While 2016 was eventful, there was one event that followed me through the entire year, and that was the centennial of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel. This battle, which occurred on July 1, 1916, was a defining experience for not only the soldiers who fought and survived, but for the entire population of Newfoundland from that day forward. With over 700 men sent to fight, only 110 survived, with only 68 available for roll call the next day. This is the reason that, while the rest of the country celebrates Canada Day on July 1st, Newfoundland and Labrador also observes Memorial Day.
When the year turned to 2016, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador turned to remembering those fallen soldiers at Beaumont-Hamel. The flower chosen to represent remembrance of these deaths was, appropriately, the Forget-Me-Not.
The most personal project that I completed was for the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador as part of their Forget Me Not exhibit – a watercolour entitled “Roots that Nurture and Threads that Bind.” The exhibit was meant to “respond to the Forget-Me-Not’s ability to bring forth a personal sense of shared history” – a goal which was evident in the final exhibiting of the collection.For myself, the connection was to my grandmother, who arrived in Newfoundland from Ireland shortly after the first world war. Her garden full of colourful flowers, and her tales on the various uses for the plants and their origin, which ones were ‘related’ and how they got their strange names was what first inspired my love of plants. If you take a close look among the roots of my painting, you can distinguish the transfer from one of my grandmother’s lace pieces, becoming one with the root system – the roots that nurture and the threads that bind.
You can learn more about this exhibit on the craft council website.
Another Forget-Me-Not project that I worked on this year was a tiny contribution to a larger piece that you can see for yourself hanging at the Rooms. As you head towards the Beaumont-Hamel exhibit on the second floor of the museum, you’ll find yourself following a trail of flowers through the main entrance. These flowers hang from the ceiling in bunches to direct you from the present day, into the early 20th century where the first world war was not a trip to the museum, but was very much real. These flowers are Forget-Me-Nots made from metal and painted blue, rather than picked from a garden. These flowers remind every visitor to the exhibit that these are the stories of real men and women who made sacrifices and faced adversity. You can read about the exhibit and find visiting hours on the Rooms website.
Finally, in an effort to do my part to make a real contribution to this year of remembrance, I completed a painting of forget-me-nots which was chosen by the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador to commemorate World War I. This image was then used to decorate a tea set, including a teapot, mug, sugar dish, and milk jug, that was made available for sale at Heritage Shops around the province, supporting heritage projects locally. You can still purchase these items at the online store by following this link.