Pattern Book: A new performance by Neil Brownsword in collaboration with Paul Holdway

In culmination of his six-month residency at the V&A, ceramics resident Neil Brownsword will be presenting a new performative installation in the museum’s day lit galleries on Friday 20 and Saturday 21st April between 11 am and 5 pm.

Chinoiserie sketch, Pattern Book, Neil Brownsword 2018

For nearly two decades Neil Brownsword has highlighted endangered forms of industrial craft specific to the ceramics industry of his home town – Stoke-on-Trent. His recent residency at the V&A partly extends this activism, driven forward by the museum’s collection of 18th and early 19th century North Staffordshire ceramics, and pattern books that convey and document production ‘know-how’.

The artistic and technological advances that evolved out of this region’s early industrialisation, were greatly influenced by the borrowing and assimilation of styles from East Asia. Brownsword revisits examples of Staffordshire Chinoiserie, with a particular fascination for the ‘slippage’ that occurs via this mode of cultural appropriation, due to variants of skill or unavailability/substitution of specific materials.

 Chinoiserie sketch, Pattern Book, Neil Brownsword 2018

Chinoiserie sketch, Pattern Book, Neil Brownsword 2018

In order to better understand and directly work with some of these early reproductions, Brownsword has amassed his own examples akin to those held in the collections of the V&A via online auction websites. Decorative surfaces unique to ceramics production have been digitally extracted from their form, via scanning technologies that embrace the ‘glitch’ as a means to transform instead of duplicate. The deconstruction and reimagining of this archive has informed the creation of Brownsword’s own pattern book, from which elements will be replicated via traditional industrial craft systems through a series of live events.

Chinoiserie sketch, Pattern Book, Neil Brownsword 2018

Pattern Book, 2018, engraved copper plate by Paul Holdway

Master copper plate engraver Paul Holdway who worked for over 40 years at the former Spode factory, has been specially commissioned to engrave one of Brownsword’s adaptations of a Staffordshire Chinoiserie prototype. The intimate space where actions that constitute the engraving are performed will be amplified, providing a rare opportunity to observe an industrial craft no longer practiced. Through this process the immediacy of the digital is returned to the slow paced tactile and material interactions of handwork. Alongside this traditional mode of image re-production for ceramic manufacture, various iterations of Brownsword’s pattern book, together with a taxonomy of his original eBay collection will be on display.

Deemed outmoded or economically unviable, much of the traditional know-how retained by a senior generation of industrial artisans in North Staffordshire remains in danger of being lost. South Korea’s safeguarding of intangible heritage associated with its own ceramic history, has ensured that associated skills are maintained for future generations. Brownsword’s practice continues to explore aspects of North Staffordshire’s intangible heritage that remain worthy of comparable status and preservation.

Chinoiserie sketch, Pattern Book, Neil Brownsword 2018

Neil Brownsword’s residency is supported by the Korean Cultural Centre UK with additional support provided by Samsung.

Location: V&A Day lit gallery (Gallery 137)

Dates: 20 and 21st April

11.00 – 5.00pm

Free, not ticketed