A celebration of the ‘Black Art’ at play behind-the-scenes at the factory, Michelle Wren’s multimedia installation is a humorous and evocative reflection on the hidden customs of the workforce.
Someone is still considered a new starter at Graham and Brown when they have worked there for 7 years so to even begin to unpick the place in 3 months is a tall order. But after two months of chatting, listening and a lot of laughing, with the help of many people and by commissioning artists Rizwan Riyazuddin and Gavan Hobkirk from the factories pink shift and sound artist Phullopium Dude I think this 3D multi media installation captures the spirit and generosity of Graham and Brown and the people there. Many know the story of Graham and Brown well now come and meet the people who make the paper.
Debbie knows the alarm is shorter for a label missfeed and longer for a flapfind. Gavin tricks his workmates into singing songs by typing their titles into a comments box.
Jimmy started at the factory the day he finished school and the manager made him a clock in card. He is still there 30 years later – Graham and Brown is teeming with stories and quirks and Michelle Wren’s six-foot, animated, multimedia installation, with music by Phullopium Dude, intertwines them.
Her installation at Blackburn’s RIBA Award-nominated Bus Station, is complemented by a wry worker’s manual – ‘The Art of Doing Things Well’ – which details those dark arts of employment not usually included in the employees’ handbook. Both have been produced in close collaboration with workers of the 12-hour ‘pink shift’ and offer a true celebration of the humanity at the heart of the factory, from the entrepreneurial spirit of the founders to the satisfaction of a perfectly timed cigarette break.
Michelle Wren is a visual artist and set designer who works in participatory contexts with communities, creating work that responds to a place and its people. The artist works with people to solve problems, working, laughing, smiling and getting annoyed together until all the collaborators are happy and have made an idea happen.
Started by two friends, Harold Graham and Henry Brown, after the Second World War, Graham & Brown have built up an international reputation from their base in Blackburn, Lancashire. Selling to over seventy-five countries and with divisions across the world, they continue to innovate in design and product development and work with high profile designers and emerging design talent.
Michelle has got under the skin of our business – the characters, the history and the passion we have for what we do – to create a fascinating and unique piece, reflecting so much of what makes us Graham & Brown.
ALAN KEMP, GRAHAM & BROWN
Art in Manufacturing is a collaboration that saw manufacturers and workforce communities, often coming from generations that have worked in these industries, very generously impart their knowledge to the resident artists who, in turn, have shone a spotlight of excitement and curiosity onto their formidable skills and dedication.
Everyone Has a Role was made by the the artist and the following collaborators
Phullopium Dude – Sound artist
Rizwan Riyazuddin – Sketches of people
Gavan Hobkirk – Street signs and inspiration
Mick – Building of printer frame
Mark – Building of factory facade
Martyn Whiteside – Printer frame design
James – Wallpapering support
Pete and Gareth – Digital printing
Howard and Pete – Colour mixing
Carl – Acetate Prints for screens
Howard – Screenprinted handbook
Phil – Screen sourcing
Ann Bowers – Material sourcing
Mark and Ivan – drivers
Julian Kellet – saying yes
Donna Riley and Victoria Lee – Wallpaper sourcing
Claire Sheridan – Archive photos
“There are too many names to print for all of those who contributed their time in showing me round, telling me stories, becoming my friends, making me feel at home and giving me more inspiration than I could ever wish for. Their names might not all appear here but you will see them throughout the work.”
With special thanks to Mary Painter and all the amazing volunteers at Blackburn Library Archive and Vicci McCann at Lancashire Archives