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Vitreous enamel - art

Factory Girls and Whitefield Birds Vitreous Enamel on Cast Iron. 


Artists turn to the Vitreous Enamel process as an alternative application because of its extremely durable and weather resistance high gloss finish for metals.

Factory Girls is one of five pieces of public art installed as part of 'Unlocking Salford Quays' - a major heritage project and permanent sculpture trail marking The Lowry's 10th anniversary celebrations. Each of the five installations are situated around Salford Quays and reference an individual element of the Quays rich history.

Factory Girls were made in 2010 following consultation work with young people from Salford College, Salford Foundation, Eccles Youth Club and Ordsall Community Arts. The sculptures celebrate the women workers of Metropolitan Vickers, once the largest factory in Western Europe. The forms of the figures are inspired by products that were once made at the electrical engineering firm in Trafford Park. Each enamelled figure is named after a former employee.

During the Second World War thousands of women trained in skilled jobs traditionally reserved for men. While their brothers, husbands and fathers served in the armed forces, they helped to maintain the production of vital defence equipment. This included instruments for use in radio and radar, as well as component parts for over 1,000 Lancaster Bombers.

David Appleyard is an artist from Sheffield and has been producing work for the public realm for the past five years.  Some of the concepts he identified during the research phase of the project included the rise and fall of heavy industry and equality in the workplace. These themes eventually helped to shape the Factory Girls artwork.


'From the beginning of the project I wanted to connect the piece to Salford’s manufacturing heritage. As the work developed I became increasingly interested in the history of the Metropolitan Vickers factory, once situated close to Manchester Docks. Through various research activities and consultation exercises I became aware that the factory manufactured both Manchester and Lancaster bombers during the Second World War, and that during this time a large proportion of the workers were female. It seemed particularly relevant that this often forgotten workforce be referenced.'

Various developments were made until a form was achieved that encapsulated this period of time. The isotype form was then revolved to make 'spun' figures. Vitreous enamel was used to achieve a durable colour finish and has resulted in a high quality, tactile surface which helps to reference the 1940s era. The 'Factory Girls' now stand on the side of the canal looking over the water at the site of the former engineering works.

The work was made possible by the commitment and hard work of both the iron foundry, H Downs and Sons in Huddersfield and the team at Trico VE Ltd in Bingley.