Guild Unlimited

works | history | future

Guild of Office Cleaners

works | history | future

Brendan Adair-Smith

Jeweller to the Guild of Office Cleaners

Office cleaners, paper removalists, bin emptiers
Patron Saint
John le Carré

Guild of Office Cleaners - Personal Kit aluminium, brass, stainless steel, glass; individual dimensions from 108mm to 9mm (photograph Daniel Schutt)

I was particularly interested in the position that these practitioners work under. Often alone or in small groups with no direct supervision. Permitted to move around the unattended work areas of other regular employees, they become familiar with much of the internal workings and affairs of the business either through glimpsed documents, overheard conversations, or observing the relationships of employees.

In preparation, I was fortunate to speak to a number of current and former After Hours Office Cleaners regarding their personal experiences. In addition to their official job description, cleaners may also be called upon to fulfill a number of other less official obligations such as confidant, scapegoat or even object of ridicule. A common assertion among those interviewed was that there are two types of worker. Those who can be relied upon to practice their craft without being swayed by idleness or curiosity (all claimed to be in this category) and those who are less dependable and inclined to abuse the trust in which they are placed. Added to this were a number of anecdotes about how good cleaners go bad.

The piece constructed represents a kind of journeymans's kit like those once given to apprentices on completion of their training. This is designed to be carried by the worker and contains the more personal tools of their craft. This cleaner's kit caters for both types of worker. The left hand side contains items which the trustworthy, reliable cleaner will need to complete their tasks efficiently, such as earplugs to avoid overhearing company secrets, blinkers to keep their eyes on the job and a serve of humble pie to help maintain their place in the company pecking order. The other side contains a tempting array of pieces for the lazy, dishonest or disaffected, including an easily assembled ear trumpet for listening at doors, a small vial of glue to secretly repair damaged items and a set of pre-printed excuse cards ('My back hurts. I can't clean under there.')

Kit for the bad office cleaner

Kit for the good office cleaner


Brendan Adair-Smith began as an architectural model-maker and then studied jewellery at the University of South Australia. Recently, he has lectured in netsuke carving. In Febuary 2001 Brendan completed two years as a design associate at the Jam Factory Contemporary Craft & Design Inc, Adelaide, where he continues to work as a tenant with the Metal Design Studio.