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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

“the most popular art installation as well as arguably the most effective expression of commemoration in British History”

– Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times 2014

The Journey

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in 2014, Paul conceived and created a truly memorable installation, which was housed at HM Tower of London between June and November. The installation was made up of 888,246 red ceramic poppies, one for each British and Commonwealth soldier that died during World War One, ‘planted’ in the Tower’s moat each day by 31,467 volunteers from across the world.

With 5 million visitors travelling to see the poppies, and over £9 million raised for six service charities through the sale of the flowers, the installation was called a global phenomenon.

Watching the making of the poppies here >

 

Below is the complete process Paul Cummins and his team embarked upon when working on Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, documented through the use of images, from its conception to completion. Please scroll, or use the scrollbar below to navigate through the images.

Paul Cummins' plans for Poppy Installation Project

Project outlines on the walls of Paul’s studio: The poem that Paul discovered in September 2012, which formed the inspiration behind Paul’s installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. This poem sits alongside initial design composites used when pitching the project to Historic Royal Palaces in August 2013.


Paul Cummins' Rolling Out Clay

Craftsmen in Paul’s studio rolling clay, so it could be moulded to create poppies.


Paul Cummins' Clay Sheets

Linens used for flattening drying in Paul’s studio.


Paul Cummins' Cutting Out Clay for Poppy Installation

Artist cutting clay to make ceramic poppies.


Paul Cummins' Cutting Out Clay for Poppy Installation

Artists working on moulding poppies in Paul’s studio.


Cut Clay Stencils for Paul Cummins' Ceramic Installation

Large poppy clay cut out, laid out to dry.


Cut Clay Stencils for Paul Cummins' Ceramic Installation

To create six petals, the team created a large poppy cut out and then a small poppy cut out, these were placed onto each other and then a hole was cut for the stem.


Shaping Clay for Paul Cummins' Poppy Installation

Once a hole was created for the stem, each poppy was hand-moulded by ceramic artists into an individual poppy.


Dried Poppies for Paul Cummins' Ceramic Installation

Paul and his team laying out hundreds of moulded poppies to dry.


Dried Poppies for Paul Cummins' Ceramic Installation

The finished moulds.


Moving Dried Poppies for Paul Cummins' Ceramic Installation

The poppies being taken to be glazed and fired.


Painted and Fired Ceramic Poppies for Paul Cummins' Installation

Glazed and fired poppies, waiting to be transported to London and ‘planted’ in the moat.


Yeoman Warder plants first poppy © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.

Yeoman Warder plants first poppy © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.


Yeoman Warder plants first poppy © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.

Yeoman Warder plants first poppy image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.


Yeoman Warder plants first poppy © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.

Workers installing Wave at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.


The base of Wave at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.

The base of Wave at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.


Poppy heads being attached to Wave at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.

Poppy heads being attached to Wave at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 17th July 2014.


Volunteer plants poppies at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 28th July 2014.

Volunteer plants poppies at HM Tower of London, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 28th July 2014.


Yeoman Warder walks through thousands of poppies, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 28th July 2014.

Yeoman Warder walks through thousands of poppies, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 28th July 2014.


The growing field of poppies at HM Tower of London, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.

The growing field of poppies at HM Tower of London, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.


Poppies from below, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.

Poppies from below, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.


Visitors to the Tower pass under the Wave, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.

Visitors to the Tower pass under the Wave, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.


Weeping Window flows from a window in the Tower, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.

Weeping Window flows from a window in the Tower, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.


Close up of Weeping Window at HM Tower of London; image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.

Close up of Weeping Window at HM Tower of London; image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 4th August 2014.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit the poppies with Prince Harry; image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 5th August 2014.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit the poppies with Prince Harry; image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 5th August 2014.


Local cadets visit to plant poppies, image © Charlotte Goodhart and Historic Royal Places, 23rd September 2014.

Local cadets visit to plant poppies, image © Charlotte Goodhart and Historic Royal Places, 23rd September 2014.


Poppies by night, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.

Poppies by night, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.


During the installation, every evening the Last Post was played at sunset and members of the Commonwealth forces who were killed in the First World War were nominated to have their name red out in Roll of Honour ceremony. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.

During the installation, every evening the Last Post was played at sunset and members of the Commonwealth forces who were killed in the First World War were nominated to have their name read out in Roll of Honour ceremony. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.


Roll of Honour, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.

Roll of Honour, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, September 2014.


Poppies in the morning, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 2nd September 2014.

Poppies in the morning, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 2nd September 2014.


War Horse visits the poppies at HM Tower of London, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 19th September 2014.

War Horse visits the poppies at HM Tower of London, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 19th September 2014.


War Horse amongst the poppies, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 19th September 2014.

War Horse amongst the poppies, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 19th September 2014.


Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip walk amongst the poppies, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 16th October 2014.

Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip walk amongst the poppies, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 16th October 2014.


Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip are presented a wreath of poppies gifted by Paul Cummins on their visit to the installation, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 16th October 2014.

Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Phillip are presented a wreath of poppies gifted by Paul Cummins on their visit to the installation, image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 16th October 2014.


Poppies from the Tower ramparts, 5th November 2014. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

Poppies from the Tower ramparts, 5th November 2014. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.


Crowds gathering to see the poppies as in the lead up to their final few weeks at HM Tower of London. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 5th November 2014.

Crowds gathering to see the poppies as in the lead up to their final few weeks at HM Tower of London. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces, 5th November 2014.


Poppies from The Marsh Building, 8th November 2014. Image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces.

Poppies from The Marsh Building, 8th November 2014. Image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces.


Crowds and poppies from The Marsh Building, 8th November 2014. Image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces.

Crowds and poppies from The Marsh Building, 8th November 2014. Image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces.


Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red from The View from The Shard, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 8th November 2014.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red from The View from The Shard, image © John Shevlin and Historic Royal Palaces, 8th November 2014.


The poppies surrounding the Tower on the 8th November 2014. Image taken from The View from The Shard © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

The poppies surrounding the Tower on the 8th November 2014. Image taken from The View from The Shard © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.


The final poppy planting ceremony, 11th November 2014. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

The final poppy planting ceremony, 11th November 2014. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.


Paul watches on as Berkshire cadet, Harry Hayes, 13, planted the 888,246th poppy at the Tower of London. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

Paul watches on as Berkshire cadet, Harry Hayes, 13, planted the 888,246th poppy at the Tower of London. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.


The Final poppy is ‘planted’ by Harry Hayes, 13. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

The Final poppy is ‘planted’ by Harry Hayes, 13. Image © Richard Lea Hair and Historic Royal Palaces.

Timeline