Lancashire-based powder handling and dry solids processing experts, Spiroflow, has recently completed a period of artistic collaboration as part of the firm’s involvement with Blackburn’s annual National Festival of Making - a free-to-attend event celebrating the UK making industry.
Now in its third year, the festival attracts up to 40,000 people, drawing inspiration from the many workshop sessions and opportunities to engage with makers as diverse as leatherworkers, engineers, ceramicists, chefs, technologists and fashion designers.
A key component of each event is the National Festival of Making’s headline commissioning programme, Art in Manufacturing. The series, which provides artists with opportunities to create new work in and alongside major industry, was co-commissioned by the National Festival of Making and Super Slow Way (an arts commissioning programme in Pennine Lancashire), and has seen ambitious exhibitions, installations, performances, and sculptures gaining international press coverage and engaging 1000’s of visitors to-date.
For the 2019 season, five artists were paired with five Lancashire manufacturers whose work in textiles, paper and engineering have links to international making industries. Given that Spiroflow is an active STEM ambassador and had exhibited at The National Festival of Making in 2018, the festival organisers thought they would be a good fit for one of the artists.
Spiroflow was introduced to artist, Liz Wilson, who went on to complete a 3-month residency at the firm’s Clitheroe headquarters. Her aim was to explore the stretch of time between the industrial and post-industrial, the beginning of automation and how this affects the human relationship with machines.
“I am really interested in the relationship between machines and humans,” said Liz, “specifically looking at how the machines start playing as parts of an orchestra, with the human as a conductor.”
The final result, entitled the Optical Mechanical, was a digital piece of work, spotlighting the interaction between humans and, in this case, a Spiroflow conveyor. Inspired by how every member of staff and every piece of the conveyor had to work in harmony to create a workflow, Liz used televisions, which each representing a different part of the machine, thereby simulating the components of an orchestra. To represent a conveyor’s flowing structure, each television was mounted on its own plinth, with each being connected to form one interlinked continuous stand. The desired effect was achieved with the televisions and sounds coming on at different times, to show the conveyor, alongside humans, working together in unison.
Commenting on the collaboration, Spiroflow’s marketing manager, Eleanor Spensley, said: “This has certainly been an experience and one which has helped open our eyes to the beauty of what we do here at Spiroflow. Everyone here has such an important role in making our company successful and this needs to be celebrated. Art finds the beauty in anything, and there is plenty of beauty in manufacturing!
“Working with Liz was a pleasure - she fitted in extremely well and took time to get to know everyone to understand their role in our business.”
The outcome of Liz’s artist residency was successfully premiered alongside others at this year’s festival, which took place 15-16 June 2019