James Bloomfield + Darwen Terracotta

Of Heart and Hand, 2017

Celebrating Darwen Terracotta’s workforce, James Bloomfield’s residency outcome paid tribute to the role of the craftsman in the form of two complementary works presented over the festival weekend.

Monumental brightly coloured columns welcomed festival visitors as they arrived at the train station or visited the temporary BBC studios and bars on festival square. Informed by Darwen Terracotta’s dramatic history, the columns were a feat of manufacturing innovation and ambition, reaching up to two metres tall and involving 32 makers, a 1,200 degree furnace and hundreds of litres of plaster.

They represent a record of the firm’s rise from the ashes of redundancy and preserve the spirit of friendship, protest and craft that still pulses through Lancashire’s veins.

James was also drawn to the current workers’ individual stations and their personal sets of small bespoke handmade tools, each specific to a job. His cast replicas of their tools are a celebration of the influence of the hand in modern manufacturing and assert that the machine, however powerful, cannot take away the process, skill and experience of the worker.

In Focus

In 2019 James returned to the Festival to present the workshop ‘The Delft Style’. Partnering again with Darwen Terracotta, James used the manufacturer’s 100 year old glaze recipes to produce a large-scale participatory ceramic tile installation. Over a hundred workshop participants marked out and painted individual bisque tiles with underglaze pigment, some forming decorative border tiles and lettering, others depicting important cultural landmarks in Blackburn and Darwen’s history. Each tile was painted using underglaze and overglaze techniques, incorporating the famous cobalt blue and white of traditional delft style.

The heritage tile mural is now installed on the boundary wall between King George’s Hall and the former Blakey Moor School.

“By having a factory behind me I could realise a body of work that would have been unattainable on my own and extremely expensive. The relationship that formed in that residency has stayed and allowed me to realise other projects with the Manufacturer”

James Bloomfield


James Bloomfield lives and works in Manchester, UK. He studied Art at Manchester Metropolitan University and has since exhibited work both nationally and internationally. Bloomfield‘s work across sculpture, ceramics and print explores personal connections as well as social and political issues. James returned to the festival to deliver workshops in 2019 and continues his practice as a sculptor and as a highly skilled conservation and restoration expert on fine art.


Working with skill and artistic expertise since the end of the 19th Century, Darwen Terracotta has a storied heritage and a modern manufacturing story about change and evolution at its heart. Using the knowledge and expertise of generations of artisans, the manufacturer produces visually stunning terracotta and faience. Their incredible work can be seen in Grayson Perry’s ‘A House for Essex’, and locations as prestigious as The Royal Albert Hall, The London Coliseum and Battersea Power Station.

“We have been delighted with James, whose talents complement our manufacturing abilities. The comradery shown in the factory to succeed on this project has been fantastic.”



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