The WAR Flowers crystal collection is totally hand-engraved and was created using the finest optical crystal used in telescope lenses. Before embarking on the design process it was important for me to submerge myself in research material pertaining to Canada’s military role during the First World War to help me build a visual library of war time photography and to develop my own hand drawn sketches which would inform my final designs for the crystal.
In 2015, Canadian Documentary Film Director, Viveka Melki, first heard about the Lt Col. George S. Cantlie WAR Flower letter, from (retired) Lt Col. Bruce Bolt, from the Blackwatch Regiment in Montreal. He was concerned the 100 year old pressed flowers pressed within the letters needed to be conserved for prosperity, which inspired Melki to consider the potential for a unique touring exhibition. The beautiful World War 1 story provided a wonderful opportunity for me to hand engrave a “living” version of the pressed flowers Cantlie had picked from the battlefields of France, and combine the floral interpretation within the ten chosen human themes capturing both the fragility and emotions of war through the ten-piece crystal collection.
As a crystal engraver I have employed the same two techniques for over 35 years now, combining both intaglio (three dimensional carving) and stipple engraving (using a diamond point, to create dark and light), which are both ancient techniques. This unique combination creates both strong deep carving with an ethereal quality and lyrical delicacy. By engraving the various faceted surfaces of the crystal this maximizes the refractive properties of the crystal creating an alchemy where images appear and disappear.
A major consideration in the creation of the crystal collection was that it would be touring from Les Jardins de Metis, in Grand-Metis, Quebec, to four destinations including the Canadian War Museum, (Ottawa) Campbell House Museum, (Toronto) Vimy Visitors Centre, (Vimy, France) and to the Chateau Ramezsay Museum. (Montreal) So it was important to design the sculptures so they would be consistent in scale, easily transportable yet still be unique in design and shape. Normand Dumont, the WAR Flowers exhibition designer and I agreed on this important factor before I started any of the engraving design, to insure we recognized these parameters and achieved an original collection.
The WAR Flowers ten-piece crystal collection is illuminated in the exhibition from underneath and the sculptures set against a black background to emphasis the detail of the engraving. My hope and aspiration to to create works of art which symbolize the courage, honour and humanity of those 68,ooo Canadian’s who died in WW1.