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Copyright Stephen Mulqueen 2010.
All rights reserved. Updated 2014


.303 Brass Cartridge Poppies with
NATO 5.56 Cartridge Belt © 2004



Poppies of War & Peace



World War 1 Centenary

Dear Stephen,
I am absolutely thrilled with the brass cartridge poppy you recently made for me. It is in memory of my grandfather Christopher Miller, who served on the Western Front 1916-1918. He died in 1942; 11 years before I was born so I never got to know him but my aunt always said we would have gotten on well as we were very alike. He left Mandeville for the Front in 1916 with his brother Robert, and I realise now how lucky it was that they both came home. It made a huge impression on me as a child sitting with (Great) Uncle Bob, as we watched a BBC WW1 TV programme in the 1960's, to see the tears flowing down his face as all those memories were brought back to him. We can't imagine the hell of it all but we can remember them. I'll wear my brooch proudly in memory of the years Chris gave to the war and also to the Home Guard (WWII), which he was serving when he died.

Many Thanks,
Mary Anne Miller
Head Technician Department of Botany University of Otago


The Sydney-based writer and curator Dr Grace Cochrane describes Stephen’s work as informed by the search for meaning and connection: “He carries out detailed research into his subjects and gains insights into the meanings of objects, their contexts and their significance to people, that reflect in the imaginative and skilled resolution of his artworks. He makes strong visual and poetic connections between art forms and between geographic and cultural locations”.

She adds: “His career record demonstrates an ability to both conceive of good ideas and carry them through successfully. His cartridge poppy work and related projects within the ANZAC/Commonwealth, North American and European context have immense potential to bring a number of countries and communities together through the shared memories of both the terrible experience of conflict and the continuing efforts to remember those who lost their lives. The poppy combined with a cartridge shell is a most strange and moving juxtaposition of object and meaning and, as he points out, perhaps both unifying and divisive as an emblem”.


When I first saw Stephen’s exquisite reworking of a brass cartridge shell into the form of an emblematic poppy I was reminded of the musician Buffy Sainte-Marie’s comment on Native Americans’ capacity to use the long bow as a musical instrument, that we would be in a much happier world when humanity learns to make music rather than war with weapons of mass destruction. In crafting these symbols of peace from the detritus left by the acts of war, Stephen’s brass poppies offer a transcendent link to the places of war. This reworking of the legacies of the battlefield waste left scattered on the fields of war, echoes not only the do-it-yourself craftsmanship of soldiers on the battlefields, but the civilian ingenuity that scavenged the materials that were hurled against them, their societies, their homes and their places-of-meaning, and reworked them into practical objects for everyday survival.

There is great significance in Stephen collecting and transforming brass cartridges from specific battlefield sites and to translate them into a representation of place-based meaning. It is in this specificity that his work pushes his audience towards the translation of the meaning of war, loss, absence and negation, into the language of community, presence and, ultimately, transcendence and coexistence.

Professor Richard Howitt
Department of Human Geography
Macquarie University
Sydney NSW.


'I cannot think of an image that has struck me as so appropriately commemorative as Stephen Mulqueen's brilliantly conceived poppy, fashioned from a cartridge case. It seems to me that only an artist deeply and emotionally immersed in the facts and the material survival of war could have produced an object which is so beautifully fashioned, a compelling memorial, and the affirmation of a persistent symbol at the same time. I was so immediately convinced of its aptness and historical resonance that when I recently wrote the libretto for an opera about the Wellington Regiment and its role at Gallipoli,with composer Ross Harris's stunningly dramatic score, we both chose 'Brass Poppies' as its title, and are indebted to Stephen for his allowing us to use it. An image of his work will be central to any advertising of the work. He has fashioned an emblem that brings art, and the long shadow of remembrance, into enduring alignment.'

Vincent O'Sullivan, Writer.

'There are all too few ways men really set about to beat 'swords into ploughshares' but here is one instance, in Stephen Mulqueen's conversion of brass bullet cases into poppies. My mother (in memory of her dad, my grandfather, who survived Gallipoli and Northern Europe in WW1) now owns this beautifully rendered sculptural piece and I was proud to give to her'.

Murray Webb

Clement G. Nicholls (my uncle and godfather) was killed by a German sniper at Urezzo near Florence Italy in 1944. My enduring memory of him was as a 7 year old, when in 1943 I observed him doing rifle practise on the family farm in Waipukurau. His death at the age of 38 occurred only a few months after his enlistment.  Before his death at Urezzo he received a drawing from me; a Spitfire shooting down a Messerschmitt. My brother and I found this drawing among our father’s possessions soon after his death in 1987, sent from Italy after Clement's death. I commissioned Stephen Mulqueen to engrave his name and dog-tag number as 'memory'  into the interior space of the brass cartridge poppy. I have been fortunate to have visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Urezzo, Tuscany; a very emotional experience.

Peter Nicholls


Ken Baker,
Brussel, Belgium.. writes.

On the 25th July 2011, there will be a ceremony in the village of Wiuwert near Leeuwarden in the Dutch province of Friesland in the North of the Holland, to commemorate the sacrifice of an air-crew under the leadership of New Zealand Pilot Officer Mervyn Sydney LUND (40979 RNZAF), who were downed and killed by a German night-fighter exactly seventy years previously on the 25th July 1941. The crew were returning from a night-raid on Emden in Germany, but like so many others, never made it back to their base. Amongst the turmoils of war and bureaucratic bungling on all sides, the whereabouts of the crash-site and the graves of the crew remained unknown until very recently. It was only as a result of the efforts over many years, of a dedicated group of researchers from the Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation in The Netherlands, that the crash position of the Wellington bomber R1397 at Klaeiterp and location of the remains and identity of the crew have been established.

Our cousin Robin, a niece of Mervyn LUND, will be representing the LUND family and proudly attending this ceremony along with the New Zealand Ambassador, the British Military Attaché, the Mayor of Littenseradiel and local dignitaries, representatives of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the RAF and the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the general public at the unveiling of a memorial plaque at the place of the crash of the Wellington. This ceremony will also be attended by family of the other crew members and others from our wider family in New Zealand

The air-crew is buried in a communal grave in Leeuwarden’s main cemetery with an inscription Four Airmen of the 1939-1945 War, Royal Air Force, 31st July 1941, Known unto God. The various authorities got the number of airmen wrong, the date wrong and affiliation wrong.

In one of those terrifying stories of war, Mervyn’s brother Clarence who was also a pilot, was killed in similar circumstances over North Germany almost exactly a year later in 1942.

Your poppy made from a brass cartridge manufactured in Auckland in 1941 and inscribed with Mervyn’s name and number, will be proudly worn by our cousin at the ceremony in Holland. Many thanks for creating this memento and we were extremely proud to have presented it to Robin.

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