A film and installation produced as the result of a residency at an envelope factory in Blackburn. The work created a correspondence between the workers and the wider public, and was exhibited as part of the Festival of Making 2019. Commissioned by Art In Manufacturing: The Festival of Making.f Art in manufacturing commissioned by The Festival Of Making.
As part of Art in Manufacturing Season Three, Amy partnered with Heritage Envelopes, a manufacturer who produces 2.2 billion envelopes a year. Setting up their studio in one of the factory's office rooms for 6 weeks in 2019, Amy spent time talking to workers at all levels, about their jobs, power dynamics at the factory and experiences whilst working. Amy became intrigued by the idea that these workers create a huge proportion of the countries envelopes but have very little direct correspondence with the people the envelopes reach. Once realising that each worker's initials were printed in the seam of the envelopes they helped produce (both a personal touch in one respect, and a way for the factory to keep tabs on its workforce) Amy decided to use this as a way to create a conversation about ‘work’ with the outside world.
Creating a direct mail artwork posted through 10,000 doors in Blackburn, Amy invited the general public to explore the manufacturing journey of this unassuming everyday object. Asking them to look out for the makers' initials printed on their post, this began a dialogue between strangers, the ‘return’er to the sender’. Questions posed to the factory workers explored the theme of ‘work’ such as ‘what part of your job could a machine never learn?’ The answers revealed the different perspectives of the machinists and bridged that normally one sided correspondence. The questions and their replies formed the basis of a film projected alongside 1000’s of Amy’s designed envelopes. Return to Sender is a sensitive look at how to subvert a mass produced object to create an intimate exchange.
Photo credit: Robin Zahler & Lee Smillie.