The exhibition, ‘A Coat for Wilfred Owen’ features a replica WW1 jacket and ‘pocket packets’ made by schoolchildren from Delabole Community Primary School, alongside rarely seen embroideries, hand sewn by soldiers during the First World War.
The pupils from Delabole School, who are in years 5 and 6, worked with performance poet Sally Crabtree and textile artist Janie M McDonald to create a textile artwork inspired by their studies of Wilfred Owen and the First World War.
The students looked at the life and poetry of Wilfred Owen, and at ideas surrounding the concept of home; the home front, ‘home is where the heart is’ and the song ‘We’ll keep the Home Fires Burning’. They discussed the items which soldiers at the Front might keep in the pockets of their jackets – both practical and sentimental things, things that might have been sent from home. The children created collages about the things that had affected them most, which artist Janie printed onto fabric.
The students stitched their fabric collages onto a replica military jacket, making hearts like the soldiers made in the trenches to send home to their sweethearts, making cigarette and match boxes and placing a collection of small handmade objects inside them along with their folded fabric collage. Thinking about the thin ‘thread’ of communication between home and the front, the students made replicas of a real Christmas card from 1915, but with their own poetry messages to a soldier. Some students made hand-painted postcards to their soldier along with a message from home. Fabric collages were stitched onto the coat, put in match boxes or made into a book of visual stories and placed into one of the pockets.
Some of the students knew stories about relatives who were in WW1 and thought about their experiences, so, the jacket became a symbol not only of Wilfred Owen but of all the soldiers in the war and the stitching a symbol of mending and repairing the trauma. WW1 soldiers who were recuperating in hospital often did embroidery to help them recover, and the exhibition also includes a rare showing of authentic examples of such work made by soldiers of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry during WW1, many of which are too fragile to be on permanent display.
The exhibition ‘A Coat for Wilfred Owen’ will be open daily until the 14th March.
The North Cornwall Story Box is a project about storytelling, story making and collecting with individuals and groups in the communities of North Cornwall. This project has been organised by Endelienta, a local charity working to bring about more cultural events to this part of Cornwall.