KBzine: the original kitchen and bathroom industry e-news - since 2002
23rd May 2019
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You may recall my grumbles last week about the shortage of poppy sellers and I’m pleased to say I eventually managed to buy one. Sadly I wasn’t able to make it up to see the display at the Tower of London, but friends who did, tell me it was incredible. That’s partly down to the efforts of Tile Association member Johnson Tiles of Stoke-on-Trent, whose specialist team churned out some 8,000 individually made and decorated ceramic poppies every day, to ensure that the 888,246 target was reached.
The company’s specialist projects manager Harry Foster, says: “We were honoured to be asked to contribute. Each poppy is unique; every worker created each poppy differently with complete individuality, which is wonderful because of what each poppy represents.”
The labour intensive process involved traditional, skilled methods, beginning with clay processing to produce slabs from which flower templates, with two layers formed into the poppy shape. Poppies were cabinet dried for around six hours, which reduced the moisture content enough for kiln firing. The poppies were ‘biscuit fired’ then hand-dipped and refired to high temperature before being dispatched to project artist Paul Cummins’ studio.
Local veterans from the Normandy Veterans Association visited the factory to see the poppy making process, as did children from special educational school Abbey Hill who had a go at making their own poppies.
Joanna Dawidowska, who owns a ceramics business, helped lead the team of 12 ceramic makers. She says: “This has been a very emotional project for everyone involved, some of the makers here have relatives who died so for them it’s very special. It’s great to see so many people with different skill levels coming together for this, we’re all very passionate about it.”
One of these workers was Paul Turner, employed at Johnson Tiles 25 years ago, who returned to help with the project. He says: “I’ve worked in ceramics all my life, and it was great to return to work on the poppies and see it all coming together.”
I know the work will have been stressful at times but what a wonderful thing to be able to tell the grandchildren: “I made some of those poppies”!
14th November 2014