This installation at the Exeter Northcott is made up of a thousand poppies created from copies of love letters written during World War II.
Some of the letters were written by an aircraft engineer in Southampton to his girlfriend, who later became his wife. He wrote to her two or three times a week for over five years.
Another set of letters was written by an American GI to a WREN but their story didn’t have such a happy ending – a telegram from her father suggests his disapproval of the relationship.
Other letters were kindly loaned by local people in response to a request through the local media. During my Devon Open Studios weekend in September, people brought family letters which helped to create the final installation.
I’ve been creating the work in my head for a long time. It’s made in response to the space at the Northcott specially for the month of November, and inspired by these letters which were written at a time of great uncertainty and heightened emotions.
Putting together the piece was a complicated process. Because it’s so tall (2.7 metres), I had to make it horizontally, and because of the shape of the niche where it’s hanging, the only practical way to construct it was upside down. I’d worked out the curve of the spiral in advance and created a plan for each layer, but my ideas remained fluid and I was constantly tweaking and recalculating as the shape developed.
Rosy Seal was artist’s assistant for this project and assembled lots of the poppies. Several people helped with hanging the work, including the tech crew at the Northcott to whom I’m very grateful.
You can see the installation in the foyer at Exeter Northcott Theatre until the end of November 2012.
I’m taking part in Devon Open Studios on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September. Our exhibition is at Cockwood Village Hall EX6 8NU between 11am and 6pm each day. Also taking part in the exhibition are watercolourist Tony Bird and photographer Jane Hirst. We’ll be serving fairtrade tea & coffee and delicious homemade cakes.
On the Sunday, the Serenoa String Quartet will be playing at 2pm, so do come along to see some art, hear some music and eat some cake.
I’m also inviting people to bring their old love letters! I’d like people who have love letters written when the couple was separated by war or conflict to bring them along as part of a new piece of art I’m making. You can read more here.
Directions: From the A397, turn onto the bridge at Cockwood harbour, near Starcross. Take the first right before the Anchor Inn. The Village Hall is on the left, before the Ship Inn. There is on street parking, and the venue is on the number 2 bus route.
Would you be willing to lend me your love letters for a new piece of art?
Much of my work has been inspired by communication. In particular, I’ve been working with two sets of love letters written during World War II – one written by an English aircraft engineer, and the other by an American GI. These beautifully crafted letters written by two ordinary men have inspired me to create several collections of work over the last few years.
Now, I’m looking for love letters written by other people, during times of separation due to war and conflict. I’m planning to use them to create a new piece of work which will be exhibited at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter in the autumn.
Unlike most of my work, I’ll be using copies of the letters, so I don’t need your originals. The letters won’t appear in their entirety, and only snippets of text will be seen.
Letters must be written during times of war or conflict, and I’d like to know something about when the letters were written.
You can send scans of your letters to me at butterflyenvelopes-loveletters(at)yahoo.co.uk
Alternatively, you can bring them along to the exhibition I’m taking part in during Devon Open Studios on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September.
I was commissioned to make a collection of envelopes using these wonderful old theatre programmes. It was an enjoyable challenge selecting the most significant pieces of text from the programmes and then making sure that they were still visible when the envelopes were put together. It takes a surprising amount of paper to make one small envelope.
There were some wonderful details on the programmes, including the lovely corner decorations and illustrations.
I worked closely with the framer to select the mount board which reflects the colour and feel of traditional theatre decor.
As November 11th approaches, I’ve been thinking about Eric, an aircraft engineer based in Southampton during World War II. I’m fortunate enough to have Eric’s love letters, which is a great privilege.
Eric wrote to his love two or three times a week for five years with messages of love interspersed with news of everyday life during wartime. The anxiety and uncertainty of the separation make the letters all the more poignant.
I feel very privileged to own the letters which I have now used to make the poppies you see here.
On Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 September 2012, I’m exhibiting with two other artists during Devon Open Studios. We’ll be at Cockwood Village Hall EX6 8NU from 11am to 6pm on both days.
I’m showing some new work continuing on the theme of communication. Using a combination of hand cutting and laser cutting, I’ve made these poppies from original airmail letters written by an American GI during and after World War II. I’ve been trying to trace the family of the GI who wrote the letters and thanks to some supportive people in America, some interesting bits of information are emerging.
I’m searching for Sgt Joseph F Schulist 16005837 who was an American GI in World War II. He wrote to a WREN based in England and I’ve been using the love letters in my work. It’s a romantic story and I’d love to find him or his family to find out how the story ended.
Joe Schulist was from Milwaukee and moved around America after the war, so his family could be anywhere.
You can read about the story and watch the video. If you think you know someone who might be able to help, do send them the link to this post.