Obsolescence and Renewal at The Brampton Museum

by Neil Brownsword

Obsolescence and Renewal extends artist Neil Brownsword’s examination of marginalised histories associated with the origins of British ceramic manufacture. North Staffordshire’s industrial and economic growth was fuelled in part by its imitation and assimilation of Chinese styles and commodities to supply demand for the burgeoning fashion of tea drinking in the 17th and 18th centuries. Pre-industrial attempts to emulate the sophistications of porcelain and other ceramics imported from southern China, eventually led to material and technological advances that later influenced the regions development as a global centre of production. 

In revisiting these histories, Brownsword sets out to further this process of exchange between materials, artefacts and production practices. Through copying his own ceramic culture, he dismantles methods of uniform reproduction by subverting traditional and digital technologies. Transferring his knowledge of ceramics to other materials and processes, Brownsword deliberately embraces the deviations and errors that occur within the thresholds of image and object simulation. His ‘copies without originals’ aim to reconnect a contemporary audience to innovations of an obscured industrial past that remain significant contributions to the cultural identity of North Staffordshire.



Limited edition tiles

British Ceramics Biennial have commissioned Neil to create a series of limited-edition ceramic tiles with renowned UK manufacturer Johnson Tiles for 2023. In revisiting this history of cultural borrowing and assimilation, Neil ‘copies’ painted and printed decoration unique to Staffordshire’s ceramic production. Patterns from historic objects are scanned and deliberately disrupted to encourage chance and error through digital reproduction.   Available to buy in-person at the British Ceramics Biennial at All Saints Church.




Obsolescence and Renewal is in The Brampton Museum, ST5 0QP, which is open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1:30-5pm. The biennial runs from 23 September – 5 November.

There is free on-site parking and free 4-hour parking at Brampton Park.




This exhibition has generous support from Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Arts Council England, Konstnärsnämnden (The Swedish Arts Grants Committee) and Staffordshire University.

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