Emma Smith at The Brickworks Museum


Project Info


  • Emma Smith


  • The Brickworks Museum
  • Arts&Heritage
  • Arts Council

Coralent – the name given to a pattern made of bricks – is a new artwork by visual artist, Emma Smith. The project presents an installation of suspended bricks hung from the ceiling of the drying room at The Brickworks Museum, with each one representing an individual worker from the industry. Each brick carries the initials of the person it commemorates. The project is part of Arts&Heritage’s Meeting Point programme and marks The Brickworks Museum’s 125th year.

“Bricks are so ubiquitous that we don’t often think about them or how they are made, but each individual brick has passed through many different hands.

It was the original brick making process that inspired me to think about the thousands of forgotten and invisible workers from the industry, many of whom were women and children. Historically, the number of people who have made bricks is astounding, and while we often don’t tend to give bricks much thought, we are all in some way connected through this inanimate object that exists all around us.

While company stamps are a fascinating part of brick history, because of the way bricks are handled using the palm of the hands, there are typically no marks or imprints by the people that make them. This installation is designed to remember all the women, men and children that made the bricks that created the homes we live in, the offices we work in, and the built environment all around us.

It’s also a celebration of the passion, skill and talent that exists in brick making; whose invisible labour results in a product so visible it is rarely seen.” – Emma Smith

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to add to the installation by creating their own brick in memory of people connected to the brick making industry, allowing it to build over time. On August 14th, the Museum will hold a Build a Brick workshop, inviting the public to meet Emma Smith and make a mini brick to represent a brickmaker from history, which will become part of the artwork.

The installation is hung to create a circular chamber, marking the Quaker history of The Brickworks Museum site, and the Quaker practice of coming together in the round as a space of equality.

Carolyne Haynes, Project Director at The Brickworks Museum, said:

“Because it’s something we see everyday, we don’t think about our love affair with bricks and how deep they are in the British psyche. They really are an important part of our history. Brick making has a real human connection, I think that’s why it’s so fascinating. So many different people are part of the brick making process and each one has a story to tell. 

Emma’s artwork is about remembering the people behind each brick and honoring their role in an industry that is still essential to our lives today. When people visit the museum they’ll feel immersed in its history and the significance of the site.”

Coralent is open at The Brickworks Museum until October 2022.

The Brickworks Museum is located in the Victorian brickworks founded by the Ashby family in 1897. At its peak, the factory was producing in excess of 20 million bricks a year, making it one of the main producers of bricks in the region. Bursledon Brickworks closed in 1974, and after being saved from demolition, reopened as a museum in 2014. 

The Artist

Emma Smith has a social practice and creates installations, performances, temporary and permanent works. She is based in the UK and works internationally. Previous commissions include for Tate Modern, Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery, Arnolfini, Bluecoat, HOME Manchester, MAAS Sydney, Kunstmuseum Luzern and Matadero Madrid among many others. Awards include The Bryan Robertson Trust Award, Andy Warhol Foundation Award, and Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award. Her book ‘Practice of Place’ is published by Bedford Press/ Architecture Association.