2019 - ongoing

Brickfield is an experimental participatory brickworks set in a disused china clay quarry near St Austell, Cornwall supported by Whitegold, St Austell’s arts and regeneration project. Brickfield explores how our heritage can inspire and generate contemporary approaches to the material, connecting individuals to their local landscape. Our aim is to use the process of brickmaking as a tool for empowerment and collective making.

Using waste materials that are a result of the china clay extraction processes we formulated a new clay body to be used for making bricks. A blend of equal parts waste china clay, ball clay, mica and quartz gave us the properties we needed.

During summer 2019 we ran a series of fieldtrips exploring the vast manmade landscape that makes up much of clay country, walking around the pits. We invited china clay historian Ivor Bowditch and writer Philip Marsden to join us on one of the walks, offering differing perspectives on the landscape.

We also ran a number of public brickmaking workshops, and worked with specific community groups such as The Happy Wanderers, a dementia friendly walking group, and Wheal Martyns Arts and Craft Health Group. At the end of September we fired all the bricks on site in a beehive inspired brick clamp kiln for 60 hours, reaching 1100C. 

In a pop up public workshop at Indian Queens Preaching Pit, we met John Osborne - the last man to fire the last beehive kiln at the last working brickworks in Cornwall.

John had not made a brick for over 50 years. His engagement with Brickfield has reconnected him with this part of his life; in his own words, the project has ‘relit my FIRE’, and ignited many memories of the processes involved during his time there. He has realised that he is perhaps the only person still alive to carry this deeply embodied and skill based knowledge. 

In 2020 we are hoping to continue to develop Brickfield, working with specific community groups to build structures in the places they meet; such as benches and planters in community gardens. 

We hope to work alongside architecture students to begin to design and develop ideas of building a bigger structure with our bricks. 

We will run more public workshops and fieldtrips, if you would like to participate email

Photography credits: From top, Rosanna Martin (1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 19), Katie Bunnell (3, 6, 8), Rosie Minns (7, 15), China Clay History Society (9), Oliver Udy (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17).