The moral quandry regarding the factory workers was eased yesterday when Laura came up with an uncomplicated way of thanking them. As the rain poured down and the giant tunnel kiln, undergoing internal problems, disgorged fire and broken ceramics, the workers were diverted by the sight of a strong Bray woman marching through the factory with a crate of beer and a bag of fizzy drinks. Big smiles. A stool was dusted down. She had asked them to produce a standard brick but, instead of cutting the lengths, to leave each brick a metre long. The engineer was called. Extra grog (grit) was fetched by two girls who climbed out the factory window, giggling, and came back with it in a plastic bag. The roller, onto which the bricks come out, was propped up with bricks (its metal legs are broken and uneven and remain so, despite the adjacent welding workshop). The engineer – whose teeshirt said 'All your oil belong to USA' – rolled up his sleeves, ignoring the advice of the woman who actually knew how to work the machine. The extruder wheezed into action and shovelling commenced. An audience gathered. And out came the bricks. They were stacked onto two bicycle-wheeled trolleys and wheeled triumphantly into the workshop. Laura, like the pied piper, leading a procession of ten factory helpers, two translators and, by this stage, all the artists. A transaction that yesterday seemed awkward and burdensome, took on a festival air. Larger issues of exploitation seemed less pressing when everyone was smiling. And the bricks themselves have left the world of industry to become large, leathery canvases.
In September 2011, a group of Irish ceramic artists will travel to the Chinese town of Fuping, Shaanxi, to make the foundation collection for the newly built Irish Pavilion at the Fule International Ceramic Art Museum. The Irish Pavilion will showcase the best of the new wave of ceramic art emerging from Ireland, marrying the ancient techniques of the East to our own cultural traditions. It is a permanent exhibition space created to house the work of those ceramic artists whose subtlety, skill and vision captures the spirit of contemporary Ireland. Eleanor Flegg, writer, and Andrew Standen Raz, film maker and photographer, will travel with the group to document the residency. The Irish Pavilion opens on the 4th October 2011.
The blog is written by Eleanor Flegg, whose opinions may not necessarily reflect those of the group.