Brickfield is a community brickworks based in a disused clay pit in the heart of Cornwall’s china clay country created by ceramic artist Rosanna Martin, curated by Katie Bunnell and supported by the Austell Project and Imerys. It involves participants in walking the land, experiencing the extra-ordinary terrain formed by china clay extraction, and hand making bricks in simple wooden frames using clay mixed from industry waste: transforming the materials underfoot into the most flexible of building blocks.
As an artist Rosanna is fundamentally interested in the land, the materiality of clay and human relationships with it and added to this, she is committed to developing new ceramic communities. Building on this foundation Brickfield aims to develop sustainable brick making practices drawing on skills and knowledge in local brickmaking heritage while acknowledging the mental health and well being benefits of working outdoors with clay.
The main Brickfield site is located nearby Imerys’ now disused Blackpool Pit where the team have special permission to take people onto land ordinarily inaccessible to the public, to explore the giant terraces surrounding a 300ft deep lake, once one of the biggest and most productive pits in the UK. Brickmaking workshops introduce participants to mixing clay from waste materials and throwing it with force into simple wooden brick moulds, a process not dissimilar from bread making.
Local brickmaker John Osborne has become a key member of the Brickfield team. John was the last man to fire the last brick kiln at Wheal Remfry brickworks near Fraddon, St Austell in 1971. After discovering Brickfield at a pop up brick making workshop in Indian Queens in 2019, where he was delighted to encounter others with a love of bricks, he started to impart some valuable advice and then joined the team on site at Blackpool, “never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be brickmaking again!”
In 2020 the team salvaged 10 tonnes of bricks from the site Wheal Remfry and used them to construct a mini beehive kiln on the site at Blackpool. The kiln holds around 500 standard size bricks and takes three days to fire. Firings are undertaken by the team with the help of experienced and enthusiastic volunteers and available for the public to view.
Brickfield is working on empowering and enabling communities to build something that will improve their local environment and their feeling of belonging within it.In March 2021 the Brickfield team were delighted to be awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £9,900 for Brickfield BUILD, a project that has enabled the team and their project partners to explore the relevance of the heritage craft of hand brickmaking in creating a more sustainable future.
The Brickfield Team includes Rosanna Martin, John Osborne and St Austell based ceramic artists, Bobi McFazdean and Zenna Tagney and the project is curated by Dr Katie Bunnell.
The Austell Project is a regeneration project for St Austell. Find out more about it and Brickfield activities here.