Five new creative collaborations revealed, as leading artists are paired with major UK manufacturers to create remarkable new work for National Festival of Making.
Now in its fifth year, ‘Art in Manufacturing’ is the competitive headline commissioning programme that places artists in residence with some of the UK’s leading manufacturers as part of the National Festival of Making. Conceived as a unique platform for artists to develop their practice and an opportunity to create a meaningful dialogue between artists and the industrial workforce, the commissioning programme explores the social and cultural fabric of place. Bold spectacle, social engagement and creative excellence are threads that run through the collaborations and the resulting contemporary artworks which will form a central part of the Festival programme.
Festival of Making Community Interest Company (CIC) has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 2017, with the Festival weekend attracting audiences of more than 30,000. In the most recent funding round from Arts Council England, the CIC was awarded National Portfolio Organisation status, recognising its contribution to the cultural regeneration of Blackburn and wider Lancashire, achieving an economic impact of approximately £1M annually and supporting the development of a strong, place-based cultural ecology.
Elena Jackson, Curator of the Art in Manufacturing Programme and Co-Director of the National Festival of Making, said:
“We’re incredibly proud to have welcomed each of the artists and manufacturers to this year’s National Festival of Making programme, our first as an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. Partnerships with our manufacturing stakeholders are integral to the unique nature of these artist residencies; 2023 sees a third residency with the exceptional design team at the Cardboard Box Company; a new relationship with Herbert Parkinson, a worker-owned John Lewis factory that celebrates its 70th Anniversary during the Festival of Making week; the return of Cookson & Clegg who are pioneering new ways to work on the production line; technical experts Panaz who are at a pivotal and exciting time for their expanding design portfolio and brand new partner SWS UK based in Lancaster who have welcomed an artist onto their garage door and roller shutter production line for the first time. 2023’s commissioned artists have hugely ambitious practices with individual focus on audience experience, access and imagination. We can’t wait to see the ideas that have been crafted by artists emerging from these residencies – ideas that will be at the heart of a packed programme of thought-provoking exhibitions, workshops and interventions for our audiences to experience.”
The National Festival of Making is a unique celebration of making and manufacturing – from the kitchen table to the factory floor. Presenting a programme of work that combines art, manufacturing, making and communities, the Festival commissions artists to create outstanding works and curates a programme of making activity, including – workshops; food, craft and design makers markets; industry talks; street food; live performance and music and artistic commissions – expressed in a participatory free festival weekend and programme of year round work for all to enjoy.
National Festival of Making is supported by Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The latest digital printing technologies and capacity to create huge fabric lengths at Panaz are available to artist Sam Belinfante whose practice, along with filmmaking and photographic work, incorporates curating, sound and performance. The partnership will lead to the staging of an array of draped and recumbent cloth that will both divide/shape the space and become a protagonist for a perverse theatrical/filmic drama.
During the residency Belinfante’s focus has been the investigation of Moire patterns and optical effects induced through the movements of sheer fabrics – textiles have the capacity to conjure illusion and narrative; to speak through and from within the warp and weft.
Through these playful experiments at Panaz the artist is reminded of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the famous play-within-a-play – a continuation of Belinfante’s research work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In Blackburn, the role of Shakespeare’s Mechanicals will feature once again in his work as he aims to open up spaces in the building’s story to create a striking physical environment and performative experience at the Cotton Exchange.
Belinfante’s residency at Panaz follows his commission, On the Circulation of Blood, a major sculptural and performance commission for Creative Folkestone Triennial; in May 2023 Belinfante presented new performance work, ‘a long, very long journey’, with Laure Prouvost at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.
Multidisciplinary artist and social practitioner, Ibukun Baldwin, partners with state-of-the-art trouser and outerwear manufacturers Cookson & Clegg of Blackburn, to create a large-scale immersive installation using denim waste from the production of jeans for Patrick Grant’s Community Clothing brand.
Specialising in print, illustration and embroidery, Baldwin’s practice considers the human, social and environmental impact of making work, often addressing the neglected needs of marginalised communities and the potential role that innovative, contemporary, hand-crafted design can play. She also is the founder of fashion brand, Bukky Baldwin, a label that has a focus on environmental responsibility and employment opportunities.
The commission comes at a time when Cookson & Clegg is taking steps to address the limitations for working parents and potential employees of the standard factory shift, by introducing the innovative, ‘10 ‘til 2 Production Line’. The initiative has attracted parents of school age children to re-enter the workplace.
As part of the residency, the artist is working with local partners to support Families who have been evacuated from Afghanistan within the last 12 months. Two Afghan women have become ‘Artist Assistants’ to Ibukun Baldwin and will be introduced to making workshops that utilise denim dead stock fabric from the Cookson & Clegg factory, making work that will be presented as part of the Festival weekend.
Co-commissioned by the National Festival of Making and British Textile Biennial.
Working together as a collective, Stephanie Jefferies and Sarah Marsh are artists and play specialists, commissioned to partner with Herbert Parkinson, at a hugely significant moment for the manufacturer which celebrates its 70th anniversary (4th July 2023) during the week of the National Festival of Making.
Both artists have established their own individual practice; exploring playful design and sculptural textile objects. Together, they are forming their own sensory-language.
Working with esteemed clients such as Tate Liverpool, The Tetley, Royal Academy of Arts and The Hepworth, each artist has developed a practice working with diverse audiences to deliver interactive and immersive spaces that encourage creativity and curiosity.
Sensory memories of sound, touch and smell have been collected from partners of the factory to delve into the 70-year history of the people that have worked there and will be woven into a playful installation for families to explore together. Audiences will be invited to follow the flow of the factory floor, searching for the ever-present heartbeat of the looms, slowing down to interact with touchable objects, wearable pieces and soft sculpture.
An intriguing artwork will emerge from a partnership between Sheffield-based studio and artist Sapien (Steve Anwar), longlisted for the 2023 Aesthetica Art Prize and a contestant on Sky Arts ‘Landmark’ with SWS UK, leading UK manufacturer of physical security products.
Exploring the boundaries between art, industrial heritage and identity, Sapien’s work includes themes of wellbeing following 20 years’ studying self-help practices and ancient meditation techniques which helped the artist overcome a severely debilitating illness.
For more than a decade, Sapien has collaborated with factories and this commission presents an opportunity to draw on his industrial roots and dual heritage, contrasting ancient wisdom with Northern English manufacturing and craftsmanship.
During the residency at SWS, Sapien will unearth interesting connections and hidden histories from local heritage, to develop various mindful objects made from materials and techniques used at the factory, harnessing the power of storytelling through public art.
Masters of spectacular and intimate storytelling by fusing the digital with the public realm, Illuminos will take their own family history as a starting point for this partnership with cardboard box manufacturer, Cardboard Box Company who have been a Festival partner since its inception in 2017.
Working with the Cardboard Box Company, Illuminos will recreate the moment of wonder and delight contained in a box of chocolates, in a magical new gallery installation of confectionery boxes.
The collaboration traces the history of brothers Matt and Rob Vale, the artists known as Illuminos, whose grandfather opened a chocolate shop in 1950s Accrington, and whose shop window displayed cardboard boxes of confectionery wonders waiting to be discovered.
Using original box designs from their grandfather’s shop, developed in collaboration with the Cardboard Box Company, these boxes will come alive using animation and projection mapping, with a confection of magical tales, like something from a fairy story.
More details about the full Festival programme will be announced in the coming weeks.
National Festival of Making is supported by the Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Brian Mercer Trust and Foundations and Partners. This project is part-funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Imagery includes photographs by Yiannis Katsaris, Stuart Wood – Copyright Sky UK Ltd and Richard Tymon.