Amy Pennington + Heritage Envelopes

Return to Sender, 2019

Creating a direct mail artwork posted through 10,000 doors in Blackburn, artist Amy Pennington invited the public to explore the manufacturing journey of an unassuming everyday object – the envelope.

Asking the audience to look out for the makers’ initials printed on the envelopes, Amy encouraged a dialogue between strangers, from the ‘returner to the sender’. Taking inspiration from the manufacturer who produces 2.2 billion envelopes a year, Amy’s residency explored themes of work with the community of Blackburn.

Amy used the envelopes to develop a large-scale installation, covering the walls of the Church Street gallery space. Amy also produced a film that posed questions to the factory workers exploring the theme of ‘work’, to reveal the perspectives of the machinists, making visible the individual stories and intimate details behind the production of a mass produced object.

“One particular engineer showed me the parts he had fabricated to help fix his neighbour’s clutch pedal – I could see straight away how he creatively could make things work whether in the factory or with other bits of machinery – I think an engineer’s mind is pretty similar to an artists. It’s inquisitive, we ask questions.”

Amy Pennington


Artist Amy Pennington makes people the core part of her practice. Often using such mediums as performance, drawing, film, events and conversations, she works with accessible materials such as cardboard to bridge high and low art, while also having turned walls, shops and arcade machines into socially-engaged artworks.  Amy’s residencies and social and public commissions have included works with Left Coast, Studio Voltaire, METAL and Heart of Glass.


Blackburn factory, Heritage Envelopes is part of a global brand operating across 50 sites in 23 countries. Specialists in printed envelopes for business as well as retail stock for high street stores and people’s personal letters, the company is an undetectable presence in many households every day and offers a rich vein of inspiration to their artist collaborator.

“All we can hope for is that the art / creativity of the project helps open people’s eyes to what we do here at Heritage. We hope it will help engage our staff more within the business and will help our employees look at what we do in a different perspective.”

Mark Sears, Heritage Envelopes


Art in Manufacturing is supported by

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