Devon Remembers – Teignmouth Home Front War Memorial Unveiled

Amy McCarthy War Memorial

Just over a year ago I started on a wonderful journey into the past with Teignmouth Community School. The Year 7 pupils researched Teignmouth in WWI and then I led drawing worksAmy McCarthy War Memorialhops with the 180 children to produce drawings on this theme. The results were great and you can see all the original pictures and read about the process here. 

 

In the intervening year I have made the 144 glass tiles by hand and fired them in my kiln, then fired all of the students drawings onto the glass. The resulting artwork is a big, bright memorial to all the sacrifices the people of Teignmouth made in the Great War. The children’s imagination were particularly peaked by all the fishermen being called up before the war had even started and the women having to do all the fishing for the town, the White Feather Movement and conscription, and the grief of the sheer numbers of dead and wounded.

 

The memorial has a permanent home at TCS Exeter Rd, in the main reception, but it will travel to Exeter Cathedral for the 100 year commemorations in 2018.

This project is one of 5 arts based commissions and was funded by Devon Remembers, a South West Heritage Lottery Funded Project as part of their WWI commemorations around Devon. Please visit their website for more information and for events happening around the county here.  

Huge thanks to TCS Art Department, especially Mrs Ellie Wilson, Devon Remember’s Project Manager Katherine Findley, my long suffering electrician friend Bobby Martin, the Mayor of Teignmouth Paul Burgess for attending the launch and of course the wonderful students at TCS! And last but anything but least big thanks to Teign Heritage Centre for their help and archives throughout this project. 

 

 

 

 

Internal window with the wow factor: floral stained glass window

This large stained glass window has left for its new home today; it is an internal window between two rooms and has added a great feature to their renovation. The iridescent clear glass allows lots of light to flood into the other room and allowed me to use strong rich red, green and blue glass without compromising the light. 

Stained glass is a great way to turn the functional need for light into a work of art inside your home and the customer was very happy with her new window. 

Rural Dartmoor, stained glass window

This commission is destined for an internal window of a house overlooking Hay Tor on Dartmoor. It has lots of painted details, including a special gate, poppies and some of the ubiquitous Dartmoor ponies too!  

stained glass window

Panels with lettering

I have had two lettering commissions in quick succession in the last few weeks. 

One for a lovely family in Teignmouth who were restoring the original name of their house into a small transom light above their front door. They were really happy with the piece and it gives their town house some of its period character back. 

I have just finished a panel for a house in Honiton; also a transom light above the front door. This is a colourful panel which will, once again restore character to the front porch of a home. Small panels with lots of lettering mean that the clarity of the lettering has to take priority in the design, but as these different panels show they can still be very different to each other. 

South Hams/Burgh Island commission

This long, horizontal window is going into an internal window in a family house (currently being renovated) in the South Hams between the kitchen and living space.

The window is in quite light colours as the window gets little natural light and is full of subtle details, so there is plenty of interest for the viewer from every angle. 

The design brief was to make a window celebrating the Burgh Island area of Devon; from it’s sea birds to the wind swept trees and countryside of the area. There are also grasses, flowers, seashells an d shoals of fish acid etched and painted onto the panel. 

I will add photos of the panel in it’s new home w hen the renovation is complete. 

Ten Murals in One Day

A few weeks ago I was invited into my children’s primary school TCS Mill Lane Primary School for an art ‘treat’ day. 

I had a 3o minutes with children from each class over the course of the day (from 4-11 years) and we had great fun painting the ‘stay on green behaviour’ animals. I have no idea what makes a squirrel responsible, or indeed an owl honest, but they do brighten up the side of the new early years building at the school! 

Thanks to the children and school for their warm welcome and hard work on the day. 

 

 

Fragile Knowledge, Exeter Library Rare Book Commission for Art Week Exeter

I have been working away on this cabinet of curiosity for Exeter Library, as part of  Art Week Exeter. Exeter Library has a a fantastic collection of early and rare books and they have a new scheme to get people to adopt a book from the collection to pay for the restoration of these ancient books. 

There are three other artists with a cabinet at in the library and there are lots of events going on across  the city as part of ArtWeekExeter and the work will be on display until in the library 21st May. 

The rare book collection is available for everyone to go and see, an afternoon in the collection is very inspiring and I have responded to three fascinating books from the collection. 

 A New Herball by William Turner of Bath, 1551.

The first book describing the medicinal qualities of plants printed in English. The drawings and text within are simple and beautiful. Some of the pages are stained from heavy use and the pestle and mortar represent the practical nature of the book.

The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck

The illustrations are incredibly skilled and delicate with early 20th Century styling. The simple bee woodcut print at the start of the book inspired me and was the basis for my pieces.

The Ivy Its History, Uses and Characteristics by Shirley Hibberd

The illustrations in this book are wonderful and so is the writing. I am reflecting the chapter on the uses of ivy, chief of which seems to be holding up the masonry of our ancient buildings!

 

 

A World Without

It’s hard to know where to start explaining this artwork, its by far the most personal thing I have produced.

Trump banned refugees from the USA on World Holocaust Day. Something in me shifted slightly, a little shudder, a quiet alarm. Because my family have been the people denied entry, the unwanted, the stateless, hopeless victims of circumstance and prejudice. 

I grew up with white privilege; I looked and sounded like everyone else on our suburban Norfolk housing estate. But that’s not quite so, the fact is my Paternal Grandmother is a holocaust survivor, a German Jew and immigrant with English as her third language. Her whole family was dispersed or murdered and driven to despair in 1930’s Berlin. The shadow this terrible inheritance has cast on our family does not block out the sun, but its always been there in the background and it has certainly coloured my world view. 

We have the letters sent from my Great Grandparents (trapped in Berlin, not allowed to work, with all their assets confiscated, soon to die themselves), to their children (my Gt Uncles) who have managed to escape on the Kinder transport. My Gt Grandparents situation is heart wrenching and pitiful, but they also give colour and light to a city and life we will never know. 

Henny on the Passenger list of the St Louis

A large character in these letters is that of Tante Frieda, (Gt Grandfather Leopold’s sister, my Gt, Gt Aunt) who owned a fur coat shop in Paris and one thread of the  correspondence relays the story of her passage with her family on the SS St Louis. They had escaped the Nazi’s to start a new life in Cuba; they had visa’s and Frieda had got away with her daughter Henny.

The doomed SS St Louis is a tragic tale of 900 Jewish refugees who managed to escape the persecution of the Nazi regime, just before the outbreak of war, on a lovely cruise ship no less!  But they are refused entry to Cuba (they all had visas) and then the USA, sitting for weeks moored out in the harbour. Running out of food they are forced to return to Europe, the passengers are desperate and suicidal. England, France and Belgium agree to split the passengers on the ship between them; but of course, they have just fled Europe, so they know this is only a temporary rest bite from persecution. They all drew lots for which country they would disembark to. Tante Frieda drew France and her daughter Henny the UK. For whatever reason they decided to swap – Frieda going to the UK and Henny returning to France. Frieda survived the war and indeed went onto live a long life. Unfortunately France fell to the Nazi’s only weeks after Henny disembarked and she perished at Auschwitz; along with the majority of my Jewish family. 

These ladies really caught my interest, I am not quite sure why these characters stand out especially to me, but of all my murdered and brutalised family, it is their story I cant help but follow. So I did what every modern woman does and googled the subject. I had no idea so much effort and love had gone into retelling Jewish history – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) is a fabulous resource, and in it huge archive I found photo albums of the passengers on this ill fated voyage.

could this be my Gt, Gt Aunt’s daughter Henny?

Whilst looking through photos of the passengers roller skating, drinking, laughing and relaxing I left the computer  unattended and my children suddenly shouted, ‘mummy, mummy there is a photo of you in the past!!!’ and there she is, an ‘unnamed’ woman from 70 years ago who looks so strikingly like me that my own children thought she WAS me I REALLY wasn’t expecting this, it freaked me out a bit. Could this be Henny?

me trying to pull the same face

close up of ‘unknown woman’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether or not the unknown woman in the photo is Henny I can never know for sure. But whoever she is, she is most definitely the muse for ‘ A World Without’. The piece depicts a young, hopeful woman. Her body is made up of all the other passengers on the SS St Lois I could find photographs of and by painting each of the portraits I am honouring and bearing witness to their lives and their senseless murders – as most of the passengers ended up in the gas chambers and concentration camps within months of returning to Europe, all that hope destroyed.

The figure is a traditional leaded stained glass panel; stained glass has been used for centuries to commemorate the dead and the big events of history and this is my modest addition to this cannon. Each piece of glass has been hand painted and fired in the kiln and then made up using traditional leading techniques. This has take hours of work and research; a careful meditation and remembrance of people who were dehumanised and disregarded.

There are millions of us around the world who only have to go back a generation or two before we all find out we are refugees or immigrants and this artwork is a small act of re-humanising the other. This art work is a quiet request to look at our shared history, understand where you come from and stand up now to reject hate and offer love to those with less than us. History has the lessons for us, if we choose not to head them than we have truly learned nothing. 

Huge thanks to my family, Gt Uncle Se’ev (our last remaining holocaust survivor), Cousin Hagit and my Dad for all their knowledge. 

Kind thanks to USHMM for their help and resources, photographs are courtesy of their photographic archive. 

 

Devon Remembers World War One War Memorial

woman-on-beach nurses looking-up-feather drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the last few months I have been working with 180 Year 7 pupils at  Teignmouth Community School to create a new World War One War Memorial as part of Devon Remembers, commemorating the centenary of The Great War.

The children researched their family and local history over the summer to discover information about Teignmouth’s Home Front in WWI. I then led a series of drawing workshops to create images in response to this information. The children worked really hard and the school was so helpful, making the sessions an absolute pleasure.

Now each of the drawings will be fired onto coloured glass tiles, from a distance it will look like a poppy and as you draw nearer the children’s drawings will become apparent.

It is an honour to get to make such a significant art work and I hope to maintain the thoughtful nature and enthusiasm the children brought to the project in my part of the process. Now I have the task of firing 100 glass tiles! But that will keep my studio lovely and warm through the cold winter days! The drawings shown are just the top of the pile, we focused on the role of women, women’s rights, children’s experiences and returning soldiers/men on the home front. The children have captured the emotions  of loss and uncertainty well in their work and I was impressed with their thoughtful attitude.

Many thanks to Teign Heritage Centre for their generous information sharing and to the teachers and pupils at TCS School.

I will post another update at the next stage of the process.