My studio is currently a hive of activity; a great relief after the cold weather making it difficult to work in there. One end is covered in piles of neatly, and some not so neatly, folded pillow cases. the piles are slowly growing and I am waiting for 6 more to arrive in the post today. I feel a little flutter of excitement and joy at the thought of their arrival; is that sad? I really don’t care as you see that’s how it feels when the ideas start arriving and the making begins to take over. Every material, technique and activity take on a renewed significance as they lead you to the final work. At the weekend I got excited about buying a large bag of plaster….and so it goes on. I suspect others will identify with this and maybe it is something we very often won’t admit – the thrill of making which very often follows on from the fear of making, but that’s another blog post.
Back to the pillow cases.
My work at the Cathedral has very much focused on the poppy as I have previously written about and much of my research has been going down this route too. However, although I have made several bodies of work that feature the poppy there was a nagging something (and I can’t think of a work to describe this particular nagging) that was making me want to think around the poppy; not as a literal thing but what the poppy might suggest.
The poppy as a symbol of remembrance is not it’s only associations with war. Opium poppies have long been a cause of conflict and Opium derivatives were used to treat wounded soldiers as pain relief or to induce sleep and although both of the instances do not refer to the red Field Poppy they are relevant in the associations and wider ideas of what a poppy is, does and is used for.
“For almost eight thousand years, the mildly narcotic corn poppy and the morphine-bearing opium poppy have grown alongside each other, united in their dependence on people. This enduring relationship, while still not fully understood, spanned humaity’s transition from early agriculture to urban civilisation: these two poppies were ever present as medicine, religion, literature and art developed, and they can be traced through all these human endeavours”
Extract from ‘The Poppy, by Nicholas J Saunders, Oneworld Publications 2013, p.6
The poppy’s narcotic qualities has meant it has also long been used as a symbol of sleep and death and it is often this aspect that was represented in WW1 poetry. This association with sleep is how I see that the pillow cases are a relevant metaphor for the poppy and have a greater affinity with how I think and feel about the Poppy as a symbol of remembrance.
I have been busy casting the pillow cases. Not in their entirety, but folded and only revealing small details. I love the casting process and see each finished piece as having a triple life; as a sculpture, a print, and a printing plate. The actual process used can be found here and although this was written a few years ago and I have refined the process since then, the basic steps are still the same.
The 3 stages
A few examples of the finished castings. There will be 100 in all which is going to take a while to complete.