Sunday, 9 November 2014

Lest We Forget .....

One of the many fabric poppies I have collected for still-life photography
On Tuesday, I wrote about the excitement I felt at again being asked to create four new exhibition pieces which are currently on show (and for sale) at The Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, West Yorkshire. (Click the link which will take you to ‘my’ page on the Gallery website.) I wrote about experimentation and the method I had used to create one of the 13.8x11.8cm fabrications. Similar techniques can result in quite different pieces, as occurred (deliberately) with my WWI ‘Lest We Forget’. This in fact was a re-jig of a piece made for a Summer ‘WWI’ Showcase in Shropshire. More on that at the end of this post.

Ideas for my mixed-media creations appear sometimes out of nowhere. It may be a fabric flower (as the one above), or a paper napkin; a map, or page from an old book; a photograph taken for quite another purpose, or memorabilia collected on my travels. And what better day to demonstrate how such ephemera can be brought together than in remembrance of loved ones.

This map appears in both finished pieces in this post, digitally-manipulated
to a square and rectangular finished page size
Here’s how ‘Lest We Forget’ came together: First I located the map I and my husband (RQ) followed many years ago when we went in search of the area of France where his father was injured in 1916. I scanned it - if you don’t have a scanner, lay it flat and photograph it. I manipulate to the size I need using Photoshop Elements; I remove size-constraints so that a rectangular image can become square, or any proportion - without it becoming unrecognisable. All my base images - whether scans or photographs are printed onto Daler-Rowney 45gsm (31lb) Layout Paper - I buy A4 pads online (numerous sources) and print on an Epson WF-2540 Series inkjet printer. The beauty of this printer is that it uses ink which becomes waterproof when dry - perfect if you want to glaze with acrylic wax or gel medium, as was needed for this piece. The base image is then fused using Bondaweb to whatever fabric I decide will be most appropriate for the piece - usually calico or cheesecloth. (Tip: Protect you work surface, cover with an old folded cotton sheet and then a large piece of baking parchment.) Lay the printed map blank side up and onto it lay a piece of fusible web; iron into place. When cool, peel away the backing and lay the fused map onto the fabric - image side up of course. Cover with baking parchment to protect the map and iron into place. I always make my base slightly oversize so that it can be trimmed for the final stage. Watch that you do not let the fusible glue touch the iron or any other surface or you could well spoil future creations. Replace baking-parchment frequently.)

Experimental application of paper napkin to demo transparency once
the acrylic wax has dried, plus bits of ephemera, stitch etc
Using Paper Napkins: Now you can let your hair down, with this topic particularly as there are dozens of poppy designs from which to select one to suit your message. Ensure you use a napkin of 3-ply construction. For ‘Lest We Forget’ I selected a bold design so that it would dominate but was in fact sufficiently transparent that the map would still be visible. Gently separate the three layers (keeping the bottom two for other projects). Audition the position, thinking of the ephemera you will have already decided to use - in this case, you don’t want to cover a vital part of the poppy. Lay the upper napkin layer over the map, positioning it as you wish, and gently and sparingly apply Acrylic Wax to the surface, (the brand that works best is obtainable from ArtVanGo - download pdf by clicking link, and scroll to page 49, under 'Finishes'). Use a soft filbert brush if you have one, working from the centre outwards and paying particular attention to the edges - do not cut away the surplus.  The napkin will wrinkle initially - but you will have a lovely tactile, textured surface once it is dry. Rough cut away the spare napkin at this stage. (Tip: Immediately wash brush in warm, soppy water or the bristles will set solid!)

A layered arrangement that has
been used in more than 
one piece 
Ephemera: Now’s the time for the memorabilia you have assembled or created. ‘Lest We Forget’ utilised an item I had created first for a travel journal many years ago, adapted for another WWI piece this summer, and reprised here (the poppy cross). It began as a semi-transparent vellum scrapbook page over which I layered a T-shaped business card presented to all visitors staying at the Ibis Hotel, Calais! Digitally photographed and re-sized for my travel journal page, I pondered on how to incorporate it, for I no longer had the original. Answer - first scan travel journal page, then working from a copy, alter size and proportion in Photoshop; add text as a ‘layer’. (Tip: never work from an original, be it photo or artwork; always make a copy and then you can use, re-use and adapt many times.) For digital text panels, I typed within a box (within ‘Pages’ though you could use ‘Word’, utilising the box-tint facility. These three ephemera elements were sized and brought together in one document, printed on layout paper, fused into position on the poppy-map background and machine-stitched for emphasis.

Currently on show (and for sale) at the Water Street Gallery, Todmorden
‘Lest We Forget’ was almost complete. It merely required trimming to size and edge stitched for neatness, before inserting inside the CD-case that was the remit for the Water Street Gallery exhibition.

Collage created from iPhone images of our TV screen during the
Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, London, 09.11.2014
It seemed fitting that I published this post today (late as it is), on Remembrance Sunday, having watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph. Fitting for many reasons, not least that I believe all art, textiles and mixed-media work tell a story, are in essence ‘theatre’, and none more so than the pageantry observed today. We excel at pageantry and I reflected not only upon what I watched on TV but all the stage-managing that would have been involved, the logistics of transporting and seating all those veterans and dignitaries, with the serving Royals being in the right place at the correct time. Clapping for Her Majesty as the service of dedication ended (never before at such an event), was a poignant moment for she had had the courage to participate even after terrorist threats. 

Inside folds of my double-sided 'Pity of War' triptych
But I digress: both of my recent war pieces have been made as a dedication to my father-in-law, who was severely wounded at Beaumont-Hamel on the Somme in 1916. That he survived was due to four years of painstaking surgery - his right arm had been shot away and was hanging from just one tendon. He was a woodcarver and begged to have his arm saved or he would lose his livelihood. RQ (his son, and my husband) recalls the story his father told him many years later. Sitting in a shell hole with a young German soldier, they conversed and exchanged signet rings; each determined to make contact after the war. They were able to communicate as father-in-law spoke German - skilled artisans then moved freely around Europe from one assignment to another. Sadly the German lad died before reaching the field hospital. Interesting that there was camaraderie even amongst opposite ‘sides’. (And how fortunate that he survived, as his story is part of the project upon which his  great-grand-daughter is currently working.) I named the piece above - a double-sided triptych - ‘The Pity of War’. World War One was meant to be the war to end all wars. It didn’t; there is still conflict and a desire to kill other human beings almost everywhere around the globe. And for why? 

1 comment:

  1. This is so moving and a very personal commemoration for your family. War is such a waste of humanity - there must surely be a better way of solving the world's problems.