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Poppies by the Hundreds of Thousands

A moat surrounding the Tower of London stands transformed today as a field of ceramic red poppies. Entitled ‘Blood Swept Land and Seas of Red,’ this installation is the work of ceramist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper. Today, the final poppy will be added to complete the installation. It is estimated that to date, 4,000,000 people have visited the artwork.

The installation is made up of 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies ranging from 15 cm to 1m in height. Each poppy is entirely unique and represents the life of one of the British or Commonwealth soldiers who died during the First World War.

The production process was undertaken in Derby by a team of 12 ceramic artists. At the insistence of Cummins, each poppy was not only handmade but also created using traditional ceramics techniques dating from the era of the First World War. To achieve the incredible number of poppies required via traditional techniques, the artists along with volunteers worked 23 hours a day and in three shifts a day to meet their target. Specialist Harry Foster and a team from Johnson Tiles were also brought in to help with the production process in order to ensure that enough poppies were made in time for November 11th.

Each poppy was purchased by a member of the public, with the proceeds going to six different charities, which provide services and support to veterans.

These poppies were planted in the moat by a total of 8,000 different volunteers. The first poppy was planted on August 11th and the last one today. Starting tomorrow, another team of 8,000 volunteers will begin to remove the poppies.

“The installation is transient, I found this poignant and reflective of human life, like those who lost their lives during World War One,” said Cummins. But due to its popularity, it was announced that this artwork will tour the UK until 2018.

Find out more about the installation here.