National Festival of Making: creative collaborations revealed

Posted on 6 Jul 2023 by Joe Bush

Five new creative collaborations have been revealed, as leading artists have been paired with major UK manufacturers to create remarkable new work for National Festival of Making.

Now in its fifth year, ‘Art in Manufacturing’ is the competitive headline commissioning programme that places artists in residence with some of the UK’s leading manufacturers as part of the National Festival of Making.

Conceived as a unique platform for artists to develop their practice and an opportunity to create a meaningful dialogue between artists and the industrial workforce, the commissioning programme explores the social and cultural fabric of place. Bold spectacle, social engagement and creative excellence are threads that run through the collaborations and the resulting contemporary artworks which will form a central part of the festival programme.

Festival of Making Community Interest Company (CIC) has grown from strength to strength since its inception in 2017, with the Festival weekend attracting audiences of more than 30,000. In the most recent funding round from Arts Council England, the CIC was awarded National Portfolio Organisation status, recognising its contribution to the cultural regeneration of Blackburn and wider Lancashire, achieving an economic impact of approximately £1m annually and supporting the development of a strong, place-based cultural ecology.

Five 10-15-week residencies are now in place for:

Sam Belinfante and Panaz

The latest digital printing technologies and capacity to create huge fabric lengths at Panaz are available to artist Sam Belinfante whose practice, along with filmmaking and photographic work, incorporates curating, sound and performance. The partnership will lead to the staging of an array of draped and recumbent cloth that will both divide/shape the space and become a protagonist for a perverse theatrical/filmic drama.

Sam Belinfante + Panaz
With a practice incorporating curating, sound and performance, artist Sam Belinfante has partnered with international fabric specialists Panaz

During the residency Belinfante’s focus has been the investigation of Moire patterns and optical effects induced through the movements of sheer fabrics – textiles have the capacity to conjure illusion and narrative; to speak through and from within the warp and weft.

Through these playful experiments at Panaz the artist is reminded of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the famous play-within-a-play – a continuation of Belinfante’s research work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In Blackburn, the role of Shakespeare’s Mechanicals will feature once again in his work as he aims to open up spaces in the building’s story to create a striking physical environment and performative experience at the Cotton Exchange.

Belinfante’s residency at Panaz follows his commission, On the Circulation of Blood, a major sculptural and performance commission for Creative Folkestone Triennial; in May 2023 Belinfante presented new performance work, ‘a long, very long journey’, with Laure Prouvost at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.

Sam Belinfante commented: “Panaz are incredible partners. They are really focused on materials; the performance and the structure of the fabrics they source and make. They have a deep understanding of process and the whole community of textile manufacturers. Moreover, they are really open to (re)discovering their industry and technologies; this is all so exciting, and productive for an artist like me.”

Ibukun Baldwin and Cookson & Clegg

Multidisciplinary artist and social practitioner, Ibukun Baldwin, has partnered with state-of-the-art trouser and outerwear manufacturers Cookson & Clegg of Blackburn, to create a large-scale immersive installation using denim waste from the production of jeans for Patrick Grant’s Community Clothing brand.

Ibukun Baldwin and Cookson & Clegg
Multidisciplinary artist and social practitioner Ibukun Baldwin is working with state-of-the-art clothing manufacturer and heritage brand Cookson & Clegg

Specialising in print, illustration and embroidery, Baldwin’s practice considers the human, social and environmental impact of making work, often addressing the neglected needs of marginalised communities and the potential role that innovative, contemporary, hand-crafted design can play. She also is the founder of fashion brand, Bukky Baldwin, a label that has a focus on environmental responsibility and employment opportunities.

The commission comes at a time when Cookson & Clegg is taking steps to address the limitations for working parents and potential employees of the standard factory shift, by introducing the innovative, ‘10 ‘til 2 Production Line’. The initiative has attracted parents of school age children to re-enter the workplace.

As part of the residency, the artist is working with local partners to support families who have been evacuated from Afghanistan within the last 12 months. Two Afghan women have become ‘Artist Assistants’ to Ibukun Baldwin and will be introduced to making workshops that utilise denim dead stock fabric from the Cookson & Clegg factory, making work that will be presented as part of the Festival weekend.

Cookson & Clegg’s Victoria Grant added: “It has been really interesting to see how the artist interprets the fabric waste produced during our production and repurposes it, drawing on the skills found within our workforce, to create an installation that demonstrates the skilled nature of what we do.”

Co-commissioned by the National Festival of Making and British Textile Biennial.

Stephanie Jefferies / Sarah Marsh and Herbert Parkinson

Working together as a collective, Stephanie Jefferies and Sarah Marsh are artists and play specialists, commissioned to partner with Herbert Parkinson, at a hugely significant moment for the manufacturer which celebrated its 70th anniversary (4 July 2023) during the week of the National Festival of Making.

Stephanie Jefferies _ Sarah Marsh and Herbert Parkinson
Artists and play specialists Stephanie Jefferies and Sarah Marsh has partnered with Herbert Parkinson, which is marking its 70th anniversary as a John Lewis Partnership factory

Both artists have established their own individual practice; exploring playful design and sculptural textile objects. Together, they are forming their own sensory language.

Working with esteemed clients such as Tate Liverpool, The Tetley, Royal Academy of Arts and The Hepworth, each artist has developed a practice working with diverse audiences to deliver interactive and immersive spaces that encourage creativity and curiosity.

Sensory memories of sound, touch and smell have been collected from partners of the factory to delve into the 70-year history of the people that have worked there and will be woven into a playful installation for families to explore together. Audiences will be invited to follow the flow of the factory floor, searching for the ever-present heartbeat of the looms, slowing down to interact with touchable objects, wearable pieces and soft sculpture.

Stuart McDonald of Herbert Parkinson commented: “It has been a great experience, challenging and fun. Working alongside the artists has brought out my more sensory side, something I haven’t thought about before, linking this into my own work experiences! The smells, the touch, the aesthetics of work life has given me a sense of nostalgia from my time in the weaving industry. Steph and Sarah have certainly stretched me, mentally and physically – all good experiences.”

Sarah and Stephanie added: “The factory have been incredible to work with, and so welcoming. All the staff have supported us and made us laugh and made us feel like one of the team. We would like to thank the whole Herbert Parkinson team, who have gone above and beyond to realise visions, support abstract ideas and to be so generous with their time (and patience)! We honestly feel part of the HP family, and we will never forget you all. Your sensory memories are so beautiful and poetic, and we feel they are the perfect reflection of the community spirit that is so tangible across the factory floor.”

Sapien AKA Steve Anwar and SWS UK

An intriguing artwork will emerge from a partnership between Sheffield-based studio and artist Sapien (Steve Anwar), longlisted for the 2023 Aesthetica Art Prize and a contestant on Sky Arts ‘Landmark’ with SWS UK, leading UK manufacturer of physical security products (see image top).

Exploring the boundaries between art, industrial heritage and identity, Sapien’s work includes themes of wellbeing following 20 years’ studying self-help practices and ancient meditation techniques which helped the artist overcome a severely debilitating illness.

For more than a decade, Sapien has collaborated with factories and this commission presents an opportunity to draw on his industrial roots and dual heritage, contrasting ancient wisdom with Northern English manufacturing and craftsmanship.

During the residency at SWS, Sapien will unearth interesting connections and hidden histories from local heritage, to develop various mindful objects made from materials and techniques used at the factory, harnessing the power of storytelling through public art.

Chloe Wiggins, Marketing Manager at SWS said: “Art in Manufacturing has opened our eyes to look at what we do from a fresh perspective. Our Artist in Residence has taken inspiration from not only from the rollers shutters we manufacture, but also from our beautiful setting in the north Lancashire countryside and the waters of the nearby River Lune. Our production and technical teams have loved collaborating with Steven Anwar to help turn his artistic vision into a physical installation that we hope will proudly represent our manufacturing heritage at the National Festival of Making.”

Illuminos and Cardboard Box Company

Masters of spectacular and intimate storytelling by fusing the digital with the public realm, Illuminos will take their own family history as a starting point for this partnership with cardboard box manufacturer, Cardboard Box Company who have been a festival partner since its inception in 2017.

Illuminos + Cardboard Box Company
Digital creators Illuminos has partnered with corrugated packaging manufacturers Cardboard Box Factory

Working with the Cardboard Box Company, Illuminos will recreate the moment of wonder and delight contained in a box of chocolates, in a magical new gallery installation of confectionery boxes.

The collaboration traces the history of brothers Matt and Rob Vale, the artists known as Illuminos, whose grandfather opened a chocolate shop in 1950s Accrington, and whose shop window displayed cardboard boxes of confectionery wonders waiting to be discovered.

Using original box designs from their grandfather’s shop, developed in collaboration with the Cardboard Box Company, these boxes will come alive using animation and projection mapping, with a confection of magical tales, like something from a fairy story.

Rob and Matt Vale from Illuminos said: “The concept for the piece really wouldn’t have happened without the Cardboard Box Company. In 1950 our Grandfather, Bob Peddie, opened a chocolate shop at 191 Blackburn Road, Accrington, less than a mile from where the Cardboard Box Company are now. With secret recipes from his friend the Swiss Chocolatier Marius Matti, the shop brought moments of delight and magic to Accrington through the many cardboard boxes of confectionary wonders to be discovered in the shop window. In this piece we’ve worked closely with CBC to bring back to life new versions of the original 1950s chocolate box designs.

“Fortunately we still had some of the original 1950s chocolate boxes as reference points, along with a host of other elements from the shop. They were able to scan in patterns from the original boxes, and play with the shape, form and logos to allow us to create a range of new boxes and other printed pieces for the installation. The boxes needed to be both visually exciting and reminiscent of the originals, whilst allowing us to incorporate miniature video projectors, Pepper’s Ghost techniques and projection mapping onto and within them. The whole installation has this crafted, almost set like feel – a direct reflection of the original shop. We’ve loved working with the team at CBC on this, on a piece that is very personal to us, and has such a local resonance to them and their work.”

Marc Stobbs of Cardboard Box Company added: “As soon as we heard Rob from Illuminos describe the project and the vision he had, there was an instant excitement regarding the link to the history of Accrington and Blackburn and the packaging. For the Carboard Box Company this was a project we wanted to get involved with.

“It was great to learn from Rob the history of his Grandfathers Chocolate shop Peddie’s, and to see the old photographs and the Chocolate box packaging and handwritten advertising signs. It was amazing to see the great detail that went into the early handmade chocolate boxes, and to get a real understanding of how much of a treat a gift was like this in the post war ration era.

“This has been a great project to be involved with from a Packaging designers’ point of view. Rob had his vision of what he wanted to create using the old original packaging and the contemporary projections Illuminos create. Using The Cardboard Box Companies current packaging technologies, CAD for creating the structure, graphics programmes, and digital printing, hopefully we have helped create and contribute towards a great final piece for the Festival, we can’t wait to see the final results!”

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