• Nadine Cameron's sketch for 'Protective Amulet', 2013
  • RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) Perspex Sweetheart Brooch, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)
  • Child’s WWII identification tag, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)
  • Child’s WWII identification tag, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)
  • Child’s WWII identification tag, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)

Nadine Cameron and MacArthur Museum

In this feature, a selection of guest contributors respond to an image or material artefact (typically a garment or accessory), that represents Queensland fashion. Each item is specifically chosen by The Fashion Archives in collaboration with collections and with a particular contemporary practitioner in mind. As a result, each Remember of Revive is a bespoke response and can take many formats and styles.

The Fashion Archives invited Nadine Cameron, a contemporary jeweller and artist, to respond to a collection of Queensland World War II memorabilia from the MacArthur Museum. Nadine was particularly drawn to the significance of the children’s nametags and sweetheart brooches made by or for soldiers at war using a range of materials. Such items are designed to be worn close to the body, symbolising protection during periods of great turmoil and tragedy.

Karen Nunan from the MacArthur Museum elaborates on the necessity of nametags for children during WWII:

“Parents were told to be sure their children had identification on them in case of an air raid. The Government Printing Office distributed round disks which the parents could then have engraved with the child’s name, address and religion.  Some parents made their own. Others had proper jewellery engraved with the child’s name.”

In response to these items, Nadine has written a short piece (below) reflecting on the powerful metaphorical associations of this jewellery and identifying tags, as well as a sketch for a jewellery design, ‘Protective Amulet’, inspired by the objects (above).

These Wings by Nadine Cameron

As I perused the collection of objects presented to me from the archives of the MacArthur Museum the pieces that spoke to me were a small collection of Brisbane children’s identification tags from WWII and a piece of WWII RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) sweetheart jewellery.

In Brisbane in WWII it was requested that parents ensured their children wore an identification tag at all times. The tags were not issued by any governing body so parents had to create their own. The examples in the museum range from one made of bone with the child’s details handwritten on it, to a silver bracelet professionally made and engraved. However humble or elaborate the meaning was the same.

But what of these name tags? They are not merely a perfunctory object, they are a dedication of love. As well as a functional identifier, they are a love token, a subconscious protective amulet, made by parents for their children. It could be suggested that it was somehow a parent’s way to stay with their child when they were not physically with them.

The second piece, a sweetheart brooch, was made utilising a real issue RAAF pin in the form of an Australian eagle. It was then reinterpreted and set in Perspex for or by perhaps either his/her lover or mother or sister.

Influenced by this selection of objects, I will appropriate and combine the intrinsic qualities of the sweetheart brooch with the name tags of the children to create a love token and an amulet for my own children.

The work will involve taking influence from the wings of the RAAF Australian eagle symbol to create a pair of stylised wings that form a protective embrace around a faceted garnet heart, symbolic of my children’s hearts. The wings, made from silver, repeat and layer this heart shape, mimicking the double heart of the WWII sweetheart brooch. The intrinsic and metaphysical properties of the garnet have long been held to be protective to the wearer and the ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed garnets illuminated the night and were often worn as a talisman to ward off evil. Perhaps the symbolic ideas of freedom, strength and protection, as well as a loving embrace, fuel the appropriation of the wings as a visual reminder of these concepts.

The materials envisioned for the proposed amulet/love token are not overly precious, but like the WWII objects referenced in this project it is the love and care of making and the meaning, not the actual worth of the materials that imbues these objects with a value beyond a material one.

Dedicated to my Grandmother, RAAF, WWII; Grandfather, RAN, WWII; Father, Vietnam; my cousin, ADF helicopter pilot just returned from 3rd service in Afghanistan and my husband’s great uncle, WWII bomber pilot, who passed into a cloud over PNG in 1943 and never reappeared.

Nadine Cameron, 2013.

Nadine Cameron works on her Remember or Revive design, 2013
Nadine Cameron works on her Remember or Revive design, 2013The Fashion Archives
Nadine Cameron's sketch for 'Protective Amulet', 2013
Nadine Cameron's sketch for 'Protective Amulet', 2013The Fashion Archives
Propellor and Wings Pin, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)
Propellor and Wings Pin, ca. 1939-1945, (MacArthur Museum Collection)The Fashion Archives

Published in , on September 10, 2013.