‘Take Thick with the Light’ – Stitching together the Stopher story – Suffolk and World War 1

A new exhibition at the Harwich Arts & Heritage Centre throughout November with a special event on Thursday 30th November (Noon – 2pm) with artist Julie Lockhart.

‘Take Thick with the Light’ – Stitching together the Stopher story – Suffolk and World War 1

The project ‘Take Thick with the Light’ retold the story of the Stopher family through stitching aspects of their lives; their portraits and the landscape around the Suffolk village where they lived. It examined the connection between heritage, art and wellbeing through a series of letters sent to and from the Front, written by two brothers, George and Albert Stopher and their family and sweethearts, held at the Suffolk Records Office.

‘A fascinating project and beautifully executed. It not only treats the Stopher archive with great respect but enhances appreciation of it.’ Member of staff at the Suffolk Records Office

The story is told mainly through a series of stitched artworks. The use of stitched textiles links into the long tradition of the military using stitching as occupational therapy and to combat boredom. As far back as the Crimea War soldiers recovering from the stress of fighting were encouraged to make quilts to calm them.

‘The stitched portraits explored materials and techniques to impart a sense of incompleteness, of memories breaking up, fracturing as time passes. They were stitched by hand, slow stitching, time spent thinking and reflecting on the subjects, remembering them, telling their story without words.’ Juliet Lockhart Lead Artist

The focus of the project was to create a series of 12 stitched portraits of the Stopher family. These were done by hand onto vintage linen some of which belonged to the Stopher family. In addition there were a series of stitched WW1 recipes and canvas work all using material from original school sketchbooks from the family; as well as a series of canvas works depicting the Suffolk village the family came from as it is now.

‘We, a small group of women met in what had once been a classroom in the Victorian school in Gateacre Road, in Ipswich currently housing the Suffolk Records Office. Juliet explained to us on our initial coming together, her ideas and hopes for this project. Her work is always based on links, on connecting the past with the present. Process is at the heart of everything. Honouring the lives of George and Albert, our noticing learning; walking in their footsteps using our time each week to focus on their lives, so that not only did we build a picture of them, but it helped us understand their relevance to us, to our lives in the 21st century.’ Participant on the project.

The project was developed and led by artist Juliet Lockhart, in partnership with the Suffolk Archives, The Hold, Universities of Hertfordshire Heritage Hub, the University of Suffolk and the University of Essex.

Julie Lockhart

Further information contact www.harwichfestival.com