Neil Brownsword, Re-Apprenticed

The Original Spode Factory Site


Re-apprenticed will artistically reactivate a series of traditional practices from North Staffordshire’s ceramic industry. Deemed outmoded or economically unviable for ceramic production, The Clay Foundation artist in residence Neil Brownsword, will apprentice himself to skilled former ceramics industry employees learning traditional techniques including: copper plate engraving, mould making, china painting and flower-making.

Through film, image and object making Neil will explore how this expert knowledge is displaced through advanced technology and policies of outsourcing. His work will question what is the value of the ceramic industry’s cultural heritage still embodied in local people and places. Three former ceramic industry artisans, amongst a last generation of master practitioners in their respective fields, will be re-employed to pass on their craft knowledge. Rita Floyd will mentor the process of china flower-making; Tony Chellinor, the process of china painting and Paul Holdway, copper plate engraving and printing.

Neil’s artistic practice explores the ceramic manufacturing histories and post-industrial landscape of Stoke-on-Trent. His work is not sentimental but raises awareness of the threatened loss of skills, knowledge and ultimately the city’s cultural heritage associated with an industry that has supported a local population for nearly 300 years.

In 2013 Neil co-curated the Topographies of the Obsolete international artistic research project that resulted in installations across the original Spode factory site. The work that Neil produced as a result of this project recently received the prestigious Grand Prize at the 8th International Ceramic Biennale in Korea, one of the most important events in contemporary ceramics.

On 7 November 2015 Dr Neil Brownsword, Bucks New University and Co-Curator Professor Anne Helen Mydland from Bergen Academy of Art and Design will present ‘Topographies of the Obsolete: The Post-Industrial Landscape as a Site for Creative Practice’ at an international symposium at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 



Image: Re-apprenticed, Neil Brownsword 2015 © the artist