I was lucky enough to be chosen to design and paint two elephant sculptures for Elmer’s Big Parade Art Trail in Suffolk. The trail ran throughout summer 2019, from June until September.
Here are two time lapse videos showing how I painted my two designs, ‘Stella the storyteller’ and ‘Poppy’ plus the inspiration behind the designs below.
I was asked to work with sponsor, Killik and Co, a wealth management company with an office in Ipswich. Several of their staff have had friends or relatives cared for by the hospice and they really wanted to honour their memories in their Elmer design somehow. That was why I decided to use stories and storytelling as the basis for the design. It seemed very appropriate as the whole trail has been inspired by David McKee's Elmer stories.
I wanted to honour these people's memories and so their stories are hidden in the patchwork design but I also wanted it to be something that everyone could relate to. So Stella the storyteller emerged with her patchwork of paintings showing things that people might care about or activities they might do.
Hopefully there is something there for everyone. All of those memories stitched together make a life. I wanted to show how ordinary things can become extraordinary when they are stitched together to make a story.
'Poppy' was inspired by the beautiful landscapes and wildlife of the region, and sustainable transport. My art work focuses mainly on animal and botanical subjects and the local landscape offers a wealth of both!
Poppy got her name because a row of poppies, wheat and cornflowers (depicting the edges of fields) runs right round the design. The landscapes that appear are based on the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that intersect with our train lines going north and south from the county: the Dedham Vale to the south and the Waveney Valley at Beccles to the north.
Working with sponsor, Greater Anglia, I really wanted to highlight sustainable travel and also the idea of connections - not just between places but a connection with the world around us. It's a reminder that the journey is often as important as the destination.
I wanted to take part in this public art trail for a few reasons. The main reason is that the money raised from the sale of the Elmer sculptures went to St Elizabeth Hospice. St Elizabeth Hospice is a fantastic charity supporting people with a terminal illness and their families across east Suffolk.
I also think these public art trails are a great way to get people of all ages interested in art and creativity. Elmer's Big Parade encouraged people to get out, walk (or run!) the trail and feel proud of their town.
I am writing this during the Coronavirus lockdown and thinking fondly of the days when so many people were out in the town. There was such a great feeling of joy and positivity that surrounded the sculptures and all the fundraising activities that went on. I'm looking forward to the days when we can get out and share experiences like that again.
I notice that during this lockdown period, people are increasingly turning to the arts to help them and that's got to be a good thing. Art and creativity can bring enjoyment, distraction, understanding, mindfulness and a sense of community. And there's a lot to be said for that!