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Re-Apprenticed: Observation. Exhibited in - British Ceramics Biennial (2015), Stoke-on-Trent

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2015) Re-Apprenticed: Observation. Exhibited in - British Ceramics Biennial (2015), Stoke-on-Trent. [Artefact]

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Abstract or description

Dissemination context:
Re-apprenticed: Observation assembled three groups of work from early phase of Brownsword’s research which provided insights into the tacit knowledge of a china painter (looped film projection of enamel preparation, 14.44 mins), china flower maker (taxonomies of component parts that constitute every flower the artisan knew how to make – dimensions variable) and the ‘lost’ material languages associated with copper plate engraving (glue bat printing, fitting-up, apprentice plates). All are deconstructed or arrested in various transitional states to elucidate procedural and material knowledge.

British Ceramics Biennial 2015, had 39,225 visits.

Item Type: Artefact
Additional Information: Re-Apprenticed examines the complexities of craft and material knowledge retained by a senior generation of ex-artisans from North Staffordshire’s ceramic industry. Deemed outmoded or economically unviable for contemporary ceramic manufacture, there currently exists no apprenticeship system to secure the effective transfer of these skills for the future. The endangered practices of the engraver, flower maker and china painter were the focus of Re-apprenticed, whereby Brownsword archived the transmission and acquisition of knowledge via a direct apprenticeship to these artisans. Through methodologies that intersect experimental archaeology, ethnography and artistic practice, Brownsword’s artistic mediation of what was an intergenerational practice, offered unique insights into ‘hidden’ actions that accrue to meet the demands of each craft. Nuances of embodied knowledge, procedural memory and material preparation, were deconstructed into a range of object and filmic works. Deftness of touch, tool use, pace, timing and repetitive action were made tangible, enabling rare access to each craftsperson’s internalized set of rules and operations. By restaging former artisanal practices, Brownsword also opened up important oral testimony to offer insights into recent transitions in the ceramic industry. These have influenced the critical perspectives of prominent scholars, such as Prof. Ezra Shales writing about marginalised industrial skill in his publication, The Shape of Craft (2018). http://www.reaktionbooks.co.uk/display.asp?ISB=9781780238227 Exhibition Text: ‘For centuries the transmission of manual dexterity in North Staffordshire’s ceramic industry has remained an intergenerational practice. However, contraction of this sector over the last three decades has led to a significant gap in this tradition. As older tiers of highly specialised labour gradually diminish, there remain few apprenticeships to secure the effective transfer of this knowledge for the future. Rapid advances in design and manufacturing technologies have without doubt revolutionized production, but they have also led to the simplification and substitution of the people embodied skills once needed to sustain product leadership. Many high-end skills that were once the flagship of renowned manufactories are nowadays deemed as outmoded or economically unviable to accommodate rapid shifts in fashion and consumer buying trends. Several of these endangered practices remain the focus of Re-apprenticed, a yearlong project that sets out to examine and artistically reactivate the skills of a group of former industry employees. To gain an intimate insight into the tacit knowledge of the china painter, copper plate engraver and china flower maker, Brownsword adopts an anthropological approach, which involves his direct apprenticeship to these artisans*. Through this immersed participation, the transmission of skill from expert to novice continues to be mapped through various phases that echo the traditional apprenticeship structure – observation, imitation and repetitive practice, and experimentation. The body of work represented here offers an early preview into the first phase of the project – Observation, which attempts to illuminate the ‘hidden’ sequence of actions that accrue to meet the demands of each skill base. Deconstructing this information has enabled rare access to each craftsperson’s internalized set of rules and operations. The subtle nuances of preparation and correct use of tools, material and haptic knowledge, pace and timing, and the rhythmical and repetitive movements attuned to fulfill specific tasks have been attentively observed and made tangible through appropriated forms. The core of the project questions the value and relevance of intangible cultural heritage in dire need for greater recognition and protection - not from the point of nostalgia but as a means of preserving a sense of identity and continuity to be shared and passed on to future generations'. * Flower maker Rita Floyd, china painter Anthony Challiner and copper plate engraver Paul Holdway are amongst a last generation of master practitioners in their respective fields employed to pass on their craft knowledge.
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Event Location: Spode Works, Elenora St, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1QQ
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2019 13:56
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2019 13:56
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/5326

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