Dr Neil Brownsword

Professor

School of Digital, Technologies and Arts

Prof. Brownsword is an artist, researcher and educator. His research into the legacy of deindustrialisation in relation to North Staffordshire's ceramic industry, has had national and international cultural impact, through reactivating associated post-industrial spaces and endangered industrial crafts.

Neil Brownsword’s career in ceramics began as an apprentice at the Wedgwood factory in the mid 1980’s as a modeller and designer before he entered into Higher Education. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1995, his work has gained national and international acclaim. Alongside an extensive output of national and international exhibitions, Brownsword has worked as an assistant to Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1995); acted as consultant for BBC4 (Ceramics a Fragile History, 2011). He has curated projects and exhibitions in collaboration with the British Ceramics Biennial (2009 – present), Sundaymorning@ekwc (2011); Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery (2011-2014) and University of Bergen (2012-2020).

Brownsword’s research examines the manufacturing histories of North Staffordshire’s ceramic industry, and the effects globalisation has had upon people, place and traditional skills in recent decades. It has been endorsed by world-leading cultural institutions, who have widened public understanding of its value through exhibitions and permanent acquisitions. It is represented in public collections internationally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Korea Ceramic Foundation, Yingee Ceramic Museum Taiwan and Fu Le International Ceramic Museum, China. In 2009 he was awarded the ‘One Off Award’ at the inaugural British Ceramic Biennial and was awarded the Grand Prize at the 2015 Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, South Korea, in recognition for his ‘creativity and contribution to the field’; and in 2019 he was awarded the Whitegold International Ceramics Prize. Brownsword has also undertaken extensive international residencies and collaborations including:

  1. IASPIS, Stockholm, Swedish Arts Grants Committee (nominated by curator Maj Sandell).

  1. Wheal Martyn Clay Works, Taskscape residency, St Austell, Whitegold Festival.

2017/18. Victoria & Albert Museum, ceramic artist in residence.

  1. Transformator, Norsk Teknisk Porselen (NTP), Fredrikstad, Norway (invited).

2013 – 2020. Topographies of the Obsolete, in conjunction with University of Bergen.

  1. Raw Material, Venabygd, Norway (invited).

  1. British Ceramics Biennial, Ibstock Brick LTD, Gorsty Quarry, Staffordshire (curated).

  1. British Pavilion, Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museums, China (invited).

  1. International Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark (invited).

  1. International Ceramic Centre, Skaelskor, Denmark (invited).

  1. European Ceramic Work Centre, ‘s-Hertogenbosch Holland.

Professional memberships and activities

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Trustee, Spode Museum Trust

Charter Member Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museum

 

Academic qualifications

PhD, ‘ Action/Reflection: A Creative Response to Transition and Change in British Ceramic Manufacture’. Brunel University, 2006

MA Ceramics & Glass, Royal College of Art, 1995

BA (Hons) Ceramics, University of Wales, 1993

Expertise

Sculpture, installation, site-specific projects, curatorial practice, clay and ceramic material knowledge and process, industrial plaster model and mould making. Neil Brownsword also has extensive teaching experience, working with 26 HE institutions nationally and at 9 institutions internationally that have included:

University of Bergen, Norway (2010 – 2020)

Royal College of Art, London (1996, 2004, 2008, 2013, 2016, 2019-21)

Nottingham Trent University (2021)

Plymouth College of Art (2020)

Bucks New University (1995 - 2018)

Kookmin University, Seoul, South Korea (2017).

ENSAB, National School of Architecture De Bretagne, France (2017)

Geneva University of Art and Design (2013, 2017)

Nanjing University of the Arts, China (2016)

Sheffield Hallam University (2016)

University of Chichester (2013)

Bath College of Higher Education (1995, 1997, 2002, 2012)

New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University, USA (2011)

University of Wisconsin, USA (2011)

Loughborough College of Art & Design (1996, 2001, 2006, 2010)

Konstfack, University College of Arts Crafts and Design, Stockholm (2009)

University of Central Lancashire, Preston (2009)

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen (2008)

Falmouth College of Arts (2001, 2008)

University of Wolverhampton, (1997, 2006)

Camberwell College of Art & Design (1997, 1998, 2004)

University of Wales Institute (2002)

Sunderland University (2002)

De Montfort University, Leicester (2000 – 2002)

Edinburgh College of Art (1998, 2001)

West Surrey College of Art and Design (2001)

Herefordshire College of Art and Design (2001, 2000)

Staffordshire University (1998 – 2000)

University College Scarborough (1998)

University of Westminster, London (1998, 2002, 2008)

Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, London (1998)

Bradford & Ilkley College of Art & Design (1997)

University of the West of England, Bristol (1996)

North East Wales Institute of H.E., Wrexham (1996)

Research interests

Expanded field of ceramic practice

Ceramic intangible heritage

Digital mediations of heritage

Site as raw material

Artist as archaeologist

The contemporary ruin/ruination

Re-imagining of traditional knowledge

Brownsword’s employment history in the ceramic industry continues to underpin his artistic reactivation of North Staffordshire’s tangible and intangible heritage. New modes of reinterpreting materials, methods and cultural histories specific to this tradition, through Brownsword’s innovative performative, transient and site-specific strategies, have expanded traditional parameters of clay/ ceramic practice. Using film, industrial archaeology and performative installation, Brownsword highlights overlooked forms of industrial craft knowledge to pose questions surrounding the value and cultural relevance of inter-generational skill.

His exploration of ‘site as a raw material’, instrumental to his initiation of Topographies of the Obsolete, co-curated with Bergen Academy of Art and Design (2012-2020) engaged engaged ninety-seven interdisciplinary artists, scholars, cultural commentators and students from thirteen countries. Sustained funding from the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, facilitated a framework for formulating topics and questions that offered new insights into how ceramic and clay can be understood as both material and subject in contemporary art practice. Interdisciplinary responses to research strands that included the contemporary ruin, and the artist as archaeologist has constituted a broad range of exhibitions, conferences, publications. It has influenced participants practices and secured high-profile awards and opportunities, including Brownsword’s National Treasure, awarded the prestigious Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale Grand Prize (2015). This performative installation examined how factory tourism’s embrace of the hand-crafted obscures the realities of UK outsourcing, mass-automation and indigenous skill displacement. Involving the live performance of a former china painter, National Treasure subverted the historic model of the artisan on display to highlight the safeguarding endangered craft practices associated with Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic industry.

Brownsword’s invitation as artist/curator to the new Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, extended collaborations to explore new ways of interpreting the social and material histories of its Shropshire ceramic collection. Divided Labour (2011-2014) deconstructed nuances of embodied knowledge, mineralogy, and tool technologies to illuminate complex knowledge systems within ceramic manufacture. This initial ‘mapping’ of marginalised industrial skill was exemplified in Re-Apprenticed, commissioned by the British Ceramics Biennial (2015). Apprenticed to three master artisans, Brownsword’s innovative artistic/ ethnographic method, illuminated both haptic and material knowledge embodied within skills cultivated by explicit instruction. His reconfiguration of this dexterity, led to a multimedia installation during the BCB 2015, using film and ceramic to expose the hidden rhythms of know how. Re-Apprenticed subsequently informed a series of live performances at the V&A (2015) Ashmolean (2016), and object-based works curated for the First Central China Biennale (2016).

This orchestration of collective labour and illumination of tacit knowledge formed the basis of Factory at Icheon World Ceramic Centre (2017) – a performative installation that reflects upon notions of place, skill, people and material objects left behind following the process of industrial change. Factory was endorsed as a key exhibition within the UK/Korea season initiated between Arts Council Korea, British Council and Arts Council England to promote cultural exchange and ‘showcase the UK's innovation and excellence in the arts and creative industries’. Under the disruptive instructions of Brownsword, two ex-industry artisans from Stoke-on-Trent, together with four Korean master potters integrated opposing hierarchies of cultural production to re-negotiate a sense of value to people and practices displaced by global economics.

The recognition and cultural impact of Brownsword work nationally and internationally led to his invitation as Ceramics artist in residence at the V&A in 2017-18. Brownsword’s response was driven by the museum’s collection of 18th and early 19th century North Staffordshire ceramics, and pattern books that document production ‘know-how’. The artistic and technological advances that evolved out of this region’s early industrialisation, were greatly influenced by the borrowing and assimilation of styles from East Asia. Brownsword’s response revisited examples of Staffordshire Chinoiserie, with a particular fascination for the ‘slippage’ that occurs via this mode of cultural appropriation, as a result of variants of skill and appropriate materials. A multi-media installation held within the Daylit Galleries of the V&A (2018) included a collaboration with a former Spode master engraver creating a live engraving - reimagining endangered intangible heritage on a high-profile public platform.

Grants

Grants (Selected)

  1. Arts Council England, NLPG for Obsolescence and Renewal.

  1. Arts Council England, NLPG for Alchemy and Metamorphosis.

  1. Publication Funding, University of Bergen, Norway for Rhizomatic Trajectories.

  1. Arts Council England, GFTA Award for Factory.

  1. Charles Hayward Foundation, Heritage at Risk Award for Spode Museum Trust.

  1. Publication Funding, Bergen Academy of Art and Design Norway, for Ashmolean Papers.

  1. Seed Funding, Bergen Academy of Art and Design Norway for Re-Apprenticed.

  1. Arts Council England, GFTA Award for Re-Apprenticed.

  1. Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, Topographies of the Obsolete Phase 2.

  1. Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, Topographies of the Obsolete Phase 1.

Teaching

MA Ceramics across modules.

I also undertake cross-disciplinary PhD supervision which has a ceramic orientation.

Publications

Exhibitions:

  1. Alchemy and Metamorphosis, Taiwan Ceramics Biennale. Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan.

2021-2022 Alchemy and Metamorphosis, Neil Brownsword.

Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in conjunction with British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-

2020/2021. Taskscape, Whitegold International Ceramic Prize, St Austell.

Relic, Whitegold International Ceramic Prize, Wheal Martyn Museum, St Austell.

2019/2020. FABRIK, Gustavsbergs Konsthall, Stockholm.

  1. Externalising the Archive, British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-Trent.

2018/19. The Precious Clay, Museum of Royal Worcester.

  1. Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials, KunsthausHamburg.

  1. 60th Faenza Prize, Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy.

  1. Pattern Book, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

  1. Factory, Neil Brownsword, Ceramic Art London.

  1. Factory, Neil Brownsword, Blas & Knada, Stockholm, (solo).

2017/18. Putting It at Stake, Lidköping, Sweden 2017, RIAN Design Museum, Sweden.

  1. Woman’s Hour Craft Prize. Victoria & Albert Museum, BBC, Crafts Council (touring).

  1. Place and Practices, British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Topographies of the Obsolete, Ann Linnemann Gallery, Copenhagen.

  1. Neil Brownsword: Factory, Icheon World Ceramic Centre, South Korea (solo).

  1. Master's Manner, Nanjing University of the Arts Museum, China.

  1. cont{R}act earth - First Central China International Ceramics Biennale, Henan Museum, Zhengzhou City, China.

  1. Re-Apprenticed: Factory Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

  1. Material Language, Roche Court Sculpture Park and Gallery, Salisbury.

  1. Re-Apprenticed, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

  1. Re-Apprenticed, Raphael Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum.

  1. Re-Apprenticed, British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Fragile? National Museum Wales, Cardiff.

  1. 8th Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, Korea.

2014/15. Transformator, Bomuldsfabrikken, Arendal, Norway.(Touring).

  1. Terra Nova, 2014 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale. Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan

  1. Real to Reel, Crafts Council, London (touring).

  1. Topographies of the Obsolete: Vociferous Void, Spode, British Ceramics Biennial, Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Marl Hole, American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, USA.

  1. Marl Hole, Lahti Art Museum, Finland.

  1. Between Art and Industry, National Craft Gallery, Crafts Council of Ireland, Kilkenny, Ireland.

  1. Raw Material, Gallery Format, Oslo.

2011/12. Ting Tang Trash, Permanenten, The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art, Bergen.

  1. Relic, Permanent Gallery in conjunction with Brighton and Hove Museum (solo).

  1. Urban Traces: Ceramics and the City, Gallery Oldham. Oldham.

  1. Interloqui, Caterina Tognon Arte Contemporanea, 54th Venice Biennale of Art, Italy.

  1. 100 år efter Rackstadkolonin, Rackstadmuseet, Arvika, Sweden.

  1. Material Worlds, Contemporary Arts Society, London.

  1. Marl Hole, Gustavsberg’s Konsthall, Stockholm Sweden.

  1. WCC-BF Second European Triennial of Ceramic and Glass, Mons, Belgium. Selection - Crafts Council.

  1. Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection, The Mint Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA.

  1. Happenstance: Neil Brownsword and Karen Harsbo, Ann Linnemann Gallery, Copenhagen.

  1. Sofa, New York. Represented by Galerie Besson, London.

  1. Marl Hole, screening Seventh International Film Festival on Ceramics and Glass, Montpellier.

  1. Marl Hole, screening 44TH Annual NCECA Conference, Philadelphia.

  1. Modern British Potters, Goldmark Gallery, Rutland, Leicestershire.

2009/10. Taking Time: Craft and the Revolution, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Craftspace touring).

  1. Award, British Ceramics Biennial, Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Possibilities and Losses: Transitions in Clay, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.

  1. Elegy. Neil Brownsword, Blas & Knada, Stockholm (solo).

  1. Sofa, Chicago. Represented by Galerie Besson, London.

  1. Smaak en Kraak, Keramiekcentrum, Tiendshuur Tegelen, Netherlands.

  1. British Pavilion, Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museums, China.

  1. Sofa, New York. Represented by Galerie Besson, London.

  1. Neil Brownsword: Poet of Residue, Galerie Besson, London (solo).

  1. A Human Impulse: Figuration from the Diane and Sandy Besser Collection, Arizona State University Art Museum, USA.

  1. Victoria & Albert Museum, 150th Anniversary, selected artist.

  1. 20 + 1 Years of the Tozan Kilns, Northern Arizona University Art Museum, USA.

  1. Clay In Dus Try, International Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark.

2005/2006. Languages, Galerie 422, Gmunden/Austria (touring).

2005/2006. Collaging History, Blas & Knada, Stockholm (solo).

  1. Collaging History, Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent (solo).

2003/2004. 30/30 Vision. Creative Journeys in Contemporary Craft, Crafts Council, London (touring).

  1. Mellum Rum, Galleri Norby, Copenhagen.

  1. Sofa, New York, represented by Nancy Margolis, New York.

  1. Selections, Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York.

  1. Sofa, Chicago. represented by Contemporary Applied Arts, London.

  1. 3-up: close, Crafts Council, London.

  1. Three Decades; Objects selected From the Crafts Council Collection, 1972-1999, London.

  1. Neil Brownsword, Gallery for New Ceramics, Copenhagen (solo).

  1. British Ceramics. 2000. Dk., Grimmerhus Ceramics Museum, Denmark.

  1. Hoogrood, Galerie Claude Andre, Brussels, Belgium.

  1. Decadence, Crafts Council, London (touring).

  1. Objects of Our Time, Crafts Council, London (touring).

1996/1997. Hot Off the Press, Tullie House, Carlisle (touring).

  1. Neil Brownsword, City Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent (solo).

 

Conferences, Symposia, Public Lectures (selected)

  1. Recreative Practices in the Arts and Humanities, De Montfort University, Leicester (speaker).

  1. London Craft Week 2022, in association with the Korea Association of Art and Design (speaker).

  1. Exhibiting Skill: Understanding, documenting, and communicatingskilled practicesin historical industrial environments. Industrial Craft Network Symposium (speaker).

  1. Beyond Preservation, symposium in collaboration with Staffordshire University and the Heritage Crafts Association (speaker).

  1. On the Edge, International Academy of Ceramics (IAC) 49th Congress and General Assembly Keynote speaker - Beyond Preservation: Re-evaluating Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK Ceramic Industry, Helsinki, https://rovaniemi-posio2021.aic-iac.org/programme/

  1. Paul Mellon Centre, London, Ceramics in Britain Lecture Series, speaker, Obsolescence and Renewal: Reimagining North Staffordshire’s Ceramic Heritage. https://www.paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk/whats-on/past/obsolescence-and-renewal-reimagining-north-staffordshires-ceramic-heritage
  2. Reginald Haggar Memorial Lecture, Keele University, Obsolescence and Renewal.
  3. EUROGRAPHICS Workshop on Graphics and Cultural Heritage, K. Rodriguez Echavarria,
  4. Weyrich, N. Brownsword., Preserving Ceramic Industrial Heritage through Digital Technologies.
  5. FABRIK, international seminar, Gustavsbergsteatern, Skärgårdsvägen, Stockholm, Sweden (speaker).
  6. Creative Mikser, Warsaw Museum in Praga, British Council Poland. Speaker - Re-activating British Ceramic Manufacture’s Intangible Heritage.

  1. Kunsthaus Hamburg, Speaker - On the Disappearance of a Cultural Heritage. https://kunsthaushamburg.de/en/vom-verschwinden-einer-kulturtechnik/

  1. European Ceramics and Its Dimensions, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Keynote speaker, FACTORY.
  2. Origins & Diversity, Nanjing University of the Arts, China (speaker).
  3. Think Tank 2, Topographies of the Obsolete, Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway (speaker).
  4. Topographies of the Obsolete, International Symposium, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

(speaker).

  1. Topographies of the Obsolete Phase 2, Norwegian Artistic Research Forum, Kristiansand,

Norway (speaker).

  1. Neil Brownsword Lecture Series, 8th Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, Korea Ceramic Foundation.
  2. Ceramics and Politics, Holbourne Museum, Bath (speaker).
  3. From Geographic Pasts to Virtual Presence, International Academy of Ceramics 46th General Assembly, Dublin (speaker).
  4. Ceramics Now: Art, Design & Digital Materiality, Taiwan Ceramics Biennale Conference,

Yingge Ceramics Museum (speaker).

  1. Topographies of the Obsolete: Exploring the Site Specific and Associated Histories of Post-Industry, Norwegian Artistic Research Forum, Trondhiem, Norway (speaker).
  2. Archaeology and Contemporary Art Practice, Victoria and Albert Museum, London,

(speaker).

  1. Resurrecting the Obsolete, Sensuous Knowledge Conference, Permanenten West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts, Bergen (speaker).

  1. Between Art & Industry: New Models in a Post-Industrial World, National Craft Gallery Ireland, Pembroke Hotel, Kilkenny.
  2. Creative Dislocation and Improvised Space, Spaces of Vision, Creation, Dislocation. Talking

Ideas Research Symposium, Bucks New University.

  1. Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection, Symposium, Mint Museum,

North Carolina, USA (speaker).

  1. The Making of Things, Contemporary Art Society’s Annual Members Conference, Victoria

Gallery and Museum, Liverpool (speaker).

  1. Art and Industry – Finding New Ways, conference, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design/ The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Oslo, Norway (speaker).
  2. European Ceramic Context Symposium, Bornholms Kunstmuseum, Denmark (speaker).

  1. Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London (speaker).
  2. Transient Culture - Lasting Art?, Seminar, Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway(speaker).

  1. Ceramic City –Design for Public Space, Art and Architecture Journal/British Ceramics Biennial Platform Conference, Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent (speaker).
  2. Clay In Dus Try, symposium, Kunst Industri Museet, Copenhagen. (speaker).

 

Publications (selected)

  1. Brownsword, N., (ed) Breen, L., Barker, D., Klarner, R., Alchemy and Metamorphosis, Topographies of the Obsolete Publications, 9780992693121.
  2. Brownsword, N., (ed) Topographies of the Obsolete: Phase Two - Rhizomatic Trajectories, ISBN 978-82-93801-01-6
  3. Brownsword, N., Mydland, H., (ed) Topographies of the Obsolete: Ashmolean Papers, ISBN 978-82-690937
  4. Brownsword, N., Shales, E., Strangleman, T., FACTORY, Neil Brownsword, Icheon World

Ceramic Centre

  1. Brownsword, N., Mydland, H., Topographies of the Obsolete: Site Reflections, ISBN 978-0-9926931-1-4
  2. Brownsword, N., Marrying the Hand with the High Tech, Crafts, March/April, Issue 247, p.25.
  3. Brownsword, N., Nature Needs its Vultures, preface to Beyond Site catalogue, Muthesius Kunsthochschule, ISBN 978-3-943763-23-2.
  4. Brownsword, N., Mydland, H., Topographies of the Obsolete: Vociferous Void, ISBN 978-0-9926931-0-7.
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