Each week in 'Pixelated Stories', we highlight an established or emerging artist, who is garnering attention for their work. This week we caught up with Forest Innovations, A.K.A Darragh and Dave, two friends from Gloucester on mission to showcase the beauty and wonder of science through their unique creations for your home.
Pixel Gallery – Good Morning gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Your Thermomotor designs are one of the most talked about pieces featured on Pixel Gallery and it would be great for our readers to find out more about you and the inspiration behind your designs.
Please tell us a little about yourselves and your life journeys to date.
Darragh - Hi, I'm Darragh Hewat (56).
I work as a self-employed carpenter, married with children.
I love solving problems in elegant and aesthetic ways and bringing pleasure and surprise to people.
I'm also the inventor of the Rare-Earth Thermomotor exhibited today.
Dave - Hello. I'm Dave Reed (65).
I am a freelance graphic designer working with many local businesses on projects ranging from logo design to full blown brochures and websites.
Pixel Gallery – The Rare-Earth Thermomotor is inspired by Nikola Tesla. The name Tesla is well known today in large part because of Elon Musk and the Tesla motorcar, but this wasn’t always the case. Do you remember when you first discovered Tesla, and do you have a favourite story about him?
Darragh - I first came across Nikola Tesla whilst researching thermodynamics and heat-engines based on temperature differences.
I loved the fact that he was digging trenches in New York before working for Westinghouse on the development of AC electricity, sweating in the sun and freezing in the rain whilst he thought through his ideas for the AC motor and AC transmission - the absolute foundations of our modern life. I also love the fact that he gave up his right to royalties on his inventions. Had he held Westinghouse to their contract he would have been by far the richest man in the world -ever. As it was, he died penniless and alone with only street pigeons for company.
Dave - Although I knew of Nikola Tesla, it was not until I became friends with Darragh that I realised the pure genius of the man. Since that time, I have read a great deal about Tesla and his numerous patents and ideas.
One of my favourite stories of him follows on from Darragh's point that he died penniless with just street pigeons for company.
However, unlike Darragh I believe these were not street pigeons but homing pigeons that he used to get messages out as his phone line was constantly tapped by government agencies. (Yes, there is proof of this). The man had the capability to think outside the box on all levels!
Pixel Gallery – You both so right about how remarkable Tesla was. In fact another historical figure I greatly admired is Thomas Edison, however his treatment of Tesla was not his finest hour to put mildly, and has caused me to rethink my views on him but let's leave that topic for another day!
One of the things we love about your Thermomotor design is that it combines art and science in physical form which is exceedingly rare. Was this a conscious decision on your part?
Darragh - On combining art and science: I don't consider them as separate things. They both require great walks of thought through new and strange lands. Artists and Scientists ask continual questions, they try new things, "What if...?" is always on their lips. They only appear to be different - in the same way that light does. You can call light a particle and be completely correct. You can call it a wave and be equally correct. Art and Science are like the wave/particle duality expression of the Human mind. Talking about their differences is interesting, but in the end it's all still light.
Dave - I have always been an art lover but have had a great interest in science as both my brothers were engineers.
Darragh already had a rudimentary idea for the Thermomotor before I came on board and I was fascinated by his ideas of "Beautiful Science".
We both knew that the Thermomotor could be made to perform consistently (after many, many, many tweaks!) and started looking at the aesthetic aspect of the design. So, in that way we both made a conscious decision to combine them both.
Pixel Gallery – You mentioned many, many tweaks Dave, and in fact it took over six years of perseverance to develop the Thermomotor to a place where you are both happy with the result, many people would have given up, what kept you both going?
Darragh - When something is new, when you are walking on a beach with no footprints, you cannot turn back. There were no signposts or examples or how-to videos to help guide this project along. It had to be dug out of the cliff and hewn until its shape was revealed.
It took a hundred different versions before it was possible to tame the thermo-magnetic effect of the Curie point (So typical of Tesla's life: he discovered the phenomenon of the Curie point in 1888 but it was named after Pierre Curie a decade later).
Dave - I think the thing that kept us going was each other.
When either of us was on the cusp of giving up, we would motivate each other. Unless we both agreed that the project was dead in the water then there was no way that the project would be allowed to flounder.
Pixel Gallery – I love that. The adventure of exploring new frontiers combined with the strength that comes from friendship. Nikola Tesla is someone we all admire greatly but do you have a favourite artist and/or inventor besides him?
Darragh - My favourite artist is Matisse. I love his colours and forms. His work has a stillness that belies great vigour beneath the surface. My favourite scientist is Democritus, one of the ancient Greek philosophers, who lived and worked before Science even had a name. Using only the power of thought, this incredible thinker used pure logic to infer the existence of atoms. It took two and a half thousand years until Einstein finally proved their existence in 1915. If the early Christians hadn't destroyed every scrap of Democritus's work perhaps our species might have advanced faster. Perhaps it might have advanced fast enough to avoid the imminent destruction of its home planet.
Dave - My Favourite artist must be J. M. W. Turner.
I know of no other artist who could bring such emotion to a painting (except maybe Van Gough). I envy them both greatly!
As to a favourite scientist, I would choose Isaac Asimov (a bit left field I know!) I have always been a science fiction fan and Asimov, who was a trained bio-chemist was my gateway into science fiction, then science. Well known for fleshing out the laws of robotics, many of his predictions have since become reality.
Pixel Gallery – I’m with you on Issac Asimov. I recently discovered his books and they’re an absolute joy to read. Every young kid should read the ‘Profession’ as an entry point to first principles thinking and the power of thinking for yourself.
Darrah, you mentioned Democritus and the impact of our current use of technology on the climate and our environment. This is clearly something very important to you both and reflected in the sustainable materials you use for the Thermomotors. We all know the importance our environment in the physical sense, but our environment also plays an important role in shaping our day-to-day experiences.
How has your current location and previous places you've lived in and visited, shaped your work?
Darragh - Great question! I live in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. When my wife and I moved here in 2009 it was into a semi-derelict, freezing cold stone house.
This got me thinking a great deal about heat and energy and our easy modern ways of living. Foraging and cutting enough brushwood to keep a stone house tolerably tepid requires a huge amount of time and effort - as I rapidly discovered.
The people here are also of a different stripe. Tough and suspicious of outsiders they are also ready with their hands and no man is complete without a half-dozen sheds at his disposal. There is plenty of expertise here to draw on - once you can get them to speak to you!
Of course, the wider global environment has played on my mind for the last 50 years. On learning of the destruction of the Amazon over half a century ago I would lie awake as a boy and worry in my childish way that the earth would run out of oxygen when the Amazon was gone. Now I wish that were the case, for that would be a threat on which the world could unite and act on. Global warming and the battle with the deniers has been too subtle, and prevarication has now led us to the precipice of our own destruction.
On a lighter note, one of my principal motivations for developing the Thermomotor has always been that I believe I can make it turn using only the ambient heat around us - removing the direct heat of the tealights.
This will take time and investment to verify, which I do not have at the moment. Were it to work, it would be theoretically possible to produce all our energy needs from the excess warmth we have pumped into the Earth's seas.
A useful side-effect would be that it would also help cool those very seas which are currently driving our extremes of weather. Of course, no-one believes me, and I am lumped in with the perpetual-motion charlatans. Such is life.
Dave - I too live in the Forest of Dean and apart from time away at college have always done so.
As an artist I have been motivated by the sheer beauty of my surroundings; one of the last remaining ancient woodlands in Britain.
I would often take a sketch book into the woodlands to sketch some of the interesting items to be found here, from ancient Roman iron workings at Puzzle Woods, to 19th century tramways and 400 years old oak trees.
Perhaps my favourite things were Victorian bridges that carried coal to nearby river ports. Now derelict and overgrown by the forest, to come across one on a ramble off the beaten track was always a joy.
Pixel Gallery – Nature in a sense reclaiming its own. After all the materials used to build the Victorian bridges may have been moulded by humans but their source is the natural world.
Perhaps a positive we can take from the recent Covid pandemic is that people are now more aware of how interconnected we all are and that the past idea of just you and your immediate community being OK is not enough and instead the ultimate truth is that we are all connected...We all rise together, or we all fall together.
The Covid lockdown has been very tough for everyone and many creatives in particular have found the past year very challenging workwise, what advice would you give to a young person thinking of pursuing a career in the creative field but hesitant because of recent events?
Darragh - Pandemic or no pandemic, gender, race, age or background - nothing, absolutely nothing, should stop you being creative. If people say your work is rubbish. If they ignore you, if they tell you they've seen it before, if they tell you to throw it away, grow up and get a proper job - do not believe them, do not bow to their view. Be loud, be proud, be extreme, be soft, be hard, be a pirate, be a dancer, be an inventor, be a hedgehog. It doesn't matter. Just do what the hell makes you happy. If you're happy, you are likely to infect others!
Dave - I personally have found the pandemic has not had a great effect on what I do. I work from home and, apart from visiting the pub, have not found much change.
I think anyone with an artistic bent will always want to pursue that path, though making a career from doing so still takes diligence, dedication and luck!
My advice is to stick at it. You will get there in the end.
Pixel Gallery – Thank you, you’re both 100% correct and great life advice in general regardless of age. Find what makes you happy and just do it.
So, my own ‘left-field’ question…If you could be born as anyone, in another time period in history and anywhere in the world, where would it be, who would you be and why?
Darragh - I think it would be Marie Curie. I think it would be interesting to experience being a woman, but I also identify with her tenacious drive, her sheer physical will to crush those tons of rock and extract the radium (which eventually killed her).
She took mobile x-ray units to the front in the first world war and saved thousands of lives (again, careless of her own health). Despite being denied her full education due to her sex, she won two Nobel prizes and was the most determined and resourceful person imaginable. She was also Polish by birth. I have worked with many Poles in my trade as a carpenter. I have always found them incredibly industrious and skilled - and to get a laugh out of them, just add alcohol.
Dave - I would choose JPR Williams. Not because of his work as a neuro-surgeon but the fact he was one of the finest players to ever pull on a Wales and British Lions rugby shirt.
Pixel Gallery – How has your work evolved over the years?
Darragh - My work has evolved over the years by caring less and less what people think of it. If they don't know it's good, it's only because they lack knowledge. I like people's confusion. I like it when they say, "what's it for?" I say, "what are you for?" It's for nothing. It's just a speck in the endless pointlessness. Don't worry. Be happy.
Dave - Being a graphic designer I have seen massive changes in design ideas but mainly in the equipment we now use.
I am sat in front of a PC typing this, something not available when I first entered the profession. Now I can produce almost anything without leaving my seat!
The one thing that has happened is that non designers now have the capability to produce their own design work, resulting in some of the most horrendous overworked designs known to man.
I follow the KISS (keep it simple stupid) adage and now always have in the back of my mind, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should!".
Pixel Gallery – I wish someone had been thinking of KISS when the Atomic bomb was being developed…
What brings you the most joy about your art?
Darragh - Unity of form. Self-fulfilling circularity. The knowledge that it's good. Getting up at 4am in the dead quiet of the morning and going down to the workshop. Knowing that the best of me has been left there and the day at work ahead will only ever have the leftovers of me.
Dave - So many things, but mainly understanding my clients’ needs and producing designs that they love. The feeling of satisfaction when people see work I have produced and only have kind things to say about it. Oh, and getting paid for doing something I love!
Pixel Gallery – And what is one thing people are always surprised to find out about both of you?
Darragh - People are often surprised when they find out I'm quite nice. I'm often accused of being quite rude and I have a tendency to allow a tempting piece of withering sarcasm to get the better of me, but I am actually quite sensitive.
My children seem to think I'm some kind of lumpen reactionary, but it was me there on the picket lines during the miners' strike, it was me raising funds for anti-apartheid, it was me organising support for the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, it was me defeating fracking in the Forest... back in the day. I'm tired now.
It's their turn to take the torches and burn the B'Stards. All I can do now is create my quiet things and rail to anyone who'll listen about Chelsea tractors and the morons that drive them.
Dave - I suppose people can be shocked that although I seem quite introverted, I have strong views on several subjects and am not afraid to argue my corner, especially when propping up a bar!
Also the fact that I was once a fitness freak until sitting on my backside in front of a computer over many years took its inevitable toll.
Pixel Gallery – So last question, what one book would you each recommend everyone reads?
Darragh: One book? That's tough! I can only suggest something that will taunt you, torture you - something that you will probably never understand but that will torment you with fleeting glimpses only to snatch them away. Something that will stretch your imagination to breaking point and still won't let you capture even the most diaphanous metaphor to aid your understanding. It's by my bedside. I have read it seven times. Sometimes I leave it a few months in the hope that my subconscious will have snuck up on it and this time, yes, this time, I will understand it! You must wish me luck, as I wish you luck in return with it. Maybe eight times is a charm - the book is "Einstein's Moon: Bell's Theorem and the Curious Quest for Quantum Reality" by F. David Peat
Dave: Almost an impossible question to answer! Just choosing one from hundreds of books I have read and enjoyed is difficult. But if I had to choose one then maybe George Orwell's "1984" would be the one.
This book is characterised by lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and support of democratic socialism.
Something we all should aspire to.
Pixel Gallery – Gentlemen as always it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for your time and have a lovely day!
Play video here to see the Thermomotor in motion.
Find out more about Forest Innovations at https://pixel-gallery.co.uk/collections/thermomotor and the Forest Innovations website https://thermomotors.co.uk/ (Currently being updated)
“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine” ―