Last week I popped down to the NOW Gallery on Greenwich Peninsula to try my hand at an ancient skill – brick-making. Not something you might do every day, month, year or even lifetime in this day and age. Hand-making bricks has become something of a lost craft.
This hands-on exhibition aims to create thousands of bricks from Greenwich clay (that’s right, it’s from a quarry right here on Greenwich Peninsula!) and use them to build a fantastic folly on the Peninsula. Did I mention they’ll be firing them up in a giant kiln at the end of the summer and everyone’s invited to join the party?!
While we waited for our chance to get stuck in, my colleague and I went for a quick snoop around the rest of the gallery, sizing up the other bricks and wondering if ours would be anywhere near as good. Some had been simply stamped with their maker’s initials, while others were far more intricate.
We got some lovely aprons and rather silly-looking blue plastic slippers to protect us from the inevitable mess and were introduced to Alistair, the master brick-maker. This guy sure knows his stuff.
After demonstrating each step, Alistair guides us through the process as we attempt to make our very own bricks. Essentially, it involves preparing a lump of clay by dusting it with sand before thrusting it into a mold. Then comes the tricky part – tapping and smacking the mold around to ensure that the brick comes out cleanly.
I was sure it would flop out in several chunks, but it was almost perfect! After stamping it with a fitting name, we left our brick to air dry on the wooden racks, ready for firing in a few months time.
If you feel like having a go, we’d thoroughly recommend it! The People’s Brick Company will be at the Now Gallery on Greenwich Peninsula until the 18th September, with the grand mass firing on the 17th, which includes a “brick picnic” for everyone who took part. Go on, have a go!