World War One – Embroidered Postcards

In 2013 I began a commission with Theatre Absolute The project is called 100 and is a cross arts project for the approaching World War One centenary. There are 4 elements to the project, a short film, two new plays and a textile response by myself. I looked at the embroidered postcards that were sent from the Front. Many were initally hand embriodered by French and Belgium women and sold to troops but gradually as the popularity of these increased they were made by machine in factories. There were millions made and I think the scale of production in making these cards that then held precious and personal messages to loved ones fascinated me. I have gradually purchased a few. I chose a couple of motifs from the cards and set about interpreting the designs, learning the flow of stitches and their patterning as I progressed. I stitched a motif 24 times onto 3 organdie screens. It was a way to reconnect back to the hand from the industrial machines. It takes incredible precision to try and stitch the same motif by hand again and again and I was struck by the psychological and physical changes within me as I stitched the work. I recorded the time it took me to stitch each one to see if I could get quicker as I repeated the design. My body began to tense and twist as I rushed to finish quicker against a previous recorded time. During the premiere in October of the initial commissions at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, I displayed the completed screens. Viewers were invited to stitch a new screen with me and read my collection of postcards and their messages. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear personal stories from others about their families and connections to World War One. Here are a few images. The work will be exhibited again in June 2014.

Plane motif & original card
Birds original card

Sample bird

Close up completed screen

WW1 planes

Close up Bird

Completed bird screen

Close up Dear Wife screen

Dear Wife screen

Exhibition at Herbert Art Gallery

Stitch with meEmbroidered postcards

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