Making art in hell

Craft & Design
Making art in hell

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I’d share my interest in a strange but wonderful type of art production known as trench art. I’ve always been fascinated by military history, especially WWI trench warfare. What soldiers had to endure during “The Great War” is beyond comprehension. But it is a testament to the human spirit, the will to survive, and the desire to create beauty, that even while “eye deep in hell” (to steal a phrase and a book title about that conflict), artists and makers were busy in the trenches, taking the trash and spent bits of warfare and making inspiring and functional objects from it.

Here are just a few objects from Jane A. Kimball’s wonderful book, Trench Art: An Illustrated History, and website Trench Art of the Great War And Related Souvenirs.


Submarine model made from rifle bullets, scrap brass, and twisted copper wire.


Three lighters made from (L to R) scrap brass, a belt buckle, and a bullet cartridge.


Dinner gong made from German 21cm howitzer and 77mm shell casing.


Ink well made from scrap brass, copper, and tin.

Trench Art of the Great War And Related Souvenirs


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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