There are times when an artist will look at their work and think it’s just not complete.
That’s the feeling Jackie Alcock had as she was putting together her forget-me-not project, Remembrance exhibit in 2018.
Taking a second look at the project has paid off for the Corner Brook artist as the piece she created to complete it earned her a spot as a finalist for the 2019/2020 Salt Spring National Art Prize.
The Salt Spring National Art Prize is a biennial competition and exhibition that offers $38,000 in awards. It’s an initiative of the Salt Springs Art Council, which represents the arts for Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
Alcock’s forget-me-not project goes back to 2015. It started with her intent to make a forget-me-not flower, the province’s symbol of remembrance, for every Newfoundlander who served in the First World War.
She collected wool clothing worn by Newfoundlanders, washed them, cut them up, dyed them and used the material to create 18,000 wool flowers. More than 15,000 of them went into the project.
The largest of the pieces she created was a blanket, sewing the flowers onto a 30-year-old used army blanket that she got from the Department of National Defence.
Other pieces include a rug for the Royal Navy, a wall hanging for the merchant marines, a rug for the forestry division, a rug for the women who served, a collage for the Canadians, and a wall hanging for the 1,200 who went overseas but never served because the war had ended.
She also recognized those who served in the Korean War and Afghanistan, and those who served as Peace Keepers.
The pieces were displayed at several locations before going on exhibit at the Rotary Arts Centre in November 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War armistice.
Creating the pieces became a more involved project for Alcock as she researched the war and the battles, with the blanket becoming a timeline.
But she soon found herself running out of space.
“I like detail and I hadn’t given the men in 1918 the right space that they deserved. They were crowded together and you couldn’t really follow it. The rest of the blanket was easy to follow.”
She could have added on a piece to the blanket, but she wanted to keep the size and not alter the old army relic on which the flowers were placed.
“But by making that choice I had to crowd in 1918 and I always felt bad about doing that, so when I had time I went back and said, 'Well, we’ll do right by them.'"
So she decided to make another piece.
The idea for the rug arose from a conversation. Someone had mentioned the rugs were taken off the floor and placed on their bed at night to keep their feet warm when they were young.
The resulting piece is 48 inches wide by 19 inches high and has 1,116 forget-me-nots that have been hooked and sewn on.
The rug looks like a map and depicts a field with stitched-on mounds. Getting the information was difficult as Alcock couldn’t find out how many people were in the field at the time. By then the fighting was mostly trench warfare and records were not kept the same way as they had been for the major battles.
“It almost looks like the original plan that I had done for it. And it shows the killed and the wounded,” she said of the final project.
She learned of the Salt Spring National Art Prize through Arts NL. It appealed to her because part of one prize is a residency on Salt Spring Island.
With her son and her family now living in Langford, B.C., Alcock thought it would be a great opportunity, but she put the thought into the back of her mind.
“It’s just that I didn’t have a piece that I thought was good enough.”
Pieces entered have to be for sale by the artist, and Alcock said some of her pieces were larger than the competition’s size requirements.
The rug was one inch under the maximum allowable size and so she decided to submit it.
Not easily excited, Alcock said she did have a “wow” moment after receiving the email telling her she’d been selected as a finalist.
She said it was unexpected in a way since rugs aren’t often considered for art prizes. It also made up for not having her work chosen for another show.
It is a big deal as out of the 1,973 pieces submitted by some 1,201 artists, only 52 are chosen as finalists.
Her rug and those other pieces will be on display in the Finalists’ Exhibition on Salt Spring Island that opens on Sept. 21 and runs until Oct. 21. She’s not allowed to share a picture of the full work as it can’t be revealed to the public until the opening night.
On Oct. 19 a gala awards night will take place where the nine awards, six selected by jurors and three selected by the public, will be announced. Alcock will be attending the gala.