Artist profile: Paul Cummins

Chesterfield born artist Paul Cummins is well known for his work producing ceramic flowers for landscape art installations.  Starting out at Chesterfield College Cummins went on to be a maker of architectural models, leading to studying ceramics at the University of Derby’s College of Arts.

In recent years, Paul has been commissioned to create large-scale installations for the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace, amongst many more. Cummins suffers from colour associated dyslexia and was one of the artists selected by the UK Arts Councils, British Council and London 2012 Cultural Olympiad to produce work for ‘Unlimited’ a programme designed to celebrate the work of disabled artists in the run up to and during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Cummins is perhaps most well known for his work with theatre designer Thomas Piper in creating ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ where poppies engulfed the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. The concept was inspired by a line in the will of a Derbyshire man who signed up in the earliest days of the war and died in Flanders, knowing that everyone around him was dead and he was surrounded by blood, the man wrote ‘The Blood Swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread’, from this came the idea of filling the Tower’s famous moat was with 888,246 ceramic poppies.  Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the conflict.  Encircling the iconic London landmark, the poppies not only created a spectacular display but also a location for personal reflection, the scale of which was intended to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary.

The mammoth task of creating the poppies was led by Cummins who set up a production line working 23 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that all the poppies were ready in time for the final installation on Armistice Day 2014. He continued to lead the project despite loosing one finger and seriously injuring two more in a accident with the machines used to help produce the poppies.

Cummins has recently been awarded an MBE for services to art and First World War commemorations, recognising his work in creating the immensely popular installation, the poppies from which have been sold off raising over £10 million for military charities. He has recently announced that his next project will be producing hundreds of thousands of tulips. 

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