Final session

Things are coming together really well. We made more labels of key words that came from our discussions about the project and thoughts on how we imagined people felt at the time. We also made medals and more postcards based on what we thought the communications would be about. Poppies were another addition to the collage representing the flowers growing in France, whereto battles were taking place.

One of the students wrote a poem, as if she was one of the soldiers in battle and I am going to incorporate it into the collage.


We also added question marks on some of the men on the front, to question would they actually return home.

The Preparation Starts

Today went really well, the main board was painted in readiness for the images to be stuck on. Also we discussed the photographs we were going to use and some of the students produced labels of key words, that we will use to highlight them.

Preparation for Wednesday’s group meeting

Today I prepared the side boards ready for the next meeting, ensuring that the painting of the background only surrounded the area where the photographs would be stuck on. This is because I don’t think the photographs will stick properly to the painted surface. I also experimented with the layout of the chosen images.

First meeting with the Positive Outlook Group

I met the group, that I am to work with, this morning and gave an introduction to the students about my work as requested by Emma. I took a piece of dissolvable fabric, a reel of sewing thread and some of my thread sculptures and briefly explained the process I use to create 3D forms in thread. I also told them about the degree course I have just completed and showed them some objects that I had produced for other projects during the course.

I then explained my proposal for the project.
Using the boards I had been given by the Firing Line, I suggested cutting them down and producing a book type arrangement, as a base for a collage. Each side would represent a different part of the WW1 story; the front would be created from the board showing the men before they went to war. Inside on the left it would show images such as the propaganda posters and photographs of women waving their men off, at the railway station. On the middle board it would include images of the war front, including the painting of the Battle of Mametz Wood and on the right, scenes from the home front. These would depict injured soldiers coming back from war and the jobs that women were doing.

I also wanted to highlight the connection with the soldiers doing their washing and the fact their wives and mothers would have been doing the same thing at home.

I left today agreeing to cut the boards to size and marking out roughly where the images would go, so that we could start painting the background next week.

Research Visit to the Firing Line Museum – 14th June, 2016

I enjoyed my visit to the Firing Line Museum, there was a great deal of information available. However, it was the personal items that interested me the most; objects that told a story about the people involved in the war. My own work is inspired by memory, conversations and stories, so it is easy to see why I was drawn to these items. I particularly liked the embroidered cards, as in an age before mobile phones and emails, a letter would have been such a special thing to receive.

The staff were very helpful and Ian in particular, showed me around and offered me some old display boards if I felt I could use them for the project. There were three that really interested me.

The group of men in civilian clothes appeared to be possible recruits to fight in the war and I liked the rifleman as it signified the war front to me. However, the photograph of the soldiers doing the washing, appealed to me greatly. There was something about seeing this domestic task being carried out in an area of conflict, knowing that it was also being carried out on the home front too. Although there was a distance between loved ones they were sharing a commonality. It also occurred to me that there was a role reversal being inflicted on men and women. At normal times it would have been unlikely for men to be carrying out domestic tasks such as the washing and at home women were having to step up and carry out jobs that were generally deemed as ‘men’s work’.

Tonight I have lots of ideas racing around in my head and I am really looking forward to meeting the group tomorrow.

WW1 Project with the Positive Outlook Group and The Firing Line Museum Cardiff – Initial Meeting

Today I met with Emma Routley of the National Museum of Wales and the Firing Line Museum. She had invited me to meet her at the National Museum to discuss an art project with the Positive Outlook Group. The group comprises of 14-15 year old students, as part of their studies they have been learning about WW1 and they wanted to bring together what they have learned to produce a creative outcome; possibly a collage.

My knowledge of the first world war is quite limited, so we discussed what the students had actually covered. Emma showed me around the current exhibition ‘War’s Hell! The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art’, and I also visited the Firing Line Museum which is based downstairs in Cardiff Castle.

I learned that the Battle of Mametz Wood has its 100 year anniversary this year and that it was part of the Battle of the Somme. It was a very significant and bloody battle fought by Welsh Soldiers during the First World War (1914-1918). The 38th (Welsh) Division fought to take control of the wood in Northern France. The area was heavily fortified by one of the most experienced German regiments, whereas the 38th Division was almost entirely volunteer recruits, who had only had basic training. The battle took 5 days from the 7th – 12th July, 1916 and it was at great human cost.

The wood is nearly a mile wide and a mile deep and thick with trees and undergrowth. The 38th Division had to advance over open ground, through a shallow valley and up a hill. This made the soldiers visible and vulnerable to enemy fire. The battle was the fiercest that took place in the Somme, leaving 4000 soldiers from the Welsh Division either killed, injured or declared missing in action. The losses were so great that the Division didn’t go back into action until a year later.

I think the painting, The Charge of the Welsh Division at Mametz Wood 1917, which is an oil on canvas, by Christopher Williams (1873-1934), captures the feeling of ‘hell’ very well. Lloyd George had commissioned the painting to commemorate the battle and it was hung in the drawing room in 10 Downing Street, but later donated to the National Museum of Wales.

Amongst the other exhibits on display, is a wounded soldiers pipe, which was typical of the pipes given to recuperating soldiers in hospital. You can see an example of this in the painting ‘Care of Wounded Soldiers in Cardiff Royal Infirmary 1916. Also an oil on canvas painting, that was commissioned by William James Thomas and painted by Margaret Lindsay Williams (1888-1960).

I was really moved by the poem ‘Reflections on Two Visits to Mametz Wood’ by Harry Fellows in 1916 and 1984. When Harry died in 1987 at the age of 91 his ashes were returned to Mametz Wood and buried there.