During the Spring of this year a friend told me about the 1,568 Sawdust Hearts project. After the First World War, many men came home injured and suffering from shell shock. As part of their recovery they were encouraged to take up craft work. A popular craft was to make a sawdust heart pincushion for a loved one.
Decorations were simple, and easy to do using pictures, pins and threads. Occupational therapy was born.This one was found in an antique shop this year.
Helen Birmingham has a studio and gallery in Scarborough and decided she would like to raise money for Combat Stress, a charity who provides help and support for soldiers with post traumatic stress. She saw an article about sweetheart pincushions as they were known, on the internet ,and came up with the idea of asking people to decorate a sawdust heart for an exhibition, for which there would be a catalogue which would raise money. She realised that she couldn’t have one heart for every soldier who didn’t return from WW1, but she could make 1,568 hearts for every day of that war.
So the blank hearts were made up, and would be decorators came forward to embellish them in any way they choose.
The exhibition is running Scarborough for the whole of November and the hearts will then be returned to their makers.
I attended both the launch on the 3 November and the presentation on 11 November at which the last post was played. Both occasions were very moving and I found myself unable to take pictures and think about what I was seeing . So on Saturday I returned to
The Woodend Gallery. There were quite a few visitors , and I still found myself in tears. But I managed to pull myself together and pay proper attention to the hearts and to find the ones I admired most. There are a lot. Each heart has a number for the purposes of knowing who made which one in the catalogue.
This is number 20, by Sue Robinson. I loved the colours and the fabric construction,
68 by Laureen Downes. This is easily overlooked in the brochure. I found it strange that some didn’t photograph so well, and some that did were not so memorable in life. I loved the added embroidery in this one, and the Dorset button and that the pinwheel at the bottom paid homage to the original hearts.
126 by Mo Bergson- Mr E’s favourite. He liked the desolation of the this felted heart, feeling it depicted the futility and sadness of the war.
158 by Deborah Powell.Deborah’s heart was also included in an additional booklet called Inside Stories. Many of us had written to Helen when we returned our hearts to tell of our inspiration. Deborah had explained that Day 158 was 1st January 1915. HMS Formidable was sunk on that day by a U Boat. 547 sailors lost their lives. On the back of the heart are 547 crosses, one for each man lost.
Sorry, I am crying again…
Helen spent a long time figuring out how to display the hearts, until she decided the only way was numerical, After all the soldiers weren’t neatly sorted out , the doctor’s son would serve next to the cleaners son, so the hearts should not be arranged artistically either. The boards were numerical with thirty hearts per board. However the sun shines brightly in the gallery so each day the free-standing boards are moved around so none fade. Now I could arrange my pictures so that they were numerical, because I just flitted from board to board, but then I reckon no, soldiers get muddled up in trenches and hospital, and battlefields, so from now on the numbers are a bit more random.
This is 636 by Wendy Green. I love that it is a picture, with fields, poppies, sky and trees. I find that I am drawn a lot to pictorial ones.
549 by Sue Stichbury. Boro patchwork and embroidery, loved the use of scraps. There were a few that included the word Forget me not.
218 by Shirley Rae. I loved the drama of this one, it depicts to me the horror of war and that Hope should always be with us for a better day.
331 by Stuart Batty. This is actually the back of the heart that has been used. It just moves me, a lot. It’s one of my very favourite hearts.
This is how the boards look with 30 hearts on them. You can see the last one here.
Not all of the hearts sold, so they became Unknown Soldiers displayed thus.
And that still makes me cry.
Some hearts weren’t returned, many of us found it hard to make them, so much did we want to do justice to these lost souls. But Helen called them Missing in Action and made a heart which appears in the catalogue for each one out there somewhere, She displayed the Missing in Action Hearts too.
There’s the heart at the top, and all those numbers.Lost days, lost young people.
Now this nearly became my favourite heart, I loved the faded velvet and that it closely resembles the style of the original hearts. It’s number 865 by Paula Fenwick- Lucas.
842 by Dr Maggie McArthur. Inside Stories tells us that
The top represents the future
The middle is the mud of no-man’s land.
The bottom represents the iconic poppies flowering once the land recovers .
The lace on the edge came from Bruges, near to Flanders.
I just loved the embroidery.
913 by Cynthia Ruth. This looks so delicate and pretty, any sweetheart would have loved this one had her soldier love sent it to her.
Another one with a ship. 906 by Mandi Bainbridge. This looked green in the catalogue but isn’t. I feel sure there is a story behind this one, I just don’t know what it is.
830 by Ruth Westmoreland. England’s green and pleasant land. Love it.
797 by Marion Brookes. I choose this one as there was knitting and butterflies. So many different techniques went into these hearts. This one was inspired by a quote from William Orpen. Too long for me type out, but it talks of the transformation of the mud into fields of white daisies, red poppies and blue flowers, a beautiful blue sky and the air thick with white butterflies. An enchanted place but instead of fairies thousands of white crosses for unknown soldiers.
1110 by Fiona Johnson . I think this one also expresses the unexpected beauty in the fields after the soldiers went home. I love that Nature heals itself after such an onslaught.
And finally my favourite amongst all these wonderful hearts.
1126 by Pippa Philips.
This post took me two sessions to write. These hearts still move me to tears.
May we never forget, and God Bless you all.