help with questions about immunology in general, or point you in the direction of where to find good, reliable information about the pandemic, you just need to ask! I always find that information helps to lessen panic and fear, which we could all do with less of in this situation (panic and fear, not information!).

So, stay safe, stay healthy, and we hope to see you soon, and to hear from you even sooner!