In 1913, Britain’s so-called ‘excess females’ were encouraged to emigrate to Australia for new opportunities, even marriage. Ethel’s diaries record how she set off alone, aged 27, on a 12-hour train journey to London, before embarking on the SS Beltana for Adelaide, where she secured work in domestic service. A year into her new life, the world found itself at war. Restless, and perhaps to lessen the guilt of being away from home at this critical time, she took herself off on a trek into the Outback. En route, her train derailed in the desert, but she eventually reached the tiny township of Oodnadatta and its outlying sheep stations, where she stayed for some time. Returning to the UK in 1918, she married, raised a family and moved to Jersey. But this settled period was not long lived: in 1939, World War Two broke out. Undefendable, the Channel Islands were abandoned to their fate and in 1940 the Nazis invaded. Ethel (now widowed) and her children, all mainland-born, were regarded as ‘aliens’ and in 1942 were deported, by boat, then train, to Northern Germany. Her son Eric documented their ordeal. Ethel and her family spent the next 2½ years as prisoners-of-war. Repatriated in 1945, Ethel finally returned safely to Jersey where she lived quietly until her death in 1966.
Using photographs, journals and postcards from the family archive, key periods of Ethel’s life are depicted in a series of large panels, framed in a large wooden Edwardian-style room divider. I have used screen-printing techniques, fusing, flame-working and glass collage to create an architectural sculpture, that also references the Edwardian pastime of decorating room screens with embossed ‘scraps’ (a form of decoupage).
The Degree Show previews to an invited audience at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland, on Friday 6th June and is open to the public for two weeks, from 7th to 15th June. Admission is free.