Thursday, 23 June 2016

E.A.S.T at Teddington

It is always interesting to see old work in a new venue, and sometimes it is the limitations of the venue that means work has to be displayed differently.  This is the case for my own work currently part of the E.A.S.T group exhibition, Between the Lines at the Landmark Arts Centre in Teddington. Previously my work had been hung against a wall, but this was not so easily done at this particular venue.  The exhibiting area is a vast space for all our work, being a decommissioned church - a huge one at that, but a beautiful space for an exhibition that is fundamentally about remembrance. My friend Melinda kindly supplied a pole, and the work was very carefully displayed by another friend Susan.  On Tuesday it was my first opportunity to see the exhibition in its new setting as Susan, Carol and myself were booked for a talk about our work at the gallery.

My piece, Treasure, Hope and Friendship, relates to three women who in small ways made a big difference to the lives of many during WW1.  Lady Smith-Dorrien set up a charity (The Lady Smith-Dorrien Hospital Bag Fund) to make small drawstring bags - essential repositories officially for personal documents that had been getting lost in the hospital stations.  The bags also became places for wounded soldiers to hold "treasures" - a bible, a gift from home, a letter, a photo even tiny teddy bears.  My bags, displayed in a line, reference the fact that it was a line of work that made the charity successful - from stitcher to a collection point, then transported and distributed to the various hospital ships and stations.

The Times newspaper frequently reported on the bags - how plain ones got lost so they had to be replaced (hopefully by a floral one, made from old curtaining), how some were embroidered with messages of hope, how men traumatised by war found comfort in their own personal treasures safely held together in a simple cotton bag.

The other two women I researched were Lena Ashwell, actress, who brought Shakespeare and other theatre to the Front Line, and Maud Grieve, herbalist.  When supplies were short people once again returned to old remedies and Mrs Grieve was able to advise through leaflets and training on how to safely use herbal medicines.  Consequently most bags has an embroidered herb, with text explaining its medicinal use and a quote from Shakespeare.

Landmark Arts Centre is a lovely venue with lovely staff and it has been a pleasure to work with them.  On Sunday (26 June 2016) it is the Teddington Fair and alongside E.A.S.T are running drop in workshops (free from noon until 4pm) under the title Ready, Steady, Stitch - although we have some paper activities too.  The exhibition will be open to view while we are there - and stays until 10 July 2016.

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