Tommy Bodkins: military materials then and now

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - Friday, March 31, 2017
All Day

We are delighted to display an exhibition of work created and curated by Cleveland College of Art and Design (Hartlepool) student Rachel Fraser…

“Having lived in Catterick Garrison all my life and worked on an army barracks for nearly six years, an opportunity arose to do a university project based on a museum.  I knew I wanted to do my project based on The Green Howards Museum as it is an amazing museum right on my doorstep.

The pieces in my collection are all related in some way to the museum and the army, where I’ve used jackets, weapons, badges, and the warning signs seen on the perimeter walls of the barracks themselves. Each one of these had an influence on my creative pieces, which are either screen printed, digitally made, embroidered or a combination of the three.

My concept was formed after a visit to the museum where I was able to visit the archive.

They have a number of embroideries which were donated by the families of soldiers; these embroideries were created by injured soldiers who were bed-bound due to their injuries.

These soldiers had embroidered or stitched pieces of material with their regimental badges.  Sometimes these pieces would also contain dates and times which were significant to the soldier.

I wanted to look at traditional sewing and print techniques to complement these pieces, but also look at the modern techniques of sewing machines and digital print (Photoshop and Illustrator).

This was to show a contrast from the traditional techniques and also to convey how the advances in technology have changed the army from the clothes they wear to battle, to the equipment they use today.  I have used the modern day sewing machine and digital print techniques to show conceptually how the army has changed from World War One and before, to the present day.

I chose to use ‘Tommy’ in the name of my exhibition, because alongside my own pieces I am showing pieces from soldiers themselves.  Many believe the term ‘Tommy’ stems from a man named ‘Tommy Atkins’, and was used as early as the 18th century.

One theory states that in the Battle of Flanders a man named Tommy Atkins was approached by the Duke of Wellington who was inspecting his wounded men. The Duke asked Tommy if he was in pain and Tommy’s response was, “It’s alright, sir.  It’s all in a day’s work”.

This mentality personified the best of the British soldier’s courageousness and indefatigability against horrendous odds.  A bodkin is a type of needle with a wide eye, used to draw cord through a hem.”