All posts by Jenny Dockett

Most Irregular with Ben Craven

I love the way new ideas can spring from conversations , how one project can be the spring board for a new one. Here are a few words from Ben Craven about how Illuminating Geometry gave him a new idea that has kept him busy for months!

Ben's irregular polyhedron.

Ben’s irregular polyhedron.

One day last year I spent a few hours talking to Jenny about the Platonic solids that she’s been working with, and it made me wonder: what do irregular solids look like? Would they be ugly, beautiful, disturbing, interesting, boring, or what?  And how would you set about making them?


The thought nagged away at me, until eventually over the Christmas break I sat down and started writing computer code to generate irregular polyhedra. The starting point is a sphere: each face of the polyhedron is part of a plane tangent to the sphere. All of these planes intersect each other, and the lines of intersection form the edges of the polyhedron (and hence the boundaries of the faces).


By varying how the tangent points of the planes are distributed over the sphere, and also by having each face tangent to a sphere of slightly different radius, I can vary how irregular each polyhedron is. I don’t place the faces by hand – I set up a process and see what it comes up with.


Here are pictures of a 10-hedron made out of card, and an 83-hedron made out of thin layout paper. (Yes, the 83-hedron was difficult to glue together, and yes, it did take many hours!)  They have quite different characters: the 10-hedron feels like a wonky polyhedron, but the 83-hedron is well on the way to looking like an irregularly tiled sphere.


I rather like them, which is just as well given how much time they’ve taken.  What about you?


Ben Craven

Getting ready for Maker Faires

Elsie Kemp

Thank you to everyone who came along to the Illuminating Geometry workshops at the Scottish Parliament. We had a great time.Here is a photo of  Elsie Kemp with a beautiful dodecahedron that she made in comitee room three with us. I really liked the fact that we held the workshops in the commitee rooms. It made it feel that the building really belonged to the people.  Thanks to Toni Hamill and Hannah Ayre who helped me run the workshops too. I couldn’t have done it without you.

The next event for Illuminating Geometry is Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire. It is on Sunday the 19th of April starting at 10 am. Have a look at their website to buy tickets and  find out more. On Saturday the 18th, I’ll be at the National Museum of Scotland from 11-2.30 with some other makers to promote Maker Faire.

The following weekend is Maker Faire UK at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. It is two days the 25th and 26th of April. Here is their website to find out more

We have changed the design of the mini lanterns this year, they a re larger than last year and the participant can chose different colours of tissue paper to put in the lantern.

Well best stop chatting and better start counting LEDs to make sure we have enough for all these events.


Illuminating Geometry at the Scottish Parliament

Edinburgh Mini Maker FaireAs part of Edinburgh Science Festival the Scottish Parliament is hosting an exhibition on Lasers by the STFC.

They are also going to have some family science activities too including Illuminating Geometry.

I’ll be there on Saturday the 4th of April, Easter Monday and Wednesday the 8th of April. The events runs from 10 am to 4pm each day so drop in and make a mini illuminating geometry lantern.

Berwick Rocks for British Science Week

BSA_BSWNODATEB_RGBHILast year I had a look in the store room of Berwick Museum and Art Gallery. While I was there I saw a few natural history specimens that intrigued me. There is nothing like a Narwhal tusk to fire the imagination or a Sawfish rostrum to peak your interest. Using these items as our inspiration we put on an event for British Science Week (formerly National Science and Engineering week).

Anne Moore and Jim Herbert at the Museum took the specimens and made them in to a wonderful display.

fossil collectionDr Tom Challands came down from Edinburgh University to talk about the fossil collection and I was on hand to talk about the recent animal specimens. Tom brought with him a fossil preparation kit and got the visiting children to prepare some dinosaur bones he had brought with him.

narwhal tusk and carpenter sharks rostrum


I brought along some shells and encouraged the children to draw them, using their

observational skills to get all the details. We had a great day, I think that families that came along had a really great time to.  Thanks to Anne and Jim for all their hard work and thanks to Bristish Science Week for supporting the event.

The natural history exhibition will be open from Easter until September when the museum closes for the winter and it will be accompanied by a temporary exhibition of posters from the first World War.

Berwick Museum also houses part of the Burrell collection of art and antiquities. Part of the collection has been restored and hung to great effect at the Granary Art Gallery in Berwick until the 4th of May.


Abu Dhabi Science Festival 13-22 November 2014



What an adventure! I was delighted when I was asked to take Illuminating Geometry to the Abu Dhabi Science Festival. There is so much to tell you that I don’t know where to start.

Abu Dhabi is an amazing place, a city of shiny skyscrapers and a white sandy beach. The science festival was at three sites this year, Al Ain, Sharjah and the Corniche. We were at he Corniche and our workshop was in a tent structure on the beach. At the Corniche a village of these tents ( a bit like a giant marquee with solid sides), serviced with electricity and water, was built for the Science Festival.  Here is a picture of it from an island facing the Science Festival.

Abu Dhabi Science Festival on the Corniche

Abu Dhabi Science Festival on the Corniche


The first job was to set up our workshop, we spent all day sewing large Illuminating Geometry lanterns together. I was very impressed with the graphics on the walls and and tables. Here are the techs hanging up the lanterns.


The following days were spent meeting our teams of Science Communicators, students from Abu Dhabi who were going to run the workshops. We only had a day to train each group of Science Communicators but they did very well and as the festival went on Lizzie and I were able to hand over more and more of the running of the workshops over to the Science Communicators.


SAM_1795SAM_1776SAM_1772We tried to have a little fun along the way too. Here is Aisha practising using the microphone, some times we just had a little sing song to warm up our vocal cords before the evening session.

SAM_1793We had school groups in the morning and were open to the public in the evenings. The school groups were great and Sumeya, Zainab, Nadia, Shamma, Sheika, Mozuyna (please forgive any spelling mistakes) were a great team, introducing and running the workshops. Each session started with a short introduction and then the children made a lantern and did a worksheet or two. I had prepared a series of worksheets so that we would be prepared for any class that might visit us from primary school to A level. The Science Communicators took it all in their stride.

Like all festivals it was incredibly busy at times and our evening teams worked really hard to engage as many customers as possible and to make each one feel special. There is nothing like watching a child’s face light up when the take an LED and a battery and make light!

The lanterns were also a starting point for deeper discussions on mathematics and geometry. Adult participants reached back in their memories to their school days as we discussed how to inscribe regular polygons in a circle to make the templates we use to fold the papers to make the lanterns. Many participants told us they would make their own versions when they got home. I hope some of them send me a photo so I can see how they got on.

We made 3500 lanterns over the ten day period. I don’t think the final visitor numbers had been calculated by the time we left but I heard it was the busiest one yet.


We tried to make the most of our time off during the festival and ate a lot of ice creams from Cold Stones, as well as more active pursuits including swimming in the incredibly salty sea. We visited the Grand Mosque one morning and it is stunningly beautiful. The interior is decorated with lots of intricate geometric patterns, which I found very intriguing. We have no photos of our kayaking adventure through the mangroves at sunrise. I think it made a lasting impression on all of those there and was definitely the highlight of Lizzie’s trip. We packed up our stuff on the last night of the festival and got a flight home early next morning. Here is a big thank you to Lizzie and all our Science Communicators for making it all work.- Jenny

SAM_1804Chandelier at Grand MosqueSAM_1817

Creative Laser

snowflake redMy big shiny new laser cutter arrived yesterday and with bit of pushing and shoving it made it through the window and into the studio. There is something very exciting when someone says “we are going to fire up the laser now”. I would love to have a photo to put up, but in all the excitement of the install I didn’t manage to take a single one!

I have really enjoyed using the laser cutters at Edinburgh Hack Lab and Newcastle Maker Space but there is something special about knowing that my own laser cutter is in the studio just waiting for me.

Having greater access to a laser cutter will give me the opportunity to do more with the Illuminating Geometry lanterns and who knows what other projects I can dream up. I have to say that laser cutting ideas are keeping me awake at night!

I am hoping that through collaborating with other artists, we can really push the laser cutter to the limits, mixing traditional techniques and new technology.

The laser will also be available to hire along with a knowledgeable technician (that would be me) to help customers get the most out of their laser cutting time. I am calling this service “Creative Laser” and it will be launched on the 1 st of November. A new website is under construction and all the details will be there. In the meantime if you have any questions just leave a comment here and I will get back to you.

So far I have made a lot of paper snowflakes…

Pocket Media Award Winners!

pocket media awardsI am delighted to say that the family trails that we put together for Museums Archives Northumberland won two of the Pocket Media Awards. The trails scooped the Most Creative Design and the Judges Choice.


SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALynsey Porter from Z CARDS came up from London to present the awards on a sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago. It was lovely to be recognized for all the hard work that went in to the trails.




SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThe trails were a real team effort and I’d like to thank Daniel Watheritt, Anne Moore, Janet Goodridge, Jo Raw, Deborah Moffat and all the front of house staff at the museums who all contributed to the project.

We made it in to a couple of the local papers: The Morpeth Herald 

and the News Post Leader.

Mini Maker Faire Halifax

Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire

Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire

I spent today in my new studio packing for Halifax Mini Maker Faire . It is being held at Eureaka on Saturday 30th of August 11- 5.

Having the studio made preparations much easier, with plenty of space to sort things in to piles. I am a little short of furniture for the studio at the moment, I only have one little table and a folding chair! In the next few weeks I hope I can get some large tables and I need to get my hands on plenty of shelves too!

Half the studio is full of boxes of the materials I’m getting ready to take to the Abu Dhabi Science Festival in November. I think I have pretty much everything I need now. It all has to go in a shipping container in mid September. Anything that doesn’t make it in to the container will have to go in my luggage so I need to try my best not to forget anything. I’m not sure how customs would feel about a suitcase containing a soldering iron, micro-controllers, pliers, lots of LED strips and wires!


Family Learning with Museums Archives Northumberland

Last year I started a project with Museums, Archives Northumberland to increase their family learning offer. I worked with the staff at each venue to think of new family learning workshops they could run in the holidays and to make a family friendly trail for each museum.

Jim flying his kite

Museums, Archives Northumberland is made up Woodhorn Museum, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, Hexham Old Gaol, The Bagpipe Museum and Northumberland Archives. The four museums are very different each one presenting different opportunities and challenges for a project of this nature.

Felt making


Family time is special time and I think we should feel flattered if a family chooses to spend their leisure time with our organisation. My idea of family learning is an activity that every member of the family, from toddlers to grandparents, can get involved in. I think these activities are even richer if they stimulate the family to share memories and stories together. For these activities to work they need to have cross generational appeal, and allow members of the family with all levels of ability to contribute.


For each museum we wanted to come up with one or two workshops that would fit in with the collection of that
museum. At Hexham Old Gaol we  made marbled papers, simplified versions of the ones we found as end papers in the old ledgers used in the days when the Goal was a Solicitors office. We also made bracelets from leather thongs to celebrate the leather industry that Hexham was famous for in days gone by.  At Woodhorn we made paper bag lanterns and miners’ tallys.  To take advantage of the windy beaches five minutes walk from Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, we made kites.  At the Bagpipe Museum we made felt, a reflection of the woollen tartans that cover some of the pipe bags and beeswax candles as the Chantry was a church for hundreds of years.

front covers

To evaluate these workshops I devised a poster where families could place a sticker in a box to indicate how they felt about the workshop. This allowed every member of the family to give their opinion of the workshop without having to hang around at the end when young children are often keen to move on to the next activity.

For the trails I teamed up with illustrator Daniel Weatheritt. Daniel and I explored each museum looking for features and objects that we thought would appeal to a family audience.

back covers

Then we sat down to sketch out our ideas to make a  trail that was exciting to use and intriguing to look at. Jo Raw, Anne Moore, Janet Goodridge, Debra Moffat  and many of the front of house staff at the museums contributed their ideas, told us about the things the visitors loved and checked our facts. We spent months working out every detail.  We wanted a trail that would also be a souvenir of their trip and so we made a map inside a little booklet. hexham insideI feel strongly that children appreciate good design and would enjoy something that felt like a small object of desire. Something that feels nice in your hand and that opens itself to reveal lots of treasures. I hope  that this comes across in the final product. I love the characters that Daniel has drawn to welcome visitors to each venue!


hexham side2The trails are now available at the museums, pick one up this summer and have some fun finding out more about Northumberland’s heritage.

Check out the website for each museum to see when the  family learning workshops are available.

Berwick side 1
To find out more about the other projects Daniel has worked on take a look at his website

I really enjoyed working on this project and I hope that the families that visit the four museums will enjoy the trails and workshops.

BIG ideas for Little People

Monday 20th May 2013- National Museum Scotland

measuring volume with rice1

The British Interactive Group is an organisation to promote skill sharing between professionals who communicate science, technology engineering or maths.  I have been involved with BIG in one way or another for many years now and I was delighted when Fiona Ross invited me to talk at her skills sharing day, BIG ideas for little people.

I love working with very young children, I love the fact that the world is new to them. The privilege of sharing those moments of discovery is why I do what I do.

The event attracted museum and science centre staff from all over Scotland and Northern Ireland and we spent the day exploring how these organisations can cater for children from 0-5 years old. We discussed how we can make special times and spaces for the little ones as well as the practicalities for catering for this delightful audience.

It was a great day and I hope that the participants came up with lots of ideas on the train home.