I was thrilled and honoured to be involved with the installation of Poppies: Weeping Window at The Black Watch Castle and Museum. Staff from Perth Museum & Art Gallery, including myself and my colleague Amy, were invited to help install the ceramic poppies at Balhousie Castle alongside the team from 14-18 NOW and volunteers.
I first became aware of the poppies at the Tower of London in 2014 as photographs of them began to appear online. I was lucky enough to see them in person in October that year, about a month before the original installation was complete. They were incredible; a breathtaking, visually impactful and moving tribute to the loss and sacrifice of the First World War. To now have had the opportunity to be part of the project is incredible, and it has been fascinating to see the installation take shape and gain an understanding of what is involved in the exhibition.
When I arrived at Balhousie Castle last Friday the support structure for the sculpture was in place and the installation team from London had everything ready to go, so we got started straight away. Each ceramic poppy sits on a metal stem; two rubber washers are placed on the stem, followed by the poppy and an additional two washers to hold it in place. The upper part of the sculpture is made up of sections of interconnected twisting metal stems. We spent much of the first two days populating each section with poppies; the sections were then mounted onto the scaffolding structure and secured in place. Once all of the sections were in place we began planting poppies on straight stems into the ground.
It was amazing how quickly the sculpture came together. After the second day, those of us new to the process thought it looked nearly done! The process of planting the poppies in the ground takes more time and took most of the third and fourth day. The final day was spent “flower arranging”, in the words of the production manager. The installation is designed to look as though it is flowing from the turret window and spilling onto the ground. We took time to move the poppies around, adding in or removing as necessary to create an organic feel to the sculpture. The final tweaks were made by the designer, Tom Piper.
On the final day we were fortunate to be given a lift up in the cherry picker for a birds’ eye view of the installation. It was breath-taking! The poppies are incredible from every perspective.
I feel so lucky to have been involved in the installation at The Black Watch Castle and Museum. Each new location that hosts either Wave or Weeping Window adds new layers of meaning and significance to the artwork, from the venue’s own history and also from the personal histories and perspectives of all the new people who will come to view it. I hope everyone within travelling distance of Perth is able to visit over the next three months!
The window from which the poppies cascade looks into the Wavell Room in the Museum. This room is currently exhibiting the Last of the Tide exhibition; an exhibition showcasing 12 portraits of veterans of D-Day. This exhibition along with the unique perspective of the poppies from the turret room window can be viewed as part of the museum’s daily tours 11am and 1pm.
Rebecca Berger, Heritage Officer, Perth Museum & Art Gallery