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Object: Apron

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Title Apron
Production Hansen, Fred (sewer (textile worker)), 1917-1918, Walton-on-Thames
Medium summary Embroidered silk satin apron
Materials silk
Classification aprons
Technique embroidering, sewing
Dimensions Overall: 680mm (Height) x 940mm (Length)
Credit line Gift of Eileen Tiller, 2008
Registration number GH016082

Fred Hansen (1880-1953) made and embroidered this apron while recuperating from tuberculosis caught on the Western Front in 1917 during World War I.

Craft in convalescence
Hansen served with the New Zealand Engineer Tunnelling Company at Arras, France. He was invalided to England in mid-1917 with tuberculosis. Hansen was a carpenter before the war and, while recuperating in Oatlands Hospital (formerly Oatlands Park Hotel) in Walton-on-Thames, he made temporary wooden legs for wounded soldiers. He also learned to do embroidery before his return to New Zealand, where he continued to embroider many articles for his home.

Royal interest
He entered the apron in a display of soldiers' work while in hospital. On a visit from Queen Mary, she saw the apron on display and asked to buy it. However, Hansen had promised the apron to his mother, and held to his promise despite the Royal interest. The apron still retains Hansen's handwritten paper label from the display.

Significance
This embroidered apron is a moving example of occupational therapy undertaken by a man invalided during World War I. Its beautiful materials and form are in stark contrast to the brutal realities of war. Generally, embroidering aprons was the province of women, who often applied fine craft to domestic objects, but it was sometimes used as a rehabilitation tool for the war injured.

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