Jon Wilson and Steve Allen, both former employees of a specialist clay building products manufacturer, have set up Darwen Terracotta Limited and in the process been able to re-employ 25 skilled and experienced craftspeople in the new business. Their former employer, Shaws of Darwen, closed its terracotta and faience business to concentrate on their domestic sink range, leading to skills that could have been lost forever.
Jon explains, “Steve and I have over 50 years combined experience in this industry having worked on some of the most prestigious building projects in both the UK and USA. All of our people have spent most of their working lives in this trade and preserving these skills is vital. We are a close knit team with a strong commitment by everyone to support the business and succeed together.”
Restoration of terracotta and faience heritage buildings is a key market for the new business. They also expect that their skills in design, modelling and bespoke creative glazed ceramics will continue to attract architects and interior designers to include these materials in new-build projects.
Jon noted, “Terracotta and faience is often thought of as a traditional material used in the Victorian period and following the architectural styles of the day up to the middle of the last century. The last ten years have seen a great revival of the material, giving the designer huge creative freedom due to the almost limitless possibilities in shape, colour and texture.”
Grayson Perry’s creation, A House for Essex, one of the last projects that the team completed while at Shaws, displays the range of possibilities that faience can offer. Designed by Grayson, working with FAT Architects, this was built for Living Architecture, celebrating the life of a fictional character, Julie, and is designed to inspire creativity with its bold use of colour and style.
Other projects of note that the team have worked on include the Holborn Museum for Eric Parry, Eagle Place and New Bond Street with Quadrant 3 for the Crown Estate and Dixon Jones Architects, the latter being the largest UK project for hand-made faience for many years.
Jon Wilson, Director Tel. +44 (0)1254 460 500
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.darwenterracotta.com
Darwen Terracotta Ltd, Building O, Ribble House, Ribble Business Park, Challenge Way, Blackburn, Lancashire. BB1 5RB, UK
Press release issued: December 10, 2015
Why Terracotta and Faience Provide Creative Flexibility
The plasticity of clay provides endless sculptural possibilities, from the finely detailed reproduction of classic artwork to bold modern geometric shapes. Terracotta is mostly associated with warm red shades, however, clay blending and careful control of firing can create new colours and subtle variations. From an architectural perspective this opens opportunities to add interest and character to building facades, breaking up areas of plain curtain walling for example, providing emphasis to fenestration or opportunities to introduce elements of colour, light and shade.
The manufacturing process combines craft skills with new technology. Starting with CAD, multiple designs are easily explored. Regular geometric details, such as pediments, for example, are translated into digital files that are then rendered into full scale 3D polystyrene models enabling accurate making of moulds.
After slip-casting in plaster moulds, each element is hand finished. Smoothing, fine detailing or special textures can be applied at this stage. A controlled process of drying then takes place before kiln firing. More individual design elements, such as figureheads, will be hand sculpted by skilled craftspeople.
Faience glazed terracotta gives the architect another creative dimension. A full spectrum of colours are available together with mottles, special colour effects, painted decoration and highlights. Glazes can even be formulated to add emphasis to sculptural elements.
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