Very occasionally I get an unusual commission to do and the Apache helicopter paper cut commission was one of those. It's only a small piece - a little under A4. I have only seen an Apache fly once and that was when I was down to see my father in Winterslow near Salisbury. I was driving back home, past Wallop and there it was, silhouetted against the blue sky. It must have been on a training flight - it was very low and just hovering! An amazing sight. I was so excited to see it so close. My inner 13 year old tomboy came straight to the surface in the same way it does when I see the super snazzy cars on Top Gear.
But it made me face a moral dilemma......
Making the paper cut was more complex than I expected. Not the design - I had a fairly clear idea of the composition and the feel of the piece - a dominant black silhouette shape with an intimation only of the landscape and the sky. That wasn't the difficulty. As I was cutting one fiddly shapes it struck me hard that these were the missile/bomb holders. I had turned them into decorative shapes. It made me think - what am I doing here? Why am I making this cut - glorifying an object of war? Did cutting the piece and NOT thinking about what is an essentially emotive image make me negate any moral question of whether I should make the piece or not? I thought about it for days. Asked friends and family about what they thought and thought about where the commission had come from -a friend whose husband is an Apache helicopter pilot instructor.
After much pondering I did manage to partially resolve the issue. The Apache is used defensively as well. It's an object that serves this country and its flown by people that I hold in deep respect for their ability, intelligence and professionalism and without these people in the armed forces - where would we be? They actually signed on the dotted line to serve... and that's brave.
So the conclusion? the Apache helicopter cut is a celebration, a symbol for the armed services and not a celebration of the machine for its military hard wear and capabilities for conflict and killing. It's my way of saying I respect you and thank you for doing the job that you do. My way of serving in a tiny, tiny way.