The Making Of The Crystal WAR Flowers

Crystal artist Mark Raynes Roberts, designing the WAR Flowers Crystal Collection in his studio.

Crystal artist Mark Raynes Roberts, designing the WAR Flowers Crystal Collection in his studio.

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 collection.

Mark Raynes Roberts process of designing and hand-engraving of the WAR Flowers Collection.

Mark Raynes Roberts process of designing and hand-engraving of the WAR Flowers 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.

Solitude - WAR Flowers Collection, Mark Raynes Roberts. Dimensions: 91/2″h x 12″w x 11/2″d

Solitude - WAR Flowers Collection, Mark Raynes Roberts. Dimensions: 91/2″h x 12″w x 11/2″d

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.

 
Healing – WAR Flowers Crystal Collection, Mark Raynes Roberts Dimensions: 143/4″h x 103/4″w x 3″d

Healing – WAR Flowers Crystal Collection, Mark Raynes Roberts Dimensions: 143/4″h x 103/4″w x 3″d

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 68,000 Canadian’s 
who died in WW1.

 
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Quick Facts

  • War Flowers will present the letters of Lieutenant-Colonel George Stephen Cantlie and highlight the pressed flowers found in his correspondence by linking them to 10 people - soldiers or Canadian citizens who played a key role in Canada’s contribution to the First World War.

  • It will include crystal art, sound and light effects, as well as fragrances associated with the 10 flowers and people.

  • The WAR Flowers exhibition tour travels to Reford Gardens, Grand-Métis, (June to Sept 2017) the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, (Oct 22 2017 - Jan 7, 2018) Campbell House Museum, Toronto, (Jan 24 - Mar 25, 2018) the Visitor Education Centre, Vimy, France, (April - Sept 2018) Chateau Ramezsay Museum, Montreal, (Dec 2018 - Jan 2020) and to the Borealis Gallery, Legislature Assembly of Alberta. (Spring 2020)

For more information on exhibition details please visit: www.warflowers.ca 

andrew waller