Johnson Tiles and Potclays Help the Tower of London Poppies Flow

Stoke -on-Trent firms Johnson Tiles and Potclays have helped to ensure the Tower of London moat was flowing with poppies after making thousands of the ceramic flowers.

Johnson Tiles were approached by project artist Paul Cummins to help meet the target of 888,246 poppies, with each flower representing a person who died in the war.

Clay, materials and equipment supplied by Stoke-on-Trent family business Potclays have been used to create the ceramic poppies to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War to fill the dry moat at the Tower of London. The installation, named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, was officially opened on August 5 – 100 years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War.

Potclays have worked alongside Paul since May 2013 and in this time have supplied 497,000kgs of clay. In addition they have also supplied a 100 cubic foot state-of-the-art L&L bell-lift kiln, a fleet of North Star slabrollers as well as a range of raw materials to Paul Cummins’ project.

Meanwhile, a team of specialist ceramic artists worked at Johnsons to make and decorate every poppy by hand.

The Tower of London moat installation, which was officially unveiled by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the summer, has since been filling up as the flowers are made, with volunteers planting each one. The final poppy was ‘planted’ on Armistice Day to mark the end of the conflict.

Harry Foster, Specialist Products Manager at Johnson Tiles, said: “We were very honoured to be asked to contribute to this very poignant project. Each and every poppy made is unique, every worker creates each poppy differently with complete individuality, which is wonderful because of what each poppy represents.

“We managed to set everything up in a matter of weeks – we have literally installed a medium-sized traditional pottery studio in our factory – but we have the skillset and as a company we were able to invest in everything needed to make it happen. We’ve got a great team here at Johnson Tiles, with everybody working hard to make this a success.”

Potclays Director, James Otter, said: “We have worked closely with Paul over the past 18 months to identify the correct glazing options and explored various clays to ensure that it offered the right properties for the poppies. Paul is a long-time customer of ours. He is a ceramicist who has created a number of installations involving flowers in the past. He asked us to supply him with the raw materials and advise him on the kilns involved which have to cope with the extraordinary demand. As well as being an interesting and historic project, the installation was on a massive scale and all of the poppies were made in a 12 month time frame the first being fired in Derby back in November 2013. When Paul’s core team in Derby needed assistance to reach the target back in July 2014 we recommended that he contact Whichford Pottery and Johnson Tiles whom we had previously worked alongside at the British Ceramics Biennial.”


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