The iconic Iron Bridge in Shropshire, built in 1779 by Abraham Darby III and symbol of the Industrial Revolution, became the focal point for an art installation, Weighty Friend, led by Artist in Residence Faye Claridge with the assistance of 50 volunteers on Saturday, 10th October.
The Bridge, which spans over 100 feet, was covered with hundreds of colourful rags by volunteers from the local community from 10:15am until 11am. The finished piece remained for a few minutes as a spectacle for visitors and photographers to record.
From the moment the whistle blew, and the volunteers began, to the finish, when there was no trace remaining, the installation took one hour.
Weighty Friend recognised the contribution of the Darby Family and their workforce in starting the Industrial Revolution in Coalbrookdale. This contribution included the men and women of the family, both of whom as Quakers were educated to the same standard and took their place at different times at the helm of the business.
1,400 metres of fabric was used to create hundreds of colourful rags, with vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, magentas and purples set against the natural greens and blues of the backdrop. The hotter colours referenced the furnace and the stereotypical feminine colours referenced the role of women in the Industrial Revolution.
The use of rags is a theme that runs throughout Faye’s residency, with colourful fabrics being used as an alternative technique to create portraits of the Darby’s. Their Quaker beliefs meant that the Darby’s never had ‘immodest’ portraits commissioned of themselves, so Faye has been working with museum visitors and local community groups to explore different representations.
Weighty Friend is part of Faye’s six month Artist in Residency as part of Shifting Worlds, a contemporary arts programme produced by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Meadow Arts with the support of Arts Council England.
Permission for the installation has been granted by English Heritage.