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James Bloomfield and Darwen Terracotta – "Of heart and hand" - Blackburn Cathedral
The National Festival of Making 2017

8 Ceramic slip cast columns and slipcast workers tools


A pink slip cast craftsperson’s toolbox alongside eight, monumental sculptural columns provides a poignant and powerful symbol of the camaraderie, trust and friendship of workers at Darwen Terracotta, a company resurrected by employees facing redundancy. Artist, James Bloomfield ‘walked the floor’ to research the breadth of techniques used across the now successful, specialist architectural terracotta and faience business and noted the individualism evident at personal ‘maker stations’ and workbenches, whether the tools being used for that specialism or personal artefacts.

In a celebration of the craftsperson’s hand, these functional items have been individually cast to elevate them to objects of designated cultural value, whether a pencil, a spray gun or a sculpting knife. The sculptural cast of a glazed bright pink toolbox alone presents an evocative, permanent document of the friendship of two, inseparable female workers, with the cast objects exhibited at Blackburn Cathedral’s Temple Gallery.

 Outside the Cathedral in a new public square, eight ceramic columns will reference many of the company’s most successful projects, reaching up to 2 metres tall and bringing 32 people into the casting process. The powerful structures, created using technology introduced at the company in 2010, but pioneered by Italian Ceramic Artist, Nino Caruso in the 1970’s, inspire contemplation on Darwen Terracotta’s history, a story of people rising together.


For the artist, it is a story that reflects Blackburn’s history of workforce rebellion and protest, evoking the story of 1817 ‘Blanketeers March’ and their demands of rights for weavers against mechanisation.

Images courtesy Richard Tymon and Andy Carson


Of Heart and Hand - 2017 - The National Festival of Making. Blackburn Cathedral

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