Celebrating Darwen Terracotta’s workforce, Bloomfield’s monumental installation and individual cast objects pay tribute to the role of the craftsman.
“During my time at Darwen Terracotta I have been exploring the heritage of the company through interviews and oral history with the staff members. I have focused on key developments in the company timeline and technological advancements in the process. This research has led to the development of a piece of work celebrating the worker and the traditional skills that have been past down through the generations. I want to focus on the individual and the skills that they have and elevate the workers position in the creation of the architectural faience the company is famous for.
Bloomfield presents two complementary works: small, delicate casts of personal workbench tools alongside eight monumental columns – poignant symbols of the camaraderie, trust and friendship of workers at Darwen Terracotta and a timely reminder of the 1817 ‘Blanketeers March’ spirit of rebellion and protest.
Walking the factory floor, Bloomfield was drawn to workers’ individual stations and their personal sets of small bespoke handmade tools, each specific to a job. His cast replicas of their tools are a celebration of the influence of the hand in modern manufacturing and assert that the machine, however powerful, cannot take away the process, skill and experience of the worker.
Informed by Darwen Terracotta’s dramatic history, his columns are a feat of manufacturing – reaching up to two metres tall and involving 32 makers, a 1,200 degree furnace and hundreds of litres of plaster. They form a record of the firm’s rise from the ashes of redundancy and preserve the spirit of friendship, protest and craft that still pulses through Lancashire’s veins.
James Bloomfield lives and works in Manchester, UK. He studied Art at Manchester Metropolitan University and has since exhibited work both nationally and internationally. Bloomfield‘s work across sculpture, ceramics and print explores personal connections as well as social and political issues. He cites war, propaganda, capitalism, consumerism and social conditioning as his source material and constructs new entities using a museological language, filtering modern ideas through classical elements.
Working with skill and artistic expertise since the end of the 19th Century, Darwen Terracotta has a storied heritage and a modern manufacturing story about change and evolution at its heart. Using the knowledge and expertise of generations of artisans, the manufacturer produces visually stunning terracotta and faiance. Their incredible work can be seen in Grayson Perry’s ‘A House for Essex’, and locations as prestigious as The Royal Albert Hall, The London Coliseum and Battersea Power Station.
We have been delighted with James whose talents complement our manufacturing abilities. The camaraderie shown in the factory to succeed on this project has been fantastic.
STEVE ALLEN, DARWEN TERRACOTTA
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.
Of Heart and Hand was made by the the artist James Bloomfield and the following collaborators
Nicholas Lee Wall
Peter Sean Carl Butterworth
Jonathan Rae Wilson
Paul James Heaton
Garry John Livesey