Through the Eyes of Margaret

Exploring an illustration from "The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland"

Art in Mind Ferns Hero Image

Meet Margaret (she/her), a member of the University’s Estates team. An avid gardener and nature lover, Margaret was particularly struck by The Ferns of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a nature print created by Henry Bradbury in 1855 from the University’s Rare Book Collections.

As Margaret works within the Security team, she interacts with staff and students on a daily basis. Margaret’s work is an integral part of the day-to-day running of the University, but it is an area which is mostly unknown to the wider community.

Outside of her work, Margaret enjoys quiet time alone to read. Looking at this print reminded Margaret of childhood holidays to the north of Scotland and, more recently, trips to Perthshire. To her, ferns represent renewal and the role of plants in helping the earth to breathe.

See through the eyes of Margaret as she explores her chosen item, an illustration from The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland with the guidance of Mindfulness Chaplain, Dr Kitty Wheater.

‘there’s a structure down the middle that appears to be more solid than the other parts, I suppose it’s like the spine, and my back did relax’

‘I could sit and look at that quite a long time […] you wonder about the artist, they just amaze me, you know, the sheer skill that they took to do that’

‘Each individual stem and how it was like a ladder, but not evenly spaced’

Follow along with a grounding exercise from Dr Kitty Wheater. Click play to start the audio, and then explore the image below using the zoom and movement functions.

If you would like to try it with another artwork, or, perhaps, as part of your daily mindfulness routine, the audio is also available for download by clicking on the menu icon (three vertical dots) and selecting "Download".

This nature print was created using a real fern leaf. During this time nature prints were typically created by covering the leaves with ink and pressing them onto sheets of paper, but for this print Henry Bradbury tried a new, experimental method which involved pressing the fern leaf in-between metal plates – one made of steel and one made of lead. As lead is a very soft metal, the fern leaf became imprinted onto the lead plate. Afterwards, Bradbury added ink to the nature print to replicate the bright green colours on the fern leaves.

Through Your Eyes

Now, feel free to take what you need from this exhibition. Kitty’s audio, which guides you through mindful engagement, is available to download here. Why not try using it with the related collections items below?