In 2013 we ran an open art competition. Winning artwork was added to a panel on the front of the factory during conservation works and was displayed in our gallery for the first three months after opening.
(BCT’s collage, not artist’s)
The cyanotype photographs are all home printed using chemicals. The process is changing the colour image to black and white, inverting and printing on to A4 acetate to produce a negative, applying chemicals to watercolour paper, place the home made negative on top and then expose to a sun lamp to develop. No software filters are used to produce cyanotypes.
I decided to focus on the time that the factory was manufacturing during the Victorian era, as the concept of death and mourning was radically changing, through customs, dress and symbolism.
I felt drawn to responding to the fitting themselves, like a magpie, I enjoy a shiny trinket and wanted to focus on the actual fittings. As these fitting will be part of the new home for the deceased, I wanted to showcase their beauty, craftpersonship into a more familiar, more palatable setting, the home.
I have digitally montaged some of the fittings into a Victorian jewellery box, so they can be admired in an above ground setting. As most of the workers were women, I thought that is could be another way to highlight their skills in a feminine, fun way.
Title: Memories of the Casting Shop (Taken from Dr. Anthony Allen’s interview).
My grandfather and great grandfather were furnace men in the West Midlands iron industry. I have tried to capture the high drama of the Casting Shop, using the pitted, rough texture of my hand-made paper and the gleam and glint of metallic paint. I wanted the words to be seen in bursts and flares of light, which then recede into the shadows.
Oil on canvas – 16 x 20 inches
As well as representing the different stages involved in the coffin making process this painting also captures the craftsmanship and passion amongst the workers in the factory. The centre of the image reflects the industrial side with the stamps, handles and the building itself. This is surrounded by the delicate and silky coffin material. The Newman Brothers’ initials hold all of the features together in the very centre and reflects the progress the factory have made over the years with its more modern logo.
(BCT’s collage, not artist’s)
This piece is a photogram (cameraless photography) of an antique bottle transformed into a blue cyanotype print. Cyanotype prints or blueprints were first discovered and used in 1843. Blueprints revolutionised architecture because hand drawn plans could now be copied using the cyanotype printing process. At the time the Newman Brothers building was built in 1894, blueprints would have been made by the architect. Blue is apt as the Birmingham City shroud is a lovely deep blue, the contents of the travelling salesman’s bag are presented on blue & the vacuum coating machinery and floor are blue.
The embalming fluid label, pictured in the gallery, inspired the photogram of the old antique bottle. The pattern on the bottle has a delicate nature to it like the stitching on the coffin lining fabric in the gallery picture.
The print is deliberately speckled to represent the past and how old the building is.
I also thought the blur sky and white clouds on one of the shots of the building in the gallery was in keeping with the blue and white of the artwork.
It can also be seen as ethereal too, as Newman Brothers were coffin fitting suppliers which is all about honouring and respecting the deceased there is also a spiritual element to the artwork.
3D Coffin Handles by Nelson Primary School