THE BLANKET OF POPPIES-Commemorating the Life, Work and Execution of British Nurse Edith Cavell in WWI
THE BLANKET OF POPPIES has been created by myself the artist Charron Pugsley-Hill, the artisan felter Eve Marshall and 49 ladies who made the stunning poppies that make up the blanket around the centrepiece of Britain and Belgium. I am not going to describe the blanket as it can be seen in all the amazing pictures in this blog but I just want to share with you a little about some of the symbolism in the blanket. As an artist it is easy to forget when you are absorbed in a project that others do not know why we are doing particular things. The work has also included poetry written by the poet Keely Mills which will be in another blog and Tilly Rose who has helped with the creation of the RED POPPY DRESS that will be worn at events associated with the project-this dress has miniatures of the poppies in the blanket so that each woman involved will be with me as the project moves on.
- It has been made in my Peterborough studio in workshops reminiscent of World War I knitting circles as I wanted to bring women together in a place where they could be together in a moment of time sharing time together working on an artwork to commemorate an inspirational woman from a time where so little is heard about women stories.
- Why a blanket? A blanket is used to comfort and wrap someone in times of distress and trauma. Edith Cavell was kept in solitary confinement for 10 weeks following her arrest for helping allied soldiers escape German occupied Brussels in 1915. There was no comfort or compassion for her during this time and her dignity and bravery needs to be shared as we tell her incredible story.
- Poppies are the universal symbol of remembrance for those lost in conflicts and Edith whilst not a soldier herself was involved in saving hundreds of military personnel.
- There are 49 poppies because Edith Cavell was 49 when she was executed and the execution poppy that represents her death a tiny part of the many years she was present on our earth. The poppies also are the iconic symbol; of remembrance used by countries around the world-these are often in a different shape to the one used in England. The poppy is also my favourite flower and my gorgeous dog is called Poppy!
- The quotes and words on the blanket are either words associated with her or those that I have attributed to the qualities of her life and work. Many of these quotes are well known and some unknown. They show Edith’s commitment and passion to nursing and caring for other. If more people had that selfless commitment and strength maybe the world today would be a much better place for all people to live in together in harmony.
- Britain,the sea and Belgium are of course the major places that her story was played out. Norwich was the city nearest to the village where she was born, London is where she trained as a nurse, Brussels is where she was running a number of clinics and hospitals before her execution and Peterborough is where she learnt fluent French which she needed to enable her to work in Brussels.
- You may wonder who Jack was? Jack was a dog who turned up a the clinic in Brussels and became devoted to Edith Cavell often being aggressive if her thought someone got too close. Poppy who is my dog is as close to me as Jack was to Edith. Poppy will also now be protective of me following an attack we both suffered from another dog just over 2 years ago. Both these dogs are major parts of our lives and Jack was taken on walks throughout Brussels as Edith led men to the guides taking them to safety. Jack can be seen in The Imperial War museum on permanent display.
- The stunning colours used in the blanket portray the beauty of life in all its guises whether it be when life is flowing and happy or the lessons we learn and hold close from tragedy and trauma.
- The tiny boats on the sea represent journeys made in history and time across the English channel to war and would have been of course how Edith Cavell, other nurses and soldiers would have been carried to war, their deaths and their journey home to family and safety.
- The execution poppy represents death, not only the execution of Edith on the 12th October 1915, but to remember all those others executed during WWI, partisans of Belgium and other countries, soldiers executed by their own countries and all those unjustly killed. Of course you may or may not feel that is every soldier who died in this conflict. The yellow flower reminds us of the yellow coffin awaiting her body at her execution.
- The flowers and nature remind of us of the happy times that Edith and so many others have from that connection with nature. Edith was an accomplished artist of nature and flowers and that connection has given me much pleasure in the months that I have worked on the blanket with so many others. My work is typically about connecting people to nature and its stories and messages. By including flowers and nature I feel connected to Edith in a personal passion we both share.
- Each poppy is named on the reverse to connect it in time and energy to the woman who created it with strength, belief and remembrance. Thanks go to all of them for stepping forward for so many reasons to be involved in a tribute and remembrance to a special lady from the past. These women have made the work very special for me and I shall remember each and every one of them for the unique and personal stories, care and compassion to each other that they brought with them. They have been fabulous.
- Each woman involved has also created a poppy brooch for her to wear on the 12th October creating a togetherness in time and place, in a moment, sharing and being together wherever we are.
The blanket is stunning in its beauty. I sit and look and each time I see something new that catches my eye. It holds a piece of each woman that has lovingly created a part of it, her heart and soul are here and together we remember an incredible woman and her compatriots who together saved many lives for the families who then held them again in their arms.