British artist Clare Woods spent two years creating two major mural installations, Brick Field and Carpenter’s Curve, in the 2012 Olympic Park in London. The sheer scale and complexity of the designs, which feature over 30,000 different tile pieces, and the vagaries of ceramic production led to collaboration with the artisan tile company Craven Dunnill Jackfield and the use of mural techniques never previously thought possible on such a vast scale.
The murals are staggeringly large and intricate. They were inspired by the original industrial site, historical maps of the area and Woods’s own experience from once having a studio close-by. Combining age-old glaze effects with state-of-the-art, digital printing and intricate, water-jet cutting created a mathematical conundrum of great complexity. The murals measure 757.2 sq. metres, took over six months to make and involved 4.5 kilometres of intricate water jet cutting.
The murals were created using four ceramic tile decorating processes involving digital printing and glaze effects and were put together like giant jigsaws. Over 1,200 sq. metres of tiles were produced and cut to achieve the required elements to make up the finished murals.
“I saw the whole concept of the Olympic Park as a modern day Festival of Britain: a platform to show off the best of our artists, craft makers, designers, architects and manufacturers,” states Woods. “I therefore knew I wanted to work with a British manufacturer and, having worked previously on a very large scale building cladding design, I had learned that the relationship had to work from the outset; you have to be willing to meet up, talk through your ideas and feel confident that everyone understands their role. The team at Jackfield immediately understood the history and the importance of the commission. It was a unique collaboration.”
Adrian Blundell, Head of Production at Craven Dunnill Jackfield, led the team that was not only responsible for creating the tiles but worked closely with the fixing contractor, representatives of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the main contractor and, ultimately, delivered a work of art aesthetically true to Woods’s original.
“We responded flexibly to whatever came our way;” says Blundell. “It was a case of establishing trust and empathy, combined with a bottomless pit of technical know-how, to resolve the countless issues that arose: the experience was invaluable”.
The project was commissioned by The Contemporary Art Society. Craven Dunnill Jackfield worked in partnership with a number of companies, including Johnson Tiles and Miller Druck.
Photography by Gerard Hughes
This item first appeared in Tile & Stone Journal, 2012.