Piece Makers Exhibition visits The Fusilier Museum, Lancashire, Bury from 14 January 2015


The National Army Museum (NAM) is bringing the UK tour of its successful Piece Makers exhibition to The Fusilier Museum, Lancashire, Bury.


The culmination of a two-year creative collaboration between the NAM, contemporary artist Susan Stockwell and soldiers in rehabilitation, Piece Makers is touring regimental museums across the UK throughout 2014 and 2015. This follows a three-month run at the NAM, based in Chelsea, London.


Starting work on the project in 2012, Stockwell was commissioned by the NAM to explore interconnected themes of the Army, conflict and rehabilitation. Collaborating through a series of art workshops with soldiers from two UK recovery centres - Tedworth House in the garrison town of Tidworth, and Stoll in Fulham - the artist encouraged participants to use drawing, sewing and quilting to unlock memories and accounts of soldiering and recovery within these themes.


Opening on 14 January 2015 at The Fusilier Museum, Lancashire, Bury, the exhibition will run until 27 June 2015. It is set then to continue around the country, taking residency at the regimental museums of the British Army located in Berwick and Hamilton.  


The exhibition marks the first time the NAM has collaborated with a contemporary artist and soldiers in UK rehabilitation and support centres.


The tour forms part of the NAM’s ambitious Building for the Future project*, which will see a radical transformation of the Museum’s offer. The project is being carried out thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), whose support has enabled the Museum to go on the road during its closure period, taking projects such as the Piece Makers on tour to regimental museums across the country.


Visitors to the exhibition will have the chance to learn about the story of this innovative collaboration, and view a large-scale textile-based artwork, Peace Maker, Susan’s personal response to this highly moving and at times challenging commission.


Using discarded Army blankets to create a dark and light patchwork quilt – resonant of the fragmentary and ultimately peaceful recovery experience – the textile is reminiscent of a chessboard. It refers in this sense to the ‘game’ of war, as well as carrying traditional connotations of patchwork as a shared making process and intertwining of personal histories.


At the textile’s centre sits the work of participating veteran Michael Crossan, whose poignant screen print captures the essence of soldiers in war. The surrounding patchwork squares feature quotes, poems and words sewn by Susan. Penned in the most part by the artist herself, these are inspired by conversations with participant soldiers, with some of the soldiers’ own words also featured.


The reverse side of the work is an evocative silk flag in Army colours, simply containing the word ‘Peace’. In this way, the textile is also a reflection of Susan’s response to the NAM’s extensive Collection and her own views on conflict.


Janice Murray, Director General at the National Army Museum, said “The opportunity to work directly with serving and veteran soldiers is something we relish at the NAM, and Piece Makers has enabled us to explore contemporary issues such as rehabilitation and recovery with those who have experienced them first hand. These stories, as well as the narrative of how the NAM intertwines the accounts of today’s soldiers into its Collection, are vital in telling the true history of the British Army. We feel it’s important to take these stories into regimental museums to allow others to hear them too.”


Susan Stockwell said: “While traditionally a female pastime, there is a long history of sewing and quilting in the Army. Through Piece Makers ex-soldiers have told us their stories of battle and life since leaving the Services; the richness of the stories is moving, not without sadness, yet often embroidered with humour. Their resourcefulness is inspiring, as is their hunger for knowledge and to make art. I know finding a form of creative expression helps people who have had traumatic experiences; I’d even go as far as to say it saves them.”


Sarah Stevenson, Collections Officer at The Fusilier Museum, adds: “We are delighted to be able to host such a wonderful and intriguing exhibition at the Museum. It is the only time the general public will be able to see Piece Makers in the North West and we are privileged to have the exhibition in our exciting calendar of events.”


The project attempts to better represent real issues facing soldiers and veterans in and out of service today. The oral histories and Stockwell’s Peace Maker will be accessioned into the National Army Museum’s Collection, creating an important legacy for the project.

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