In 2016 artist Sarah Pimenta worked with teacher Louise Murtagh and Year 1 at Morelands Primary School on the exhibition Imagine Islington. Sarah supported Louise to design and deliver a 5 workshop programme for the classroom, inspired by the collection of embroidered postcards from the Second World War.
Sarah also worked alongside the pupils in their classroom to create her own new artwork inspired by the postcards and the pupils.
Why we chose the embroidered postcards:
‘We chose the postcards to fit into a topic the class were already covering and also because of the story of Leonard & Margaret. We thought the idea that Margaret had kept the postcards from Leonard so safe for so many years was a lovely message about treasuring and valuing things given to us by people we love.
The simple designs of the postcards depicting images from France and England was also an interesting point to start thinking about heritage and identity visually.
We also thought the postcards would tie in with an upcoming topic our class would will be doing called ‘Hurrah for the holiday’s. We thought it would be interesting for the children to explore the idea of why people send postcards and who people choose to send those postcards to.’
Year 1 created an installation piece inspired by Leonard’s postcards. The installation combine screen prints and a sculptural mobile.
Hung on the wooden frame were wooden postcards printed with the pupils’ designs exploring their cultural identity. The images referenced those on the postcards sent by Leonard.
Alongside the mobile were three screen printed artworks. Sarah worked with the pupils to create these screen prints from their drawings. Sarah cut out the pupils’ drawings to create stencils, which she then composed on the screen. The pupils screen printed these stencils onto a fabric background. Once dry, Sarah added a different colour wash, chosen by the pupils, to the three works. The final collaborative artwork expresses the vibrant cultural backgrounds of the class.
Sarah worked alongside the pupils to create her own artwork inspired by the embroidered postcards. She explored her own cultural links to Goa and Kenya. She collected objects from both countries, including images, postcards, stamps, adverts and even shopping bags.
‘I decided to focus on print methods that I don’t normally use in my practise, I chose to do lino cutting as I thought it was a technique which was better suited to working within a classroom setting. It awakened a love for lino printing that I hadn’t felt for a long time ( I first did it over 20 years before as an art student). As part of my own work, I printed my blocks in a Print studio on a professional press & had the chance to experiment a bit and learn some new processes including chine-collee which inspired me in my classroom delivery . I learnt that despite being a printer there is always something new to learn & the importance of experimenting. I am definitely going to continue to learn more and develop even more techniques! I’ve a feeling that it’s the beginning of a new creative journey, I definitely intend to continue with my experiments.’
Sarah’s dad when living in Nairobi, was given a flamengo as a pet by one of his students. Sarah referenced this unusual pet in a lino and chine-collee print inspired by her cultural heritage. The pose of the flamengo is taken from her father’s photograph, while the background text is from a piece of newsprint collected from Kenya.
‘I loved the idea of exploring the concept of cherishing something that had been sent by a loved one far away. The story of postcards being sent between countries by loved ones is a theme from my own migrant history, messages flying across the worlds from Kenya in Africa & Goa in India to England – some probably during the same time frame as when Leonard was sending cards to Margaret. I’m pleased to have finally made some work which explores my heritage.
By some serendipity at the beginning of this project two people dear to me travelled to Kenya & Goa. I explained the project to them & they both agreed to send me stuff from their travels; postcards, bits of fabric, scraps of paper, money etc which I could use a impetus for my artwork. I decided to make some simple lino prints using imagery and ideas from this collection of well travelled inspiration with a view to gifting a print back to Lucy & Ruth to complete the cycle of giving & receiving.’
Kenya Ruth uses chine-collee to incorporate the ephemeral brought back by Ruth from Kenya.
Dahlia string, feathers and coins from Kenya are relief printed on to fabric, the dye from the string merging with the ink.
Mirroring the techniques used by the pupils and referencing the visual language of the WWI postcards, Sarah combine layers of lino prints and chine-collee.
What we thought about the project:
‘It was a pleasure to see the pupils responses to the artwork they had created themselves and see their enjoyment in the printmaking process which was their first attempt at this type of arts activity. They were also very receptive to my work & were full of questions!’
‘I learned that it is possible to use a historical object and turn it into a really interesting art project. I liked the idea of making it personal for the children so they felt connected to their work and could see the importance of why Margaret kept the postcards safe. The children enjoyed talking about their family and what they know of the countries in which their family live.
It was important not to limit the children’s interpretation of what our idea was important too. The outcome was not what I had imagined but the results were personal and have a story to them and so I think they are real works of art as they have so much thought in them.
Through observing Sarah, the children were able to see a range of ways to design and print work and also to see how a professional artist works and the amount of time and skill that is required. They could see the importance of thinking and improving your work.’