The ‘Potteries’ — the name given to the six towns that collectively constitute Stoke-on-Trent, remains one of the few cities in Britain still associated with an industry that for centuries has shaped both the areas economic life and physical landscape.
With the industrialization of ceramics in Britain during the eighteenth century, systems of segregated labor brought about a phenomenal concentration of specialist skills and knowledge to this region. By 1800 the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent paralleled China as a world center for ceramic production. Paradoxically, recent decades have seen centuries of this cultivated expertise being relocated to the Far East. Company investment in advanced production technology has further contributed to a massive reduction of an indigenous work force and the closure/ demolition of once prevalent sites of historic manufacture. To indicate the extent of Stokes decline in 1948 around 79,000 were employed in the North Staffordshire ceramics industry, in recent years the figure bottomed out to around 6000.
For over a decade Neil Brownsword’s artistic practice has remained a potent form of recording this historic change within the region. His exploration of post-industrial landscape as a raw material has renegotiated North Staffordshire’s associated socio-economic histories and production infrastructure through a variety of perspectives and practices. This presentation will elucidate Brownsword’s ongoing investigation of place, the displacement of its heritage industry.
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