We were commissioned to design and paint some wardrobe doors. Sounds simple enough. We had a fairly loose brief to create something in an Art Deco style. What we ended up with is something a little more Art Nouveau that is reversible and contains some elements specific to the client. The cornflower design in the middle is based on their family flower and the family motto of ‘Virtus, Vigor, Victoria’ is referenced in the the V’s emanating from the goblet the lady is carrying.
Painting and installing them brought some interesting challenges that were largely self inflicted but you live and learn. Well, we try to. There’s even a flash of bright pink painted on the inside of the doors that we couldn’t get a decent photo of but you’re going to have to trust me it’s there. Righto, what’s next?
After reading about the exploits of Major Robert Henry Cain I just knew that we had to create a piece featuring him. They don’t come much more swashbuckling than the good Major. He is the only Manx recipient (to date) of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, which was awarded for his brave actions during the Battle of Arnhem. I’m sure the history books can describe it much better than me but suffice it to say he loved to take out German armour with whatever weaponry was at hand and at the Battle of Arnhem alone personally destroyed six tanks and an unspecified number of self propelled field guns. As the wording for his VC states:
“On 20th September (1944) a Tiger tank approached the area held by his company and Major Cain went out alone to deal with it armed with a PIAT (anti-tank weapon). Taking up a position he held his fire until the tank was only 20 yards away when he opened up. The tank immediately halted and turned its guns on him, shooting away a corner of the house near where this officer was lying. Although wounded by machine gun bullets and falling masonry, Major Cain continued firing until he had scored several direct hits, immobilised the tank and supervised the bringing up of a 75 mm. howitzer which completely destroyed it. Only then would he consent to have his wounds dressed.
In the next morning this officer drove off three more tanks by the fearless use of his PIAT, on each occasion leaving cover and taking up position in open ground with complete disregard for his personal safety.
During the following days, Major Cain was everywhere where danger threatened, moving amongst his men and encouraging them by his fearless example to hold out. He refused rest and medical attention in spite of the fact that his hearing had been seriously impaired because of a perforated eardrum and he was suffering from multiple wounds.
On 25 September the enemy made a concerted attack on Major Cain’s position, using self-propelled guns, flame throwers and infantry. By this time the last PIAT had been put out of action and Major Cain was armed with only a light 2″ mortar. However, by a skilful use of this weapon and his daring leadership of the few men still under his command, he completely demoralized the enemy who, after an engagement lasting more than three hours, withdrew in disorder.”
Before the remains of his division withdrew and crossed the Rhine he took the time to shave then waited til all his men were across before he himself crossed on an old boat. Now, if that’s not a classic British stiff upper lip then I don’t know what is. To top it all off he was the only man to receive the VC at Arnhem who lived to tell the tale. To list more of his adventures would take far too long and I would suggest you check out his wikipedia page for more information and unlikely tales of derring-do. Now I just need to find something suitable to do with our little tribute…
I realise it’s a little late for Easter but it’s never too late for chocolate… We were asked if we could somehow paint some celebrity heads onto some huge (1kg) dark chocolate eggs. The eggs were for Thorntons and were to be auctioned off for the children’s charity Barnado’s. Other eggs were also be to be designed for the auction including one from fashion designer Henry Holland, celebrity tattooist Louis Molloy (who recreated two of the most popular designs available at his Manchester-based tattoo parlour – swallows and bluebirds) and patissier Eric Lanlard, cake-maker to the stars (who created an egg lavishly decorated with gold leaf and sugar crystal pieces).
The eggs were to remain edible so we had to work out exactly we were going to do this as we obviously couldn’t use our usual choice of paints. After hitting a specialist cake production shop (I didn’t even know that such places existed!) to pick up various edible inks, paints and bits & pieces we set to work. After many, many failed attempts (it was something of a sharp learning curve) we came up with what we thought was a foolproof plan. We would use rolled out marzipan to apply the stencil straight (as it was impossible to attach the stencil directly to the egg due to the shape of the egg) and then apply it to the egg along with some extra decoration. These were then dutifully sent off to be photographed and below is what we came up with:
Unfortunately the client then got back with the fact that they didn’t like them and could we possibly rework them so we were working directly onto the egg. D’oh! Back to the drawing board… With time running very short we got hold of some white eggs (so the black of the faces would work properly) and then had to paint the images directly on. Unfortunately trying to paint with chocolate just wasn’t working and we were running dangerously low of time and white chocolate eggs so we eventually had to resort to using brown acrylic paint (which obviously meant the eggs would not be edible) This whole process resulted in somewhat shoddier images (the Prince Harry one at the back is particularly so) but the client was happy with them once they’d been to the photographer:
The interweb seemed to like them too and before we knew it they were all over the place. If only we could replicate that kind of attention all the time…