November 12, 2007

Poppies for young men, such bitter trade...

Yesterday was Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day, or Armistice day, or Poppy Day depending on where you are from. I have been researching a little bit about it this weekend. It just so happens that this is a good time for me to show some beads I have been making that have this idea of honoring, remembering, and mourning for those lost at war... my Poppy series. I believe that one can support and honor those who fight and give their lives for their countrymen who fight at war, without supporting the cause or the government leaders that put them into the war. I will keep it at that.

I started thinking about Poppies, strangely enough, when I was in Canada this summer for vacation. One of the bills has a quote from Canadian poet John McCrae, from the poem In Flanders Fields. While not an anti-war poem, the first stanza does remember the sacrifices of soldiers in a very real way, and I was surprised to see it on their money. Also in Canada, I was reminded of our tile making colleague at Verdant Tile who makes beautiful Poppy designs in her tiles. Her tiles are heavily influenced by Art Nouveau, which uses much poppy imagery, probably due to the war at that time. Since then, I have researched the flower on my own and have really wanted to so something myself. I figured a fairy bead could easily become a Poppy Fairy and the large Nouveau Shield pendant looks exactly like a poppy. I had never glazed it in more than one color, so it was a lovely surprise to see it pop with red and purple.

Dorothy asleep in the Poppy Field, from the Wizard of Oz

Symbolism of flowers and plants amazes me. There is such a long history, and I really know very little, and I am always fascinated when I can spend a little time researching the symbols. Poppies in particular are rich in symbolism. Because opium is derived from them, and because of the narcotic qualities of that, poppies symbolize sleep. And the deep red color symbolizes death as well, not only because of blood, but because of its growth in Flanders Field after World War I, where many died. But it is more complex than just a death symbol. Poppies grow in difficult, disturbed soil (like the soil on battlefields) so they persevere with their beauty where terrible things have happened, sort of an ode to those who fell there.

I am fascinated by the white poppy as well, because it is a symbol of peace as well as remembrance, but it seems to be quite divisive, more so in Canada. Perhaps a little like our yellow ribbon here. I am interested in learning more about this...

So, I find this all quite fascinating and spent most of yesterday thinking about it as I made two necklaces with the beads above, for a new Collaboration Exploration that I am working on. I will show those pieces tomorrow. Interestingly, I felt rather drowsy most of the day yesterday while working with my poppies, but that is probably due more to the dreary rain and in no small part to the allergy pill that I took in the morning.

Today's song and video is Sting's Children's Crusade, which combines themes of war, children, death and poppies, both in the floral form for remembrance, and as a reference to the drug heroin, which is also a killer. This video is set to scenes from Avatar, an anime that I have never seen...


  1. Melanie, those poppy beads are absolutely gorgeous! I can't wait to get some. :)

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  3. Really stunning and emotional. Just the colors and your design said a lot even before reading your post. And I am such a sucker for red and green!

  4. Becca,
    Thanks so much! I guess I should list them in my Etsy store soon. I think I am going to keep them in small runs instead of adding them to my catalog.

    Thanks. I am really getting alot of mileage out of this red glaze. You know how hard red can be in clay!