How did the project begin and what is it's significance to the Ludlow community?
The project came about following a conversation with Linda Monteith who contacted me on behalf of the Ludlow Youth Partnership. They wanted to engage the children in a project to commemorate the centenary of the end of WW I and wondered if we could help. We loved the idea and agreed to be involved immediately, then someone suggested 'ceramic poppies’ and that was it, the idea was planted and really started to grow.
The ceramic poppies are a wonderful idea, can you describe the process?
The first task was how were we going to make these poppies, it wasn’t something we’d done before. I have one of the popular Tower of London poppies at home and one morning whilst washing up, inspiration hit. So into the Studio I came and set about creating our own template, and our very first poppy. It worked! This was great as we knew then we had a simple system that everyone could follow and that could be transported to different groups that couldn’t reach the Studio easily. When Border Engineering showed us how the poppies could be mounted on metal stalks we really knew we were onto something great.
Each poppy uses two identical templates which are cut from rolled out clay and stuck together using slip. Once stuck the fun begins, as each petal is pulled upright and, using more slip, petals are joined together to create the flower.
Using this process has been fascinating to watch as we’ve told people to ‘visualise their flower’, leaving the design entirely up to them as a result every single poppy is unique. It’s amazing.
Each poppy takes around 20 minutes to make, depending on the level of confidence of the maker. It's a simple process and can be recreated at home. The trick to remember is when you’re joining the two templates together, agitate the clay a little, to help create a bit more grip and use lots and lots of slip.
Many of the poppies you see were made by children in Ludlow and they’ve been great, really throwing themselves into the project at full speed and creating some fantastic poppies.
How are you working with other community groups and schools?
This project has allowed us to work with many different people throughout the community, most of whom didn’t know the studio even existed. First, we ensured we knew the correct number of soldiers who lost their lives and thanks to the ladies from Poyners, Shaun Ward, Clive Richardson, and Jim Smithers we could confirm that there were 143 in total.
As well as running workshops outside the studio for the Scouts, the Youth Partnership Officers, Ludlow Junior Youth Club and a children’s activity afternoon at the Rockspring Centre, we’ve welcomed the 1st and 2nd Ludlow Guides, Marie’s Craft Group, adults with disabilities from Vision Homes and lots of individuals from the local community into the Studio who all wanted to make poppies. It’s been great to meet everyone and receive so much enthusiasm and positivity for the project.
But the ceramic poppies are just the start of the project celebrating the Centenary, Loudwater leads the Knit and Natter group, which wanted to do something for the Library. The group is knitting and crocheting 286 poppies and they look amazing.
We were thrilled when the Lottery gave us funding as this meant we could do even more. We went back to the local schools to see if they would be interested in creating banners to hang in the Library and we are currently working with Ludlow School, St. Laurence’s and Ludlow Juniors. In addition, our sewing bee ladies, who meet at the studio once a fortnight, came up with the idea of a fallen leaf project, creating a variety of different leaves, and includes leaves embroidered with the names of every soldier who lost their life. We’re really looking forward to pulling the Library display together.
What’s the timescale for the project and where can we find the displays?
The project will run just over four months. The ceramic poppies arrived at St. Laurence’s on 2 July where they will then stay until 2 August when they will then move to the Library to join the rest of the display and will be on show until 23 October. We will hold a small ceremony then with everyone who was involved in the project. The poppies will return to St. Laurence’s in a process led by the children and with a civic reception. The poppies will line the Remembrance Day procession route into the church.
What are the plans for the poppies after the displays?
We want the poppies to do as much good as possible, so we will sell them to raise funds the Royal British Legion which will help the families of our local forces. We hope to sell every single one in order to raise as much money as possible.
If anyone is interested in buying a poppy call us at the studio (01584) 877272 or they are available on eBay under “Ludlow Commemorative Poppy". Just remember poppies are not distributed until after 13 November, when we will have given them all a once over and polish.
And a final word from Nikki:
"We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in the project. Your enthusiasm and commitment to the project has been fantastic and we really couldn’t have done it without you. But we must give a special mention to Rob and the team at Border Engineering, who kindly donated all the metal poppy stalks to the project. Without them we would have had a lot of poppies sitting on the ground, thank you for all your help and assistance in making the poppies look so beautiful."