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Foundational Art: Bricks

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

Patrick Fry
March 14, 2019

They built our working environment and they carry their manufacturer's name. Proud, strong, humble and now a source of a photographic exploration in the Brick Index. Bricks, especially the red ones, typify working-class Britain, both for the hands that built it and the terraced houses that house them.

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Patrick Fry is an art director and graphic designer from London who has turned his attention to the unsung hero of the manufactured and industrial world. The humble old brick. Compiling a collection of various colours and materials, Fry's compendium of bricks admires both the form and function of the object, yet also the old school makers mark that brand each one.


Coming in a variety of styles, they all have the absolute utilitarian functionality of traditional sign writing, whilst still drawing on enough flair to set each apart from their rival brands.


Whilst manufacturing and industrial objects are very much in fashion, the Brick Index doesn't seem like many other hipster collections of similar ilk, thrown together simply to say something. Contrary, it really says something. Both Fry and the makers documented within the finely terracotta-hued cover, have one thing in mind - growth.

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The function of the brick is obvious. It has to offer stability, geometry and balance to a building. On the other hand, the book's function is a little more educational. It's a hymn and homage to an era that seems to sadly have disappeared. Although these bricks were mass-produced, they weren't done so to the scale possible now. In many ways, they're an artefact of a lost era.


With 155 bricks adorning the pages of the book, its elegiac look at the blood, sweat and tears, as well as design merits, of our industrial past, makes the collection certainly comprehensive in its scope, coupled with Fry's attention to detail and background in the creative industries.


Fry is interested in design created not necessarily by designers, but engineers and craftsmen, sets of people that are able to offer an alternative look at culture and function. Highly skilled in one field, yet not in the one that we are currently admiring. We often forget the people that made the world what it is in our haze of complaints about current affairs.

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Fry's publishing house CentreCentre build unlikely collections that explore things more often regarded as mundane and ubiquitous with normalcy. That is, things that don't jump out at you. But with the Brick Index, it's more thoughtful and reflective than just a quirky curiosity.


Mapping out geography and geology, bricks are used with local clay, making them somewhat localised representations of design: an object stamped with what is available, a permanent reminder. People are craving local as a reaction to mass faceless globalisation and with Fry's collection, we have one more reason to celebrate goods that say something about where they're from.


Calling us back to our roots, where things were built to last, transcending trends, these bricks lack any of the perfect factory churned perfection of modern goods. Despite being just that, their imperfections radiate with stories of what have happened within their walls. It's hard to say what makes them behold this transcendent quality, of something we look at but never see, yet something filled with tales. It's a celebratory collection that, like the very best, raises as many questions as it answers. It champions the normal, without championing average.

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