The centenary commemorations of the First World War evoke poignant memories for many of us in the UK and Europe; grandfathers and fathers who fought and died, or lived to remember the horror of it. 2014 saw the breathtaking “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” at the Tower of London, raising more than £9m for the Royal British Legion (RBL) and several related charities. Fundraising events continue throughout the four-year Centenary with proceeds aiding today’s servicemen and women. As a glass artist and designer I am demonstrating the making of sculptural glass flower collections in the glass marquee. I have donated three special edition “Flanders” red poppies to the RBL Poppy Appeal, one of which will be sold by public auction at Art in Action 2015.
Poppies are one of my favourite flowers, particularly the common red field poppy. I live in Suffolk; arable farming country and it is always a delight to see swathes of red amongst the fields of ripening corn. A quintessential rural landscape and testament to the tenacity of these glorious little plants, which is of course why they proliferated in the mud churned aftermath of the French battlefields. I donated the poppies in memory of my grandfather; a gentle, quiet man who despite being twice mentioned in dispatches for gallantry in the field, could barely bring himself to speak of his experiences during that dreadful war. Dear old Jim’s struggle with combat stress was a common, albeit unrecognised sickness and no less a problem for present day veterans of gruesome conflict.
There are two influences at work in my flower sculptures: the artistry of nature and the nouveau period of the arts and crafts movement. I pay homage to both in the methods and techniques I employ to recreate the flowers naturalistically. This entails several firings: one per level of detail added to the individual petals in order to create colour and texture. The special editions have an extra layer of flame worked “veining” detail and centre stamens. I usually sand blast the surface of my flowers to give them the satin sheen finish of a natural bloom, but in the case of the RBL editions I’ve left them with their shine. I felt that a gleaming surface was somehow appropriate to the iconic Royal British Legion emblem and the cause it represents.
The proceeds of the Art in Action auction will be donated to the RBL in the name of the winning bidder. I issue certificates of authenticity with my flower sculptures as they are all limited editions, but for the winners of the RBL poppies the certificate will be issued in dedication to a family member who fought in the Great War.
The remaining two poppies will also be offered at auction at either RBL fundraisers or events such as Art in Action, but if someone makes us an offer we can’t refuse… well, we won’t refuse! The aim is to raise as much money for the charity as we can. One of the poppies is touring around the country with a lovely lady from the RBL. The third is displayed in a custom made case at Vessel Gallery in London. Hopefully this centenary commemoration will serve to remind us of the consequences of past conflict and the need to support the men and women who serve in the forces today. The RBL and other military charities do a marvellous and largely unsung job aiding present day veterans of war.
See Laura demonstrating in the Glass section, in the West Field