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Divided Labour: The Unsung Crafts of Ceramic Industrialisation

BROWNSWORD, Neil (2014) Divided Labour: The Unsung Crafts of Ceramic Industrialisation. [Show/Exhibition]

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Abstract or description

As one of five artists funded by Arts Council England to ‘develop new audiences for museums through contemporary art’, Brownsword was invited as artist/curator by Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG) in 2011. As part of the new museum’s redevelopment (open 1 April 2014), this involved the reinterpretation and redisplay their nationally recognised Shropshire ceramics collection.

His response resulted in six taxonomies of that traced the histories of ceramic production in Shropshire with themes that explored- Ceramics the Raw Materials; Shropshire Ceramics - Origins; Moulds - Tools of Mass Production; Caughley porcelain 1775 - 1799; Coalport 1795-1926; Architectural Ceramics and Art Pottery. Nine artist interventions intersected these displays, comprising of reverse engineered china flowers - exposing nuances of making; redundant tools charged with the evidence of action; material assemblages made from clays local and coal regional to Shropshire; Ceramic archaeology exposing sophistications of craft knowledge through firing and making. A taxonomy of obscure tools and objects salvaged from contemporary sites of production that had recently closed - 'Relic', complimented a dual film installation made in collaboration with film-maker Johnny Magee (30 mins 40secs looped). The films non-linear visual narrative juxtaposes the raw materiality of industrial processing with fine dexterity within contemporary production evident in traditional craft practices. Many of these skills are no longer practiced and were re-enacted for the film.

The methodology for Divided Labour involved extensive research into:
Progressive museological strategies and the broader context of artistic intervention in the contemporary museum displays e.g. MAK Vienna.

Museum archives including geological collections, pattern books, collection artefacts and historic documents, including Wedgwood Museum, Ironbridge Gorge Museums, Shrewsbury Museum Darwin Country, Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Gladstone Pottery Museum and the V&A.

Exploring the history of ceramic production in Shropshire; ceramic industrialisation; porcelain and its influence/imitation in Britain via material technologies; associated ‘ceramic geologies’; industrial archaeology/production by products – saggars, tools, firing technologies.

Tacit and material knowledge; regional clays and their materiality; filmed re-enactments of skill; oral testimony; industrial production methods - model making, mould making, casting, flower making, placing, glazing, decoration – painted, printed, gilded; museum prop making and presentation.

Brownsword was fully responsible for the curation, redisplay design, interpretive texts, artistic response and the physical project install. Divided Labour is located within the heart of the new museum which has attracted over 400,000 visitors since its opening. Brownsword has also disseminated research that underpins this commission via numerous public talks and symposia.

Item Type: Show/Exhibition
Additional Information: Selected for his ‘unique combination of skills and expertise on industrial ceramic history’, Brownsword’s series of interventions intersected formal chronologies of Shropshire ceramic production from the Bronze age to the 20th C. His interdisciplinary approach merged traditional taxonomies, innovatively connecting geological collections to the raw materials instrumental to the histories regional ceramic production. Installed in their various raw, reconfigured and fired states, these provided new insights into the mineral rich landscapes of Shropshire, and their relationship to industrial ceramic heritage. Set in the context of recent globalisation where traditional industry has outsourced much of its skilled labour overseas, Brownsword’s core response was to re-connect overlooked industrial craft practices back to SMAG’s ceramics collection. A two-screen film-loop made in collaboration with artist Johnny Magee re-animated nuances of workmanship evident in his curated taxonomies of objects and industrial tools. Using a key exhibit from its Coalbrookdale collection Brownsword choreographed a reverse engineering of its production, yielding a poetic deconstruction of ‘know how’ and offering new insights into its constituent materiality, via the forms and aesthetics of raw mineral processing. These juxtaposing visual narratives offered innovative entry points to further understanding traditional ceramic manufacture via elucidations through both technology and ingenuity within manual dexterity.
Faculty: School of Creative Arts and Engineering > Art and Design
Event Title: Divided Labour – The Unsung Crafts of Ceramic Industrialisation
Event Location: The New Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, The Music Hall, Market St, Shrewsbury SY1 1LG
Event Dates: April 2014 - present
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2019 11:00
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2019 11:00
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/5655

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