Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Poppies: Weeping Window and Wave

The day dawned bright and clear - a good day for visiting the Poppies: Weeping Window (and Wave) installation at Woodhorn Museum in Ashington just half an hour from our home. It closes on November 1st and I didn't want to miss it.

Weeping Window and Wave are from the installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins, Artist and Tom Piper, Designer and part of the 14-18-NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions.

Weeping Window is a cascade  is made up of 5200 individual ceramic poppies cascading 55 feet from the winding wheel of the No 1 Heapstead (built in 1897) to the ground below. ‘The Heapstead is an immediately recognisable symbol of the industrial heritage of the region and provides a dramatic new backdrop and context to the sculpture’ (source and reference - exhibition leaflet). Wave is a sweeping arch of bright red poppy heads suspended on towering stalks on the ground below.

The two sculptures mark the centenary of the outbreak of war and are now touring the country as part of the 14-18-NOW programme designed to prompt a new, nationwide dialogue around the legacy of the First World War. The original installation was considered temporary but have now been secured for posterity and will be displayed in the IWM North and IWM London in autumn 2018, after being on view at selected locations throughout the United Kingdom.

Originally I tried to buy a poppy when they were available prior to the main exhibition at the Tower of London in 2014  but I was too late. I did get to see the full installation there and it was terrific. Originally, these two sculptures were surrounded or came to be surrounded by a vast field of ceramic poppies, each one planted in memory of a British and Colonial soldier lost during the First World War. I was one of over 5 million visitors to the installation! Today I was able to be considerably closer to the poppies.
The original Weeping Window at the Tower of London

Of of the volunteer guides gave is that info and explained each of them had been allowed to plant a poppy. He offered us a pound of we could guess which one!

Woodhorn Colliery was a working mine during the two world wars and right up to the 80s. It played a major part in the war effort both for coal production and for supplying skilled miners for the front, many of whom lost their lives. A lot of it was demolished after closure. The rest has become a museum and there is a new visitor centre.

Parts of the colliery's heritage

The architectural roof of the visitor centre

My husband and I both had grandfathers who were miners in different parts of Scotland. I didn't know my grandfather who left the pits in Lanarkshire because of conditions there, I think, to move to the steel industry, so I don't know what role he played. He died of oesophageal cancer in 1961, I believe - I remember the policeman who came to our door to tell us - no phones in those days! He was born in 1882. He didn't want his son to go down the pits. Neither the mines not the steel industry survive.
David's grandfather, whom I did know, was a shot firer and shift manager in the mines of Ayrshire. On one occasion he was seriously injured and off work for several months after rescuing some miners from a runaway and derailed cart. No sick pay of course - and when he returned he was demoted for not stopping the other miners who were riding illegally.

It was a hard life and this museum showed what it was like in this area. Unfortunately, all too similar and the mines have disappeared here too (and like my home area so has shipbuilding, steel working and most heavy industry).

I'm not going into the politics of the industry. I'm sorry if you’re disappointed about that but this could be a whole treatise on its own. We do have thoughts and today remembered quite a few issues directly affecting our families.

I still hope to visit the part of the exhibition showing at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which finishes in January. That has a broader sculptural appeal.

I believe David may have bought me a scarf and pendant for my Christmas from the museum shop today. These have a poppy design. Obviously I can't show them.

This post hasn't been about sewing but somehow I thought it was relevant and also made me think about sewing - perhaps some of the stories of the miners' families encouraged that. I also remembered the quilts my grandmother made.

I have some wool jersey with a floral motif bought in London's Goldhawk Road and I'm trying to decide between using that and the lovely jacquard I bought last week in Dewsbury. With that, I had considered perhaps a cardigan and skirt if there was enough but David likes the idea of a dress better. The fabric is more or less two sided and he suggested a panelled dress using the darker side at the sides. What do you think?

I still haven't decided whether it's worth visiting Abakhan in Preston or Bombay Fabrics in Bradford, though I think I've decided against Bradford. I'm calling in for lunch on the way down to Clitheroe with a friend who lives inn the Lake District - a longer journey but a less congested and road-worked road and I see my friend. Do you think a trip from there might be worthwhile? Is Abakhan in Preston worth visiting?? My route passes fairly near. I'd really appreciate your advice! I think I've been to a fabric shop, not Abakhan though, in Preston previously and thought it was good, with a helpful proprietor, but wouldn't want to go back there on this occasion.


  1. The poppy installation is so impressive. I can see how it's provoking thoughts on a lot of subjects. The life of your grandfathers was tough. My grandfather worked in the harbour of Rotterdam, long hours, dangerous job. They could never imagine the kind of life we and our children are leading!
    Considering the jacquard I really like the thought of a dress. Maybe a sheath dress with 3/4 sleeves? I'm not sure about using both sides of the fabric. I made a jacquard dress last year and both sides had a different shine. I chose to use the right side only, it just looked better and less busy.

    1. Yes, you're absolutely right, our lives are so different to anything our grandparents could possibly envisage. My generational gaps are very long so perhaps even more so than in some families.
      Thanks for your thoughts about the jacquard - I need to look at it very closely but am likely to take your advice.
      I bought the Knipmode dress today so I need to think about playing around with that.

  2. Amazing sight and very moving Anne. I don't think you will like Abakhan - it is pretty low grade stuff. Why are you going to Clitheroe? It's where my Mum lives! Is it to play golf?

    1. I'm going on a bridge long weekend to Stirk House in Gisburn near Clitheroe. No golf but perhaps a bit of walking and a bit of swimming. I went last year too - we visited Clitheroe. David doesn't play bridge so won't be with me.
      Thanks for your advice about Abakhan - my friend has been called away and so I probably won't visit Preston now but go down the A1 instead. Harrogate is probably still on the cards, though.

  3. Harrogate has a shop called Fine Fabrics, I have never been but Yorkshire Lass who lives in Harrogate speaks highly of it. There is also a shop called The Remnant House in Harrogate where I have been, a bit cheaper but fairly mixed.

    If you are passing on your routes at some point I do really like Fabrix in Lancaster a lot more than Abakhan in Preston. I have bought OK stuff in there but its not the same quality as Fabrix.

    1. Thank you. I'll need to look at the map for Lancaster! I'll let you knew how I get on

    2. I've decided to miss Lancaster and the M6 Ellie in general this time but thanks for the recommendation for next time I'm passing. I will try it your Harrogate recommendations.

    3. I've decided to miss Lancaster and the M6 Ellie in general this time but thanks for the recommendation for next time I'm passing. I will try it your Harrogate recommendations.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...