Mass production of brick making in Britain was fired up by the industrial revolution. Manufactured bricks and tiles supplied demand for the construction of industrial and civic buildings, railway networks, sanitation systems and new housing.
Hundreds of brickworks were once scattered across Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne & Wear. Businesses varied in size and scale and were commonly associated with the coal industry. Brickworks and coal mining formed a necessary and reciprocal relationship - clay was extracted from pits, kilns were fired with coal and the resulting bricks were used to build pit shafts, collieries and domestic buildings. All out mass production hit its peak during the final two decades of the nineteenth century, before tailing into decline due to falling demand and the introduction of new materials and methods of construction.
The individual bricks started life standardised in size and shape as functional products. Now redundant, at some point they’ve been discarded and disposed of into the region’s rivers, coastal dumps or directly into the sea before being collected along the North East coastline. Over time and given varied material composition, utilisation and exposure to the elements, they survive as broken and eroded artefacts. Many of the manufactured bricks were originally stamped with a maker’s name or mark, which provides some identification, others are so eroded they reveal no history, no discernable sharp edges and are almost sculptural in their aesthetic.
While the subject of this work is essentially prosaic, it reflects upon the wider social, economic and industrial transitions which have impacted the region. These bricks once belonged to and formed part of the industrial landscape of the North East, a landscape and way of life that has all but disappeared.
Gum Bichromate Prints
The technique is non-silver and renowned for its archival quality. A mixture of gum arabic, bichromate and water colour pigment is applied to water colour paper and left to dry. The coated paper and an enlarged negative are contacted and exposed to ultra violet light, processed in a tray of water which produces a weak photographic image. When dry, the process can and should be repeated to utilize colour, intensify the contrast and depth of print. The paper and pigments give the image a painterly quality and the final print is unique as its almost impossible to produce identical results.
The SHED is part of the Whistle Art Stop in Haltwhistle and is an exhibition and project space dedicated to showcasing the work of new and emerging artists from across the North East of England.
Find us in the centre of Haltwhistle, Northumberland NE49 0AX opposite Barclays Bank where we have free parking available. Click here for map.
Twhistle CIC t/a Whistle Art Stop- a community interest company registered in England no. 07769196.