Recently I took part in a community textile art project organised between Making Space in Havant and the D-Day Museum in Southsea. Called "A Stitch in Time", it was about engaging local people in creating textile art inspired by the exhibits in D-day museum and the Overlord Embroidery. An initial taster session introduced us to various techniques (including my love, freehand machine embroidery!), then a day trip to the museum was followed by a series of workshops run by local artist Ami Lowman (Mia Mai), allowing participants to learn and experiment with a variety of techniques.
The photos above were some of many taken by Ami - you can see a whole load more and a great little film about the project over on her Facebook page. The little lass accompanied me on the trip and workshops and I was pretty excited to find that sewing with a baby in a sling is totally do-able - hurrah!
It was my first visit to the D-day museum in Southsea, despite having lived in the area for many years. The Overlord Embroidery was really amazing - more than 80 metres long it is an incredibly intricate and beautiful and thought-provoking depiction of the events surrounding D-day. I'd really recommend a visit for anyone interested in textiles or D-Day. Oh and the cake in the cafe is pretty damn good too!
Unsurprisingly, the two aspects of D-day that inspired my projects were birds and the naval participation. First up, a little Naval Gunfire Support:
HMS Warspite was the first of very many RN ships involved in bombarding the enemy positions on the Normandy coast on 6 June 1944. I used an idea I had quite a while ago of depicting NGS in a pop art Lichtenstein-esque way.
Next the bird...
No tenuous connection required, this is Gustav, a carrier pigeon that took the first news of the landings back to the UK during the radio silence of D-Day. He flew 150 miles in headwinds of up to 30 knots before reaching his handler on Thorney Island and delivering his message:
"We are just 20 miles or so off the beaches. First assault troops landed 0750. Signal says no interference from enemy gunfire on beach... Steaming steadily in formation. Lightnings, Typhoons, Fortresses crossing since 0545. No enemy aircraft seen."
I was amazed to hear Gustav's story but it seems that carrier pigeons were frequently used as a method of communication during WW2 (and WW1); they even culled raptors along the south coast to reduce the risks that a pigeon would fall prey to a passing peregrine and fail to deliver the all-important message.
My contributions were just a couple among many beautiful and inspiring pieces, that went on display at a wonderful tea party in the D-Day museum last Saturday. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any photos of the other work due to my cake-hyper child!
Just look at all that cake! Cake aside, it was a great project to be involved with and I met some lovely people too! I'm very grateful that Making Space runs such community projects as an opportunity to engage with local history and explore creativity, and Ami was a fantastic project leader. I think there will be an opportunity to view all the artwork again at next year's open studios event at Making Space.