Monday, January 18, 2010

Postcards from Stoke & China

Some new work...the first four of possibly 16 or more small roughly postcard sized canvases which when hung side by side will make up one piece like a tiled wall...

Stoke 1, China 1, Stoke 2, China 2
Oil on canvas, 180x130mm ⓒ Sue Lawes 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More Tea Art...

Twinings - The Art of Tea

Twining's new advert (launched this January) aims to "demonstrate an innovative artistic concept" by artist Tom Parks. However, Twinings were also in the news for other reasons...

Twinings axes 400 jobs
by Julia Finch

Primark may be driving profits at ABF, but its posh tea division Twinings is proving less resilient to the recession.Some 400 jobs are to be axed in the north east and Hampshire as Britons loses their taste for premium priced teas.

All fall in demand for aromatic teas such as Lady Grey and Lemon Grove has led Twinings to announce plans to close its packaging sites at North Shields with the loss of 263 jobs. Packaging for the UK market will be relocated to Andover, where they could be another 130 job losses.

Although demand has increased for its Everyday tea, the company said it was embarking on a "reorganisation of its tea manufacturing footprint" to cut costs. It plans to install new high-speed equipment at its Andover factory, double the size of its Chinese factory to serve the Asian and US markets and build a new factory in Poland to cater for all other global markets.

Twinings, which has used Stephen Fry as its advertising frontman, said the changes were " a necessary step which will allow Twinings to remain competitive" and that it made no sense to import tea from China, package it in the UK and then export it back to the Far East.

The jobs will be lost in the next two years and the reorganisation will cost £19m.


Primark sales up to Christmas show 19% jump
Parent Associated British Foods hails performance, but admits drop in gross margins
by Graeme Wearden

Primark has enjoyed another strong Christmas as demand for its discount clothing showed little sign of abating.

Parent company Associated British Foods reported that Primark's total sales in the last four months of 2009 were 19% higher than a year ago, "ahead of expectations". ABF declined to give a sales figure that stripped out the impact of new store openings in the UK and Spain. Jeremy Batstone-Carr, analyst at Charles Stanley, estimated that Primark's like-for-like sales rose by 6%.

ABF said the weak pound had pushed up the cost of goods from America, resulting in a drop in gross margins at Primark. Sterling's weakness has helped other parts of ABF, though, making its sugar more competitive overseas. It also reported a 4% rise in sales at its grocery arm, whose brands include Twinings tea and Ovaltine.

Shares in ABF rose by 1.8% today, gaining 15.5p to 875p.

Activists rally the troops to save Twinings jobs
Tuesday 29 December 2009
by John Millington

Trade unionists and local politicians are stepping up the campaign to save hundreds of jobs at the profitable Twinings tea company with a public meeting in the new year, it has been announced.

There has been a huge outcry over the potential job losses, which could devastate Andover and North Shields in North Tyneside.

Despite the fact that Twinings and its parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) remain hugely profitable - making £56 million last year - 263 jobs are under threat at North Shields and 129 workers are due to be axed from the Andover plant.

The firm hopes to shift production to its plants in China and Poland.

In order to keep up the pressure on Twinings and ABF, campaigners have forged alliances with every major union in the local area and representatives from the USDAW union, TUC and the local Labour Party will be speaking at the meeting, Save Twinings in UK campaign group said.

Among those addressing the meeting will be TUC regional secretary Megan Dobney, USDAW national organiser Mike Parsonage and Labour parliamentary candidate Sarah Evans. Local sections of various unions have lent their solidarity to the tea workers, including FBU, PCS, RMT, Unison and Unite.

Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell has also pledged his support to the tea staff, tabling an early day motion calling for the government to intervene to prevent Twinings from making the cuts.

Mr McDonnell insisted that the government must intervene to prevent the offshoring of jobs. "The ability of employers to offshore work during the recession should act as a wake-up call to government, which must now intervene to protect jobs."

Local North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers said: "The proposed closure of this plant must be resisted. We simply cannot afford to lose this number of jobs."

Adding her voice to a chorus of support for the workers, Green Party leader and South East MEP Caroline Lucas said: "We must send a strong message to Associated British Foods that its plans to drop 400 Twinings workers in Andover and North Shields are unacceptable."

The public meeting is due to take place at Andover's Guildhall on Tuesday January 19 at 7.30pm.

Was it ever thus...

Lei Xue

Also at the London Art Fair, insurers & sponsors Brownhill were running a competition to win a signed print by Basil Beattie, which asked the question "What was the insured value of the six porcelain 'cans' by Chinese artist Lei Xue  (before they were damaged)"...Apparently the delicately hand-painted cans had been mistaken for litter by cleaners at a London gallery, "summarily binned" and then "retrieved the next day after a frantic search, a number of them cracked sadly beyond repair". It was great to see the actual pieces on display and a shame the prize was a measley Beattie print and not the cans themselves. (Image courtesy of AXA Art).

Yee Sookyung

Seen at London Art Fair yesterday...Korean artist Yee Sookyung from her "Translated Vases" series, at Union's stall. Was thinking along similar lines.
"...the newest works are her Translated Vase series which are sculpture composed of pieces derived from actual ceramic works, but the finished product of her work is something unfamiliar and unusual. The method she uses to attach the pieces together correspond to the restoration of valuable ancient ceramics and these works are distinctive in the sense that they allow the viewer to become mindful of notions of the what is highly valued versus what is abandoned, what is historical versus what is modern, and what is art versus what is non-art. The artist questions the viewers as to who is the artist. The act of the ceramists destroying their failed works can be read as cliché in a sense of an artist wanting a flawless piece of work but at the same time it is also a gesture of contributing scarcity to commonly made ceramics. On the other hand, the artist’s act of collecting the broken pieces to make a new piece of work, and the circus acrobat (featured in the artist's drawings) trying her best not to break the ceramics can be seen as the exact opposite gesture of the ceramists."

Text excerpted from ONE AND J. catalogue essay by Kim Hee Kyung (2006)

Lost something in translation I reckon. I could've paraphrased this but no one would've paid me for it.