During The First World War, soldiers were given a therapeutic activity which would help their healing process. As the nurses tended to their physical injuries, sweetheart cushions gave the soldiers a way to heal the mental and emotional scars of war. Once complete, they would be sent home to their loved ones.
Last year, a colleague and friend of mine, Olivia Young, began a project that she holds dear to her heart – a project that expressed her passion for both embroidery and The First World War. At the start of the month, she opened this project up to the public at her first ever exhibition. I was lucky and honoured to be invited to this remarkable event to celebrate Liv’s journey and begin my own in photography.
Fifty unique replica sweetheart pincushions were crafted to commemorate fifty soldiers – members of the Leeds Pals of Yorkshire – who fought and died on 1st July 1916, the first day of The Battle of the Somme. Each heart, made with love and care, has been dedicated to an individual Leeds Pal who lost his life that day.
The exhibition was held at Rivers MEET in Methley where the sweetheart pincushions were on display for the public. It was beautifully simple and moving, carrying the theme of trench life and decorated with poppies. All hearts were carefully lined up along the burlap for everyone to enjoy. They were available for purchase after the event and a percentage of sales made have been donated to The Royal British Legion to help today’s veterans and families.
The exhibition truly showed Liv’s dedication to her craft and her passion for keeping the memories of the past alive. She is definitely one to watch with more commemorative sweetheart pincushions in the works as well as commission pieces requested by relatives of other soldiers who lost their lives in battle. This poignant event is the start of something truly special: the journey of a memorial textile artist.
You can follow Liv via her Facebook page ‘Liv & Sew: Memorial Textile Artist’ where you will find the full collection of sweetheart pincushions, along with previous work she has completed and future projects in the making.
*All photographs shown are my own and if edited will be stated in the captions below.