Globalisation and the loss of industrial knowledge in his home city of Stoke-on-Trent provide the backdrop to Neil Brownsword’s ceramic installation. Factory is a pared-down version of a major exhibition this award-winning artist opened in South Korea earlier this year.
As he points out, the tradition of China flower making is one of the few methods of mass production that relies completely upon the dexterity of the hand. So for this performative piece, Rita Floyd, one of the last of a generation of artisans that retain this skill, and her final apprentice Stacey Wright, re-enact their former working practices, providing, in Brownsword’s words, ‘an intimate space for the audience to witness the rhythmic intricacies of touch evident in their craft’. He subsequently asks them to instantly discard the pieces they have just fashioned, creating a pile of waste that acts as a metaphor for the failure to protect (or find new use for) important industrial skills, or what the artist prefers to describe as our ‘intangible cultural heritage’.
WOMAN’S HOUR CRAFT PRIZE
18 Woman’s Hour Craft Prize
All images: Factory performance installation with Rita Floyd, 2017